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How can you help staff feel comfortable in raising low-level concerns?
Give staff the confidence to report a low-level concern and build a culture of trust and sharing with these strategies
A low-level concern is any concern that an adult has acted in a way that:
- is inconsistent with the staff code of conduct, including inappropriate conduct outside of work
- doesn’t meet the threshold of harm or is not considered serious enough for the school or college to refer to the local authority.
If a staff member simply has a niggling feeling that won’t go away or a nagging doubt about an adult’s behaviour, it is best to raise it and share the concern. To do that, staff need to be made to feel comfortable within a culture of sharing and openness.
Why might staff be nervous?
Ask them! Staff may have a lack of understanding of the procedure for raising low-level concerns or fear getting it wrong or being judged by colleagues. Have an open and honest conversation with them so that staff feel comfortable. Pose questions to get them thinking such as:
- What are your concerns about the procedure?
- What will stop you complying with this requirement?
- What might happen if we miss concerns?
What do schools need to do?
Think policy, procedure and training. Include the process for reporting and managing low-level concerns in your safeguarding policy and your managing allegations against staff policy. It is sensible to also include reference to the process in your staff code of conduct.
Staff must understand:
- what constitutes inappropriate behaviour
- what a low-level concern is
- the importance of sharing low-level concerns
- how to report any concerns
- the process for recording, reviewing and responding to concerns.
Get staff on board
You need to build and sustain an open and transparent culture where staff feel comfortable sharing. Once you’ve discovered why staff might feel unsure about reporting low-level concerns, have an open discussion and let staff know that anyone who reports a low-level concern will be commended and protected. Staff need to develop an understanding of what is a low-level concern and what is not and the more that concerns are shared, the clearer this will become.
This should all help to reassure staff and create an open culture. Holding regular training sessions should also help staff to feel confident in distinguishing appropriate staff behaviour from concerning or inappropriate behaviour.
To embed knowledge long-tem, staff need to do more than simply read a policy. They need to be told what is needed from them and why. They need to be tested on what the low-level concerns policy is and the procedure to follow should they want to report one. Questionnaires, quizzes, or staff briefings are all ways of determining staff understanding. You could even stop staff members in the corridor and ask them a question.
To be truly embedded, staff need regular updates and testing, not just a one-off or annual update. Having clear procedures for responding to low-level concerns is part of creating a school culture of openness, sharing and trust to keep pupils safe. Policy, procedure and training will help ensure that staff consistently model the school’s values and helps keep children safe.
Ask for advice
As much as you can draw on your safeguarding knowledge, skills and experience, there will be times when you just need some help and advice. Don’t overthink it; if you’re not sure whether a concern is low-level or meets the harms threshold, speak to your headteacher, DSL, advisors, LADO etc. Showing that some level of action was taken could be vital.
Record the concerns raised
All low-level concerns should be recorded in writing. There is no set format but the procedure you follow in your setting should be in your policy. The record should include:
- details of the concern
- the context in which the concern arose
- the action taken
- the rationale for the decisions made.
It is critical that all allegations against staff are written down correctly so all parties concerned have a record of it and the record shows that the allegation was dealt with apropriately. This will help create an open culture where concerning and inappropriate behaviour is identified early, minimising the possible risk of abuse, harm and exploitation of pupils.
Writing down the concerns and dealing with them within a clear procedure also protects staff from potential false allegations. All of this should build a culture of trust and sharing where staff understand what is expected of them and are following clearly defined policies and procedures.
Last Updated:02 Aug 2022