Safeguarding in Education Blog

Supporting pupils and staff following the tragic Earthquakes in Syria and Turkey

This week’s blog will focus on the aftermath of the horrific earthquakes in the early hours of Monday 6th February 2023 in Turkey and Syria. You may have staff, children and families who have lost family and friends or are affected in other ways and who are struggling to cope. It is crucial therefore that we reach out to everyone affected. Together we can amplify the voices of those directly affected by the disaster by giving them space to tell their stories, express their pain, and communicate what they need, through acts of kindness, solidarity, support and care.

Secondary Children

If children and young people have a strong emotional connection, you may find they ignore or block out what has happened – this should be respected. It would not be advisable to ignore what has happened and so it is important that we give them an opportunity and a safe space to process both the disaster and the consequences. PSHE, tutor time and citizenship lessons can provide this and an opportunity for discussions. You may find they are not ready to talk about it right now, because it may be difficult to process or comprehend the enormity of what happened, but they should be offered an appropriate space at a time that feels comfortable for them.

Adolescent children cannot always regulate emotions and reactions to death may be extremely intense and overwhelming. Showing distress and shock can take different forms, some not always obvious. It is crucial that pastoral care is available. It could go both ways; they may have appropriate language to identify feelings or be reluctant to talk and deny feelings. This can be difficult particularly if they reject offers of support. If so, it could be because they want to fit in and not appear different to their friends. Others need a listening ear to help and support them to understand that their feelings are normal.

Any discussions can focus on what has happened, what the current situation is, and what could happen next, in order to give young people an opportunity to explore and discuss the disaster in a structured format. Material such as appropriately selected newspaper articles can stimulate and focus discussions, using mindmaps to record thoughts, questions or messages. Group and wider discussions will enable the expression of feelings in a supportive environment.

Feelings can include empathy for the injured and those who have died and/or anger about whether anything could have been done to prevent the tragedy. Encourage children to reflect on their feelings, they may be experiencing a wide spectrum of emotions, the encouragement will enable critical thinking. Children may also need time and space to work out how they want to process what has happened.

Primary children

It is important to respond to children who may want to talk about what has happened and respect the child’s way of grieving. Younger children may be afraid that a similar event will happen closer to home or to their family and friends. Reassurance that such events are very rare and that it is highly unlikely it will happen to them or someone they know, is important. Primary aged children being naturally curious may be full of questions about what they have seen or heard in the media. Answering their questions in an age- appropriate way to allay fears is crucial, but without showing or talking about graphic details. Other ways you can support children to cope include:

  • Writing a letter to someone they may have lost, telling them all the things they want to say to them
  • Writing a letter to their teacher or their parent or anyone who is supporting them, so that they know what they are going through
  • Keeping a diary or journal of how they feel
  • Painting or drawing pictures, writing stories, songs or poems
  • Explaining they shouldn’t worry that it is wrong to have a good time and reassure them it is fine to feel happy and enjoy something, it doesn’t take away of how much they care about someone affected or that they have lost as a result of the tragedy.


When children begin to understand that death means they will not see someone again, they begin to realise it happens to everyone. This can increase their anxiety not only for their friends and loved ones but also their themselves. Children may be curious about death and may need to talk about death a few times to gain understanding. Others may struggle to express their feelings or find any words. Grief can be expressed in a number of ways, not least behaviour, becoming withdrawn, fearful, showing anger and aggression and feelings of giving up and isolation. It’s hard to know what to say, but reaching out to someone bereaved so that they know you are available to talk and listen, if they feel comfortable to do so, can be incredibly supportive and helpful. Helping children and young people to express feelings, offering the safety of having a set routine, structure, boundaries and reassurance may go a long way to helping them feel safe. They may need reassurance that death means there is no pain, hunger or cold and also that it is not their fault that something has happened.

