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Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Safeguarding is a vital part of being a teacher and it is absolutely imperative that you familiarise yourself with regulations surrounding safeguarding in education available at

In education, teachers and other school staff pay a very important role in pupil safety and child protection. The phrases ‘child protection’ and ‘safeguarding’ are often used interchangeably, but the words have distinct meanings. The key statutory guidance ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ explains what safeguarding is:

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined for the purposes of this guidance as:

  • protecting children from maltreatment;

  • preventing impairment of children’s health or development;

  • ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care;

  • and taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.

Put simply safeguarding is:

  • Child protection

  • Supporting vulnerable children

  • Safe care, at home, in school and in the community

  • Taking action

It might be useful to think of safeguarding as being the filing cabinet and child protection is simply one drawer.

Safeguarding is most successful when all aspects are integrated together. Three key elements include a clear safeguarding ethos, a policy that sets out clear expectations and processes, and high-quality training that ensures staff know what to do and do it consistently across the school.

Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 sets out a requirement for schools – including nurseries, early years, and further education providers – to make arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Furthermore, the educational standards board OFSTED place safeguarding at the centre of any inspection.

In schools, you must create an environment where children feel safe to learn, play, and grow. Children should feel comfortable in their surroundings and know that they can approach you with any problems.

Sadly, however, many children who suffer from abuse are too scared to speak out or may perceive their mistreatment as ‘normal’. Therefore, you must be able to identify any children who are at risk of harm and know the characteristics of abuse or neglect. If you suspect or confirm harm then it’s essential you know what actions to take.

Teacher Safeguarding Responsibilities

If you’re a teacher, you need to be aware of particular safeguarding issues. You should understand the following:

  • Preventing Radicalisation. In 2006, the government introduced Prevent – a strategy to help prevent terrorism and radicalisation. As part of this, you have a duty to recognise when somebody is vulnerable and at risk of radicalisation and targeting from extremist groups. Expect to complete mandatory Prevent training annually. It's really important to take this seriously and pay proper attention to it, it is not simply a box-ticking exercise.

  • Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). This is a form of sexual abuse that occurs when an individual or group coerce, manipulate, or deceive a child or young person (under 18) into sexual activity.

  • Grooming. This is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, exploitation, or criminal activity. Grooming can happen online or in the real world. The perpetrator can be a stranger or someone the child knows and can be any age and gender.

  • Forced Marriage. This is a marriage in which one, or both, people don’t consent to the marriage. It’s a criminal offence and a serious abuse of human rights. Forced marriages could be decided in advance, years before the child is old enough to marry.

  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM is a traumatic procedure where the external part of the female genitals are surgically removed. It’s usually performed by someone who isn’t medically trained and doesn’t have a professional or sterilised blade. The procedure is often carried out in the first weeks of life, in mid-childhood (usually between the ages of 8 and 10), or before puberty. FGM has no medical purpose, so it subjects young women to physical and psychological trauma for no reason. It is an illegal practice in the UK and must be reported to the police as well as your safeguarding officer.

  • Bullying. Bullying can happen anywhere at any time, such as directly in the classroom or anonymously online. It can have damaging effects on a child’s confidence and, frighteningly, has even pushed children to suicide. Bullying becomes a child protection issue where there is ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm.’

  • Self-harm and self-neglect. These are distinct signs that something’s wrong in a young person’s life, for example, they may suffer from another type of abuse or depression. The reasons for this are individualistic and you must tailor your response to the student in question.

  • Peer on peer abuse. Students are capable of abusing their peers, even at a young age. This can take many forms, such as acts of violence or sexual assault. If this causes significant harm or a risk of harm, you must take steps to deal with it.

It’s a requirement for all teachers to take safeguarding training. This is so that they know more about the subject, how to recognise when a child is at risk, and how to deal with concerns.

If you have any safeguarding concerns about a child, you must report them. Do not worry about it seeming "insignificant" - it may be a small piece of a much larger puzzle. Your school will have specific policies and procedures regarding safeguarding. You should receive information and training on this on your induction an again on your first INSET. If you don't, you should take the initiative and seek out the information - be proactive about this. Some schools use CPOMS as way of reporting any concern and again, you should receive training on this.

