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In Loco Parentis.
Safeguarding is a big deal. As teachers, we are responsible for the welfare of the children we teach. The Latin term “in loco parentis” describes the responsibilities of us as teachers, it roughly translates to “instead of a parent”.
It’s the Law:
In British law it applies in two circumstances:
The Children Act 1989.
The Children Act states that teachers have a duty of care towards the children under their supervision. It also says that we must promote the safety and welfare of the children in our care. This level of duty of care is measured as being that of a ‘reasonable parent.’
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, the school as a whole are also under obligation to safeguard the wellbeing and safety of pupils in its care.
For more information on our legal commitment to our students in the UK visit: lawandparents.co.uk
But what about teachers in the US?
From its initial inception in the earliest days of the American colonies, the US education system adopted “in loco parentis” from the British education system and there have been multiple court cases in the Supreme court and appeal courts that have enforced in loco parentis. For more information on these cases visit columbia.edu
That’s one hell of a responsibility that we have! You don’t see many other professions with that kind of responsibility, do you?
We’d better get some decent advice:
I asked a social worker who works predominantly in schools in the UK for some advice on how we can fulfil these obligations in both primary (ages 5-11) and secondary (ages 11-16), this is the advice she gave us.
Let me start by saying as a social worker how much we value our teacher colleagues and respect the work you guys do. As a teacher, you have the ability to see children in a very special capacity and building lasting trusting relationships with the children you work with on a daily basis, therefore, you are at the forefront of keeping them safe. We don’t get to spend that high level of quality time with children which is why we really need you.
- Always be aware of changes in their behaviour, however big or small they may seem. Some of this is more obvious than others but don’t dismiss your feelings about the young girl or boy who is turning up for lessons quieter than normal or the one who starts not turning up at all.
- Don’t just put these changes down to change in friends or new teacher or being a teenager or with getting in with the ‘wrong crowd’.
Safeguarding in Schools.
Safeguarding for Teachers.
Every school should have their own safeguarding lead, speak to them, ask for some time to chat if you’re worried about a child. Often when speaking with teachers, we find they have no reported concerns as they didn’t want to annoy the children or more importantly their parents.
Don’t be afraid about reporting these concerns in case the children or their families think of you in a bad light … for the children, it could be the help they need and as social workers it’s our job is to help families understand why referrals are passed to us (not yours!).
Some children may need protection on weekends and holidays, these can be dreaded times when they won’t be kept safe at school. For some of these kids, Friday and Monday may be their bad days. They could be unsure of what the weekend may bring or having to hide these events on a Monday morning.
It’s a bloody hard job working with kids in any capacity but we do it because we are all nuts and because we want to build their confidence and make them as happy as can be before adulthood arrives!
We know your busy, but if classroom teachers can attend and contribute to meetings it is a massive help to us as social workers. You are the ones who see the kids the most so we need you as well as the schools safeguarding lead.
Safeguarding Children and Young People.
You might notice that suddenly a child doesn’t have the right equipment or the wrong uniform, they might have no food in their lunchbox. You might stop hearing from their parents or the style of communication changes, it might be a sudden change in their artwork or within their social group, possibly being super late or drop in attendance or a decline in their academic levels.
It’s a bloody minefield, it could be none of the above and a million other signs but you really need to listen to your gut feelings and share these with other professionals.
Some children we work with tend to massively overachieve at school and show no obvious signs or they might be the quiet kids who generally get less attention than the typical loud or naughty child. Often when their home life is so horrible they overachieve to hide what else is going on behind closed doors.
On a very sad note, every time a child dies, a serious case review is undertaken and the learning is always focused on ‘information sharing’ or the limited information shared between social workers, teachers, school nurses or the police. Please use your professional confidence and judgement to come forward and raise concerns for the children you see hourly, daily or weekly.
This advice isn’t to scare you or to make you worried about every child in your class. If you think something has changed it will do no harm to raise a concern but it may make the world of difference to the child, it could save their life.
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