Some circumstances can make a bereavement more traumatic. Feelings of grief and loss can be exacerbated by:

  • Neglect or abuse
  • Domestic abuse
  • Contextual abuse eg serious violence in the community, child sexual exploitation, child criminal exploitation
  • Looked after children, fostering or private fostering arrangements
  • Poverty and deprivation
  • War or displacement
  • Neurodevelopmental or learning difficulties
  • Being a young carer

Other things your school can do

  • Offer the use of reflective spaces, eg a minute’s silence, reflective time in assembly or within class, lighting candles, playing soothing music or writing prayers or non-religious reflections
  • A minute’s silence or similar reflective time in a whole-school assembly or in class at the same time in the day (this could tie in with any national ‘official’ silences)
  • Creating a remembrance book or a school display or holding a fundraising event for a relevant charity.
  • Offer sources of support, Childline, Winston’s Wish, a trusted member of staff or peer support


For all of us, it can take time to process events, particularly on the scale of this tragedy. It is important to give young people an opportunity for follow-up discussions – perhaps a question box for pupils, a specially set up generic email address that is monitored daily. This will enable them to leave questions that may occur to them over time and also signpost to sources of support. A disaster of this magnitude, especially one where we feel a ‘connection’, can have a lasting impact on individuals and communities. Through the PSHE and wider curriculum, schools can provide opportunities to listen to children and provide support and can provide a forum to support community cohesion. perhaps, even if only in a small way, help to limit the damage inflicted by such an event.

Staff Support

Don’t forget yourself and your colleagues. Your or their friends and/or family could be affected. Just leading a discussion or activity with children in relation to the tragedy can have an impact in itself and be triggering. It is important to have an opportunity for a debrief with colleagues, to share questions children may have asked or any issues raised. Staff should also have an opportunity to reflect, share thoughts, grieve, or seek support.

My thoughts and condolences are with everyone who may be affected by this devastating tragedy. Thank you for your work to support children and young people emotionally and practically during this difficult time. Remember that even if only in a small way, you can help to limit the damage inflicted by such an event.

Resources, Help and Support

For staff

The  Employee Assistance Programme – support for teachers and education staff ( is available 24/7 so please bear it in mind if you need emotional support.

For Children and Families

Safeguarding in Education Blog

Safeguarding in Education Blog – Searching, Screening & Confiscation

In September 2022 the DfE updated the guidance on Searching, Screening and Confiscation. There should be a direct link between this guidance and the school’s safeguarding and child protection policy and also to Sharing nudes and semi-nudes: advice for DSLs and Senior Leaders. Advice for the rest of the school staff is in the form of a one page summary Sharing nudes and semi-nudes: how to respond to an incident with clear guidance that they should report to the designated safeguarding lead immediately. If staff are dealing with an incident regarding an inappropriate image online, they may need to rely on the guidance in relation to searching, screening and confiscation as well. Staff should not view or forward illegal images of a child – the guidance advises what to do where viewing an image is unavoidable. When there is suspicion that there is an indecent image of a child and/or video, the member of staff should avoid looking at the device and confiscate it, to preserve evidence to hand over to the Police. These guidance documents do not apply to adults sharing nudes or semi-nudes of under 18 year olds as this is child sexual abuse and it is crucial to refer to the Police as a matter of urgency.

