Safeguarding leads: five ways to prepare for inspection

Inspectors will look for evidence of staff training and whether students feel they are being supported and safeguarded. Luke Ramsden offers advice when getting ready for an inspection

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Luke Ramsden is an award-winning senior deputy headmaster and senior safeguarding lead at St Benedict’s School in...

The key elements of good safeguarding remain the same as ever:

  • quality of staff training
  • clarity of policies
  • robust procedures and record keeping.

In addition the Ofsted Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges highlighted a number of areas inspectors will look to see a more pro-active approach to ensure that every school is doing its best to answer the significant challenges raised.

1. Staff safeguarding training

Most schools now have regular safeguarding training as a matter of course, often followed up by online quizzes that can evidence the fact that this training has been ‘read and understood’. It is also essential that this training includes sexual harassment and violence.

Staff need to know:

  • what the definition of sexual harassment and sexual violence is
  • how to identify early signs
  • how to respond appropriately to issues of this sort when they arise.

A telling comment in the Ofsted review was that ‘One teacher reported that she frequently heard both homophobic and sexist language but did not challenge this as she did not think she would be supported by other staff and her challenges would be disregarded.’

Staff in every school need to know how to respond to these sorts of words or actions, so that the broader culture of the school is as it should be.

Teachers also need to understand the importance of actively looking out for problems and not waiting for children to come and disclose issues.

Inspectors are being given clear direction that if a school has very low levels of reported sexual harassment and violence, then they should be challenged on this, particularly if this does not match what students themselves are saying about life in school.

Part of staff training must therefore be to ensure that school staff understand the lives of their students. For instance, students themselves have reported much higher incidences of sexual harassment and abuse than teachers and school leaders tend to be aware of and this needs to be factored into school management and RSE.

2. Relationships and sex education

RSE is a central part of ensuring a whole-school approach to ‘developing a culture where all kinds of sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are recognised and addressed.’

One of the most striking features of the Ofsted review was the negative depiction of RSE in many schools, noting that ‘Children and young people were rarely positive about the RSHE they had received. They felt that it was too little, too late, and that the curriculum was not equipping them with the information and advice they needed to navigate the realities of their lives.’

Inspectors are looking carefully at schools to ensure that there is a clearly planned and effectively taught RSE curriculum, or at the very least that schools have such a curriculum in development. Key topics emphasised as crucial for young people include the understanding of consent and the sending of online images.

There are many external organisations that provide resources or guest speakers to support the delivery of this sort of content, but perhaps the key thing here is to ensure that every school has a group of well-trained teachers comfortable and confident in teaching RSE.

This may require a development of teaching staff and a school’s wider PSHE provision but is essential to ensure excellent provision.

Part of staff training must therefore be to ensure that school staff understand the lives of their students

3. Support for victims and perpetrators of peer-on-peer abuse

Schools must be able to demonstrate what they do to support both victims and perpetrators of peer-on-peer abuse. Victims of any sort of abuse, including sexual harassment or violence in school, should not be made to feel uncomfortable about making a disclosure.

Going further than that, schools should proactively go out of their way to ensure that all students understand how a disclosure will be handled by the school. Also that students understand the support that they can expect so that they are more confident in talking to a member of staff.

A key issue that arose from the Ofsted review was the widespread concern of students that making a disclosure of sexual harassment or abuse would lead to them being ostracised by their peers.

Schools should therefore educate students themselves in safeguarding. Students who understand the process that a school will go through in handling a safeguarding concern will be more confident in making disclosures.

4. Documenting, and using, evidence

Inspectors will continue to need to see the school logs of disciplinary issues and bullying concerns. Schools must also now have a log of all instances of sexual harassment or abuse that have occurred.

Schools should also keep a log of ‘low level’ safeguarding concerns about members of staff that have been raised but not seen as important enough to pass on to the LADO.

The crucial thing with these logs of evidence is that DSL’s must be able to explain how they have been used. Inspectors will want to see whether there have been appropriate and consistent responses to concerns that have been raised so that they have been effectively dealt with.

The best schools will note patterns of behaviour and have addressed them and incorporated that into their strategic planning. For instance, if a member of staff has had a several entries in the ‘low level’ concern file it should at least have been considered that this might mean that these different concerns together amounted to a more significant worry.

Inspectors are looking carefully at schools to ensure that there is a clearly planned and effectively taught RSE curriculum

5. Student voice

Perhaps the most significant change that needs to be understood by all school leaders is the importance of student voice. This is now, even more than before, a hugely important source of evidence for school inspectors. They are looking beyond whether a school has a well written safeguarding policy and well-trained staff and are focussing on whether the students feel that they are being well supported and safeguarded. 

All schools need to work to ensure that they are engaging with their students and checking that they feel consulted and supported. Making the time for regular small group or focus group sessions with students to ask for their views is recommended in the Ofsted review and is something being taken up by increasing numbers of schools. 

Technology is also being used increasingly effectively to ensure student voice, and feedback, on what a school is doing. Using programmes like ‘Microsoft Forms’, for instance, can allow schools to send short and simple surveys out to students asking for their views and feedback.

There are also several wellbeing apps, for instance Skodel, which my school uses, that allow students to raise individual concerns directly with teachers through their phones.

Last Updated: 
26 Apr 2022