I attended a training course on safeguarding on Friday. Have you heard of safeguarding?
It is the requirement to protect the health, well-being and human rights of individuals especially children, young people and vulnerable adults so that they can live free from abuse, harm and neglect.
As a member of staff at 3 different schools, it is essential that this training is completed once a year in order to be brought up to date with current legislation and be made aware of the circumstances affecting today’s children.
It is shocking and devastating to hear that so many children are affected by all sorts of abuse, neglect and social dangers ranging from cyber bullying to gangs to radicalisation.
As a mother it is awful to hear of the suffering that children are enduring in this country in the year 2018. I am guilty of thinking that it happens elsewhere, that it is rare. But I’m wrong. In the average class of 30 children, 6 will have witnessed or experienced some kind of abuse at home. Last year one of the schools I work in reported 5% of the children to children’s services due to concerns for their well-being and safety.
The stories are heartbreaking, like something you hear on the news. I know from my own experience in the classroom 10 years ago that there are young children who are not fed, not put to bed, not washed, that have not had a kind word said to them since leaving school the previous day. How can a child be ready to learn if they have not eaten breakfast? How can a child play when they are exhausted? How can a child behave when they have no boundaries set or no role model to emulate?
And our teachers are expected to be vigilant for the signs of abuse or neglect on top of everything else they are required to do. They are required to be deal with the daily aftermath of whatever may be happening at home, which may manifest itself a violence, withdrawal or self harm as well as the catastrophic impact on schoolwork. Our schools are then judged only on academic results rather than celebrating the positive social input that is invaluable to suffering children.
I think of the area we live in as a nice place but apparently there is a gang issue called County Lines going on. I had no idea. Young people are being targeted to traffic drugs in modern day slavery rings. This isn’t an inner city problem: it is happening HERE.
Social media has its part to play in exposing our children to all sorts of risks. It makes me fearful about the future of my own children as they grow in independence and require privacy. The parental controls will help to keep them protected from inappropriate material but not against messages and bullying online. Next week there is an e-safety meeting at their schools and last time it was a huge shock to discover some of the risks they face.
Radical ideologies are also disseminated through social media. The young make easy targets as they are vulnerable to making impulsive decisions and acting in a way to challenge their parental norms. Teens often feel powerless and restrained so being offered the opportunity to be in control is very appealing and abusers, gangs and extremists prey on this.
I do not want to worry you but it is important to be aware of modern dangers. Too often I think we assume it happens elsewhere but it doesn’t. I think we need to appreciate the tough job that is facing our schools.
I will give my children an extra hug and let them know that they are my world. I will remind them to be kind to others because other children may have sadness in their lives. I will protect them whilst letting them develop into adults that can face the world armed with awareness but not fear.