Top Tips for Best Safeguarding Practice

  • Ensure your behaviour policy reflects the updated Searching, Screening and Confiscation guidance and the focus on safeguarding and update any other linked policies.
  • The behaviour policy should be accessible to all members of the school community, staff, parents and children. This is part of  schools’ statutory responsibility and referenced in Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022
  • Review your policies as well as your practice to ensure they are consistent
  • Headteachers should oversee any searching to ensure that a culture of safe, proportionate and appropriate searching is upheld, which safeguards the welfare  of all pupils and staff with support from the designated safeguarding lead
  • Staff should receive effective training on the guidance – all staff need to know the process and know what to do. For example, they should not just be asking children to see inside their bags.
  • Before searching a pupil, the reason for the search should be explained. They should know how they will be searched and where the search will take place. Pupils should be given a chance to ask any questions.
  • The cooperation of the pupil must be sought before a search is carried out and if they are not willing to comply with the search, statutory guidance states ‘the member of staff should consider why this is’.
  • If a search is still considered necessary, but is not urgent, the pupil should be supervised and kept away from other pupils while the advice of the headteacher, designated safeguarding lead or pastoral lead is sought as they may have more information
  • If after consultation with the other members of staff, the pupil is still refusing to cooperate, an assessment should be made as to whether reasonable force should be used to carry out the search
  • A member of staff can use ‘such force as is reasonable to search for any prohibited items identified in paragraph 3, but not to search for items which are identified only in the school rules’
  • Consider whether to use reasonable force – the DfE’s Use of Reasonable Force  states that reasonable force should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Parental consent is not required.
  • The power to use reasonable force should be included in the school behaviour policy which should also acknowledge the school’s legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled children and children with special educational needs and disabilities
  • Ensure information about the behaviour policy, searching, screening and confiscation and reasonable force are incorporated into your training at induction or thereafter, emphasising that behaviour and safeguarding are interlinked
  • Reflect and analyse searches to see if there are patterns and/or high numbers. Are there any groups that are disproportionately impacted?  If so, schools should consider preventative approaches.
Safeguarding in Education Blog

Safeguarding in Education Blog – Girls’ Attitude Survey 2022

The Government’s Violence Against Women & Girl’s Strategy states ‘There should be no facet of life where violence and abuse are allowed to occur – at home, at work, at school, online, or on the streets’. Girl Guiding UK have recently published the latest Girls Attitude Survey 2022. Every year, since 2009 they have provided a platform to give girls a voice on the issues that matter to them, by asking over 3,000 girls and young women aged 11-21, how they feel about their everyday lives. This latest survey reports findings on a regional basis for the first time. The evidence shows girls and young women are still concerned about their education, safety, inequalities and their mental health.

The Findings

The survey found that, unsurprisingly, the pandemic will have a lasting negative impact on their wellbeing and opportunities, with notable differences across nations of the UK. They were asked about community, gender stereotypes, safety and sexism. Girls and young women chose mental health, women and girls’ safety, and equality and inclusion as the issues most important to them.

  • A quarter (26%) said they don’t feel safe online and more than 2 in 5 (46%) think there should be a way to ensure users of social media platforms are old enough to use them. Given that 97% of the material that the Internet Watch Foundation took down in 2021 involved girls, this finding is not a surprise.
  • Over half (53%) don’t feel safe when they are out on their own.
  • Around 1 in 5 (19%) said they don’t feel safe in school.
  • 40% say inequality has become worse in the last year with 71% experiencing discrimination. The survey found that girls who are white are more likely to feel safe in school than those who are not white – we need to think deeply on how we can make our practice safer and more inclusive to ensure that all girls feel safe in schools and settings and are empowered to talk about their experiences.
  • 80% see or experience sexism online and on social media.
  • 36% said they are put off from applying for high profile jobs because of the abuse women in these positions receive online.
  • Just 10% are completely happy with their appearance, compared to 42% of 7 to 10-year-olds. The survey shows that pressures around appearance continue to be a real challenge for girls and young women, especially as they get older.

In 2021 the survey reported a ten year decline in girls’ happiness and wellbeing, exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Last year’s survey shows signs that wellbeing is recovering and good mental health is increasing, but it is still lower for older girls. It decreases when girls get to secondary school. We need to think about why this is and how we can support, empower and keep girls safe throughout their school and college years.

Ofsted’s Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges found that incidents in school tend to be ‘lower-level’ sexual harassment, with other incidents tending to happen online, at parties or parks. The report identified that only two in five young people said they would speak to someone at school about sexual abuse, and that school staff rely too heavily on children raising a concern. Inconsistencies in how schools see their role and understand what constitutes harmful sexual behaviour were identified.