If a student discloses information that indicates that they or another child are at risk of significant harm and in need of protection, you have a duty of care to report this to the DSL (Designated Safeguarding Lead) or the Headteacher. This must be done as soon as possible.

If a child makes a disclosure to you:

  • Listen to the child.

  • explain that you cannot keep what they tell you a secret and tell them who you will be reporting it to

  • Report concerns to the DSL (designated safeguarding lead) ASAP and log it on the school system (e.g. CPOMS).

  • Record the disclosure including:

    • what was said, where possible word for word

    • date and time of incident and disclosure details 

    • author’s name

    • sign it and ask the child to sign it

    • Do not over question or take a statement from the student.

Safeguarding also refers to protecting yourself as a teacher and not putting yourself in any situation that could lead to misinterpretation.

In the classroom:

  • Always familiarise yourself with the school behavioural policy and stick to it.    

  • Under normal circumstances never be on your own with a pupil.

  • If you cannot avoid the above, have the classroom door open and seek the attention of others (teachers or students).

  • If you find yourself in a one-to-one situation within a classroom, do not place yourself between the student and the door.

  • Never block an exit.

  • Under normal circumstances, there should not be any physical contact with students (e.g. a hand on the shoulder could be misconstrued by some pupils).

  • When dealing with pupil behaviour, always deal with the behaviour as the issue, never the pupil.

  • If you send a student out of the class, never speak to them alone in the corridor. Deal with the situation by standing where others can witness the actions you have taken. Speaking quietly and calmly is also advisable, this will maintain student/teacher confidentiality.

  • If an incident does occur when you are in school, you should first write notes of the event for your reference to help you remember what happened. Report the incident to the school, then to us.

  • Social/personal contact with pupils outside school – never give out personal details or request them – e.g. telephone numbers, email addresses. Do not contact or respond to pupils via social networks. Report any attempts to contact to the school/agency immediately. The best way to protect yourself on social networks is to assume that all information you post is public and act accordingly in relation to your job and associated status. As a minimum, in order to protect yourself, it is best to ensure that you are in control of who can see your account details and content. Also, be careful if you comment on a friend’s page/post - their profile settings may be different from yours and make your comment public.

  • If you are required to use the internet during your time at a school, ensure you know and follow the school internet policy.

  • Do not take photographs (via any method including phone cameras) of pupils, pupils’ work, events, or any part of a school’s premises.

Harassment/verbal misconduct includes any action(s) and practice(s) by an individual or group which are directed at others and which may comprise of remarks or actions associated with a person’s gender, race, disability, sexuality, class, age, HIV/Aids status, personality or another aspect of them. Humiliation and belittlement towards a pupil with comments or actions are also included under harassment/verbal misconduct.

You may be asked during an Ofsted inspection what you know about safeguarding. You may be asked:

  • Are you clear about the school’s safeguarding and child protection arrangements?

  • Who would you report a concern to?

  • What would you do if a pupil disclosed worrying information? What would you say to the pupil?

  • If you felt you could not go to the designated safeguarding lead (DSL) or headteacher, who would you share concerns with?

Staff should know

  • The policy requirements

  • What to do if a pupil or anyone else discloses

  • Who to contact outside the school if they feel they cannot go to the headteacher or DSL (for example if the DSL was friends with a member of staff whose behaviour was causing concern)

Teachers also need to understand their mandatory duty to report to police any case where an act of female genital mutilation (FGM) appears to have been carried out on a girl under the age of 18. It is important for the policy to have local authority (LA) contact names as well as contact numbers. Staff also need to be aware that they could go to governors

In any teaching interview there is a question about safeguarding, which may take the form of any of the following:

  • What do you understand by the term safeguarding?

  • What is a teacher's responsibility in keeping children safe?

  • Tell us how you dealt with a safeguarding issue in school.

  • What would you do if a child disclosed a personal issue?

Useful acronyms and their explanations:

References & Further Reading:

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