Safeguarding in Schools

Safeguarding is one of the biggest challenges facing schools today, and the reality is that this challenge places the school at risks from various perspectives. First and foremost, there is the obvious fact that the safeguarding of all children must be the primary driving consideration. To this end, many schools implement strategies and various education to ensure that if they identify that a child is at risk, there are processes that needs to be followed. This way of thinking aligns to South Africa’s legislation, and it is very important. However, schools also need to consider the risk of not having proactive solutions in place.

The concept of ‘Duty of Care’ is the place where many schools find themselves falling short. Inasmuch as Duty of Care refers to the need to ensure that the right steps are taken once a child makes a disclosure, schools also need to be considering what steps can be taken to prevent these things from happening in the first place. South Africa’s legislation hasn’t addressed this as well as other countries in the world, and for that reason, schools need to ensure that their policies drive these responsibilities. Schools should also ensure that they appoint at least one person to take responsibility for policing those policies. Schools need to be considering not only Reactive Policies but also Proactive Policies. A Designated Safeguarding Officer (DSO) should be appointed, trained, and empowered at the school to ensure that these policies are being adhered to. Many schools will have resources on staff, such as counselors and sometimes even psychologists. Other resources that schools may have, include Discipline Officers, and inasmuch as the resources are valuable, they are reactive.

In reality, getting Proactive Safeguarding correct takes more than the drafting of a few policies and some training. The reality is that Safeguarding is not an action, it is a process. Only schools which take responsibility for driving that process forward will truly save our children.

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