Top Tips for Best Safeguarding Practice

  • Read the research!
  • Consider your pupil voice structures – could you raise similar topics as those in the Girls’ Attitude survey with your children? Can you ask them some of the same questions, and ask the student council to find out some information in relation to the attitudes of girls and young women in your setting?
  • Consider how you can tackle some of the topics covered by the survey – safety on the street/in school in PSHE. It is also crucial to involve boys and young men in the discussions.
  • Consider disparities in the responses between groups in the school (protected characteristics).
  • Consider the structures you have in place to support girls’ happiness, wellbeing, mental health and confidence.

Safeguarding in Education Blog – Social Media, Misogyny and Statutory Guidance for Schools

Welcome to the new academic year 2022-23!

As adults it can be difficult for us to navigate social media platforms and to keep up with the latest influencers and trends. For children it is more difficult to understand and address the effects of damaging social media patterns. It can sometimes mean they run into material which can have a negative influence and impact and sometimes it is used to abuse them or others. During the summer break you may have heard of the influencer Andrew Tate, who has been actively advocating extreme views on misogyny and sexism on social media platforms. Recently these platforms, including Facebook, YouTube and Instagram (where it is reported he had more than 4.7 million followers), have banned him for his extreme misogynistic views. Social media companies are working to remove videos containing his views and violence.

It is his influence on boys and young men that is very worrying as well as his rise to notoriety for his derogatory views about women and toxic beliefs about masculinity. It has been reported that many young people follow him and that boys as young as 11 are attempting to emulate him. Many parody social media accounts have been set up, each one receiving money through Tate’s ‘affiliate’ programme. Parents may not be aware of what their children are watching on screens behind closed bedroom doors. This is something the DfE have asked schools to address in one of the latest updates to statutory guidance.

What does statutory guidance expect from schools?

It is important that schools raise awareness and educate parents about online harms – paragraph 139 of Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022 states that schools should reinforce to parents:

  • the importance of children’s safety
  • inform them of the filtering and monitoring systems used
  • what the school is asking children to do online outside of the school
  • the sites you are advising they access and
  • the staff they will be interacting with

There is a big emphasis this year on keeping parents informed and educated about online safety. This can be done through newsletters, workshops, information evenings and the school website. Use drama productions and open evenings where children play a big part in educating their parents, to engage and help parents to keep their children safe online when they are not in school. Governing bodies should review incidents and the effectiveness of online safety systems including the PSHE curriculum, healthy relationships, respect and consent.

Top Tips for Best Safeguarding Practice

  • Ensure children feel comfortable and confident in sharing concerns about themes they encounter in the online world, encourage children to share their experiences and anything that could be troubling them
  • Remind children of the importance of critically assessing all the information they see online, even where accounts appear verified and have many followers
  • Make staff aware of ‘alpha male’ influencers who advocate misogyny and an anti-feminist community on the internet – also known as the ‘manosphere’ a term also used by INCELs (involuntary celibates)
  • Ensure staff listen out for potentially problematic discussions inside and outside of lessons and engage children in conversations about what they see online
  • Make parents aware of how dangerous Tate’s content is and educate them about recognising the signs of hate – ensure there is a collaborative process between school and home, to keep abreast of developments about what is happening online
  • Use LGfL’s ParentSafe which includes top tips for parents, including parental controls, screen time and reporting concerns, to raise awareness and educate parents about online safety
  • Safeguarding and online safety should be a standing item at governing body meetings
  • The effectiveness of school filters and monitoring systems should be reviewed regularly by the safeguarding team, considering the ages of the children and likely contextual risks
  • Review the PSHE curriculum in relation to healthy relationships and consent and teach children about respect and tolerance as part of the RSHE curriculum
  • Ensure staff have awareness of systems and how to escalate concerns
  • For governors to fulfil their responsibility to ensure children’s exposure to online risks are limited, there should be regular reviews of online safety systems and trends and patterns in relation to any online safety incidents
  • Each review should trigger discussions about identifying trends and learning lessons

