At One Education, we are incredibly lucky to belong to a team of talented and passionate individuals, working together in a culture of mutual support and collaboration. Our people are fundamental to our success, developing strong relationships with schools built on honesty, integrity, and our shared ambition to always put children first.
With that in mind, we’d like to introduce you to the members of our team and help you get to know them a little bit more.
This week, we caught up with Jess Lane to talk more about her new role as Head of Service for Education Welfare and Safeguarding.
What is your role at One Education?
As Head of Service for Education Welfare and Safeguarding, I lead our team of advisers, ensuring that we are all familiar with the latest guidance and legislation from the Department for Education and Ofsted, so that we can then support schools in embedding this within the culture and practice of their settings.
Together, we work with Local Authorities to help ease any pressures, collaborating and complementing their strategies to achieve the best possible outcomes for children. As a trusted source of knowledge and experience, our team also delivers guidance and strategies for best practice through training, podcasts, and social media, helping education professionals with day-to-day and strategic challenges relating to education welfare and safeguarding.
Tell us a bit about your background?
I have always had a passion for supporting children and families, recognising the profound link between pupil welfare and educational outcomes. I first worked as Safeguarding Lead in an inner-city school just over ten years ago. Working within a diverse community, I responded to a wide range of needs and challenges – sometimes, completely unexpected. As I gained more experience supporting students and their families, I realised that poor attendance is almost always linked to a welfare concern; the two go hand in hand.
Working closely with families from various socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, often with English spoken as an additional language, I was able to enrich my own knowledge and understanding of pupils, the complex realities they inhabit, and the barriers they face, which fuelled my passion for Safeguarding even further. This, alongside the ever-rising thresholds for multi-agency involvement, supported my drive to provide practical help and support for families, alongside strategic support for schools.
In 2019, I came to One Education as an Adviser, working as part of the Education Welfare & Safeguarding team to deliver strategic advice, training and guidance to schools. From the beginning, working with One Education was a really rewarding experience, making a real difference to the lives of children and young people. So, after gaining more experience in leadership, I was thrilled to take on the role of Head of Service earlier this year.
What do you enjoy most about working with One Education?
The best thing about One Education is the wealth of expertise and experience that team members have to offer – not just in my own team, but across each and every service. We all share the same ambition to achieve the best possible outcomes for children, so everyone is happy to share their time and knowledge to enhance each other’s work. This creates a really supportive environment, as we encourage each other to innovate and grow, continually striving to raise standards in education.
What are some of the current challenges of Welfare and Safeguarding in schools?
Of course, the pandemic has increased many pressures on schools, including mental health, attendance (including school avoidance), resources and staffing issues. Education Welfare and Safeguarding have always been areas of high priority for schools, but with increased external pressures and guidance set out in the White and Green Papers by the government earlier this year, strategic development and improvements are a necessity.
Families are also experiencing similar pressures, including the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, which creates a domino effect on schools. External service thresholds are so high, it means that schools are having to step up to give families the support they need at Early Help level. For example, some schools have set up food banks or changed their uniform policies to help families that are experiencing financial difficulties. Naturally, schools want to do everything they can to support their communities, but many find themselves stretched to capacity, so it becomes even more difficult to effectively meet their pupils’ needs.
It is also important to bear in mind the recent introduction of the ‘Working Together to Improve School Attendance’ document, which means staff have to be prepared to respond to guidance that places significant expectations on schools. This guidance becomes statutory from September 2023, and many schools still have a long way to go in implementing these latest expectations.
What are your plans for the future?
Working with the team, we will continue to establish ourselves as leaders and pioneers, delivering first-class training and resources to schools on education welfare and safeguarding, sharing practical advice as well as supporting them directly on-site. Ready to adapt and meet new challenges, we always strive for the best outcome for the particular school or trust we are working with, whether that is improving Ofsted outcomes or supporting families.
My ultimate aim is to break down barriers to attendance through engagement and early intervention. I believe it is by building relationships, having open conversations with families and providing a safe, inclusive space for children, that we can focus on finding solutions, rather than simply issuing fines – which often makes the situation worse. By changing the language and stigma surrounding poor attendance and ensuring that all staff play their part in this, we can ensure that any problems are collaboratively resolved, taking a preventative approach rather than a reactive one.
Instead of simply responding to incidents once they occur, we can work together with schools to develop a positive and proactive safeguarding culture. I envision our team as a golden thread that runs through schools, embedding the principles that underpin excellent Welfare and Safeguarding practice. We will ensure that schools are fully equipped with the knowledge and tools to respond effectively to concerns and prevent matters from escalating, giving all children and young people the very best chance of success.
Explore our Education Welfare & Safeguarding services.
Interested in joining the team at One Education? Keep an eye on our vacancies here.