By Education Welfare and Safeguarding Team on 08 Jul 2019
The summer term is nearly over. Staff and pupils alike are looking forward to a long break filled with fun, excitement, new experiences and hopefully some sunshine. However this is not the case for everyone. The long break can lead to isolation, extended poverty, and greater times of neglect, hunger and a lack of security. Without the reassurance and safety that schools offer, it can be a worrying time for both pupils and families and can add stress and anxiety. For many pupils, school can be the one place of safety where they feel a sense of belonging, be fed, have someone to listen to them and, above all, be safe.
30% of children in the UK are living in poverty, that’s around 9 in the average classroom. Children living in poverty are more likely to have poor physical health, experience mental health problems, under achieve at school and have employment difficulties in adult life. During term time families on the poverty line who receive free school meals can at least be assured of one good meal a day. However with the increase in the use of food banks to supplement this, a 6 weeks period of providing all meals for children can be an added strain on any family and some are unable to meet the demand.
Many children will have more time to occupy themselves and there is likely to be an increase in using social media and potentially leaving them more vulnerable to online abuse, which is quite often kept secret until the young person is in too deep. Being left alone and out on the streets can make them vulnerable to gangs on the lookout for grooming new members offering a sense of purpose, belonging, possibly some extra ways of earning money and some attention over the holidays.
The longer break can often be a time when FGM and forced marriages can be prevalent. Be aware of your pupils, particularly those who may be susceptible to such forms of abuse. Ensure that your school is offering support and staff are fully trained on how to recognise signs and indicators of this form of abuse. Putting these measurements in place means you are protecting your pupils as well as you can.
Here are just a few tips to help prepare for extra support for your pupils over the long break:
- Prepare your students with the knowledge and tools of how to stay safe, recognise uncomfortable situations and who to contact if they need to talk to someone.
- Offer parents opportunities to understand what they can do to protect their children online, including monitoring and setting up security systems on devices.
- Keep in touch with young people and families that you think maybe particularly vulnerable at this time, either through a contact from school or supplying important contact numbers.
- Point out free activities, places to go and things to do prior to the break so they can plan ahead.
- On return in September be particularly aware of pupils who may show changes in behaviour, appearance, social networks and conversations that may cause concern for further investigations.
- Targeted support over summer including 'check-in' sessions with pupils and families. This is good practice and a much welcome support for some. If possible, try to do a home visit to bridge the gap between school and home for the pupils that you feel would benefit from touching base during the break.
- Ensure that your pupils know where to turn to if they fall into crisis over the summer and how they can do this. For example, having a named contact who is available, as well as providing information about ChildLine: 0800 1111 and CEOPs: 0370 496 7622.
- Summer contact will also help parents to keep school abreast of developments in a family situation, particularly for vulnerable families. Liaise with other agencies and professionals involved with your vulnerable pupils to ensure they link in and support the family during the summer period.
- For students starting at a new school or moving to secondary they may need reassurance beforehand. Guidence on uniform, routines and bus routes can all help to make that first day a positive experience.
This may seem a very negative perspective regarding the summer holidays, but for many this is the reality. You may be the one constant factor in a child’s life to offer security, empathy, support, care, guidance and a safe place. Remember they may rely on you, so ensure you are providing everything that you can until they return to the safety and security of school in September.