The Safeguarding in Education Blog – Preparing for the Summer Break

The six week summer break can be a difficult time for some children. There are some things that you can do to support children and families who are likely to struggle:

  • Make sure your school website is updated with national helpline numbers and support services e.g., local food banks, holiday activities and food schemes
  • Show children where to find the information before the holidays
  • Meet with vulnerable children that receive support and ask them how they are feeling about the holidays and if they need anything before the end of term.
  • Consider children with additional needs – do you need to prepare them for changes? Are there any activities you can signpost them to?
  • Consider young carers – liaise with their social worker and update them on any current concerns in plenty of time.
  • Consider your looked after children – have a 1-1 conversation with carers, thinking through the impact of the long school break and ask if they need extra support.
  • Consider sharing relevant safeguarding or pastoral information with parents before the holidays.
  • Think about mental health and consider sharing strategies with children to help them with their emotional health and wellbeing before the school closes.
  • Share well-being tips with staff and children – remind them about the importance of exercise, daylight, music, healthy eating – preparing them in many ways.
  • Think about who needs to be contacted and what needs to happen to safeguard children during the holidays.

Thinking ahead to September 2022

Consider training and development – what do you need to cover and how can you ensure that staff understand? There are changes being introduced in Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022.

Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews – do staff need a refresher on the four types of abuse and the signs and indicators? Think about the cases of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, Star Hobson and Louis Mwangi and all the other children who have been murdered and abused. What were the lessons learned and what do we need to do to ensure all staff are aware? What key topics do you need to cover? Is it a refresher on child-on-child abuse or safer working practice? Should you revisit domestic violence and abuse, discrimination and equality and violence against women and girls? With the ever-increasing cost of living, many families are living under both financial and emotional pressures. Drug and alcohol abuse and parental mental health problems can also be exacerbated, particularly with the expected economic crisis.

Pupil Voice – what needs to be planned for the autumn term in relation to PSHE, RSHE and teaching children about safeguarding, being kind, respectful and healthy relationships and how we are encouraging children to tell us their wishes and feelings, offering them a safe space in school and a trusted adult? A greater emphasis on pastoral care!

Child-on-Child Abuse – is this part of your safeguarding policy truly reflected in practice or are there any discussions that need to take place with staff to obtain their views on its implementation? Do children feel supported, whether they are victims or perpetrators and how is your school addressing bullying, cyberbullying and child-on-child abuse?

My experience this term indicates these are growing issues in schools so what can we do to address these difficulties – can you nominate a group of staff and children that can be trained to champion these issues in your school?

Contact and Support during the Summer break

I will still be around to support you during school closures, you will find me on social media in various places:

If you haven’t already, why not join the discussion with like-minded people in my free group here  Safeguarding in Education Community Group.

You will find me on Instagram here

You will find me on Twitter here

You will find me on Facebook here

You will find me on Linked in here

I have a new email address:

Feel free to contact me for support and advice on any safeguarding in education matters.

Thank you for keeping children safe from harm and all  your relentless hard work this academic year. Thank you also for reading this blog and sharing it with your staff and governors. It is almost time to relax, re-charge and re-set. I wish you all a restful, happy and healthy summer holiday. 


Supporting Schools in Safeguarding Children

  • Whole school safeguarding and child protection training – interactive sessions providing a clear understanding of your legal duties, including signs and indicators, thresholds, case studies and best practice around safeguarding in your school/setting
  • Designated Safeguarding Leads – providing training on the designated safeguarding lead role including responsibilities of the role, in accordance with the latest DfE guidance and best practice
  • Accredited Safer Recruitment Training – colleagues in schools, colleges and other settings can benefit from booking a Safer Recruitment course for your senior leadership team, business managers, HR colleagues and governors
  • Governor training –   there are statutory safeguarding requirements on governing bodies – this course will ensure your governors have the knowledge and information necessary to better understand their responsibilities and perform their functions