Are we being too safe?
We are living in a digital world where child protection is at its most vulnerable; or so the papers would have us believe. There is no denying that safeguarding remains the single most important aspect to get right in a school and we see the lengths that heads go to to ensure that this is the case. However, I am concerned that schools are trapped in a world dictated by a nanny state and are becoming more and more restricted from celebrating their children with the outside world.
We recently supported a brand new academy which opened on 1 September with just one reception class. This is normal for free schools – they begin with one year group and continue to admit children at that level until there are children in all planned year groups. What was unusual about this particular school was that the new reception class, the only class, contained 6 sets of twins.
This means that for the first year, half of the school's children will be made up of twins and until those children leave school, that class will contain 12 children from just 6 families. This was an interesting and positive story which the school wanted to share with the community.
However the local authority strongly discouraged the school from sharing this with the press on the grounds of safeguarding. With my Governor hat on I have attended safeguarding training and I know that you only need to publish a child's name, the school and the year that they start school to create a potential safeguarding issue. However in this case the parents had given permission for the photo to be used and the children's names would not have been published.
In this particular instance, the safeguarding risks were extremely low but the head teacher was left in a difficult position where scaremongering outweighed his judgement.
Safeguarding remains an issue for every school – this will never change. However we should be celebrating our children and their families through positive pictures and stories that are shared on the school website, in newsletters and where appropriate, the press. We should also be trusting our school leaders to make sensible decisions based on experience, expertise and common sense. The solution? Less panic, more support.
For more information please contact Charlotte Antoniou, Solicitor in the Education team at email@example.com or on 020 7659 4654.