By Elise Vipond on 10 Feb 2022
One Education’s Safeguarding Conference of 2022 finally arrived last Friday and thankfully this time we had the pleasure of meeting you all in person. Gathering at the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester, we had lots to catch up on and lots more to learn, with a full day ahead of us exploring the breadth of Safeguarding research, strategy and practice. We hope everyone enjoyed the experience and found it as enlightening as we did.
A Whole-School Approach
Things got off to a fantastic start with our first keynote speaker, Clare Stafford, Chief Executive of the Charlie Waller Trust, one of the UK’s most respected mental health charities. Clare illuminated the current landscape of mental health in children and young people, outlining the issues that have emerged since the pandemic. Despite some alarming trends, Clare reassured us that this generation was not yet “lost,” despite what headlines have said. The road to recovery certainly seemed easier to navigate as Clare mapped out the Whole-School Approach to mental health. She showed us that efficient care doesn’t rely on just one or two elements, but a whole “tapestry of provision.”
Continuum of Sexual Behaviour
Later in the day, Laura Nott from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation spoke to us about harmful sexual behaviour perpetrated by and against children; highlighting that ⅓ of sexual offences against under-18s are committed by other young people. With this in mind, we explored the continuum of sexual behaviour, where the risk of harm from one particular act can often change according to its context. This allowed us to consider the factors that contribute to a child’s display of harmful sexual behaviour, so that we can be vigilant for signs, misconceptions, and ultimately prevent escalations. The recognition that “it could happen here” is not an expression of failure, as Laura explained, but an essential part to the curation of a safeguarding culture.
Supporting Gender Diversity
Our final keynote speaker was Rosy Rowley, Helpline Service Officer for Mermaids, a charity dedicated to supporting transgender, non-binary and gender diverse children. Rosy explained that whilst identifying as transgender wasn’t inherently a safeguarding issue, children that do often suffer from a range of mental health problems - both as a result of gender dysphoria itself as well as discrimination. As specialist healthcare pertaining to gender identity remains scarce, Rosy explained how schools can be vital in offering support to its gender diverse students, and talked us through the elements of inclusive practice.
In-between keynotes, we had a range of workshops to get involved with. The morning workshops were led by Manchester Food Partnership and Manchester’s Early Help Approach. In the former, Michelle McHale and Lesley Lancelott discussed how food poverty doesn’t exist in isolation. To tackle this crisis, they emphasised the need for a city-wide approach and showed us how schools have a crucial part to play, especially by helping families build resilience. Delegates were able to discuss the project in depth and set up a networking group to get things started.
Meanwhile, Jeff Burns and Anthony Gilfillan explained how the Early Help Approach relies on the application of principles and values we hold in regards to our own family and friends. To stress this point, Anthony recounted his personal experiences with social workers as a child, emphasising the difference it can make to take a holistic view of a family, rather than ticking boxes against a form.
Safeguarding Reports & Reflection
After enjoying a delicious lunch, we had more workshops to take part in. The first gave us a chance to explore CPOMS in-depth to make sure we’re getting the most out of the software and all its latest features. With customisable tools, CPOMS allows staff to look at reports through multiple lenses,
including behavioural issues, bullying, mental health, and more. This analysis can be vital for practitioners to support targeted intervention and the development of safeguarding policy.
The second workshop hosted a human library led by the Survivors Project. Jane Gregory, founder of the charity, and other volunteers shared their first-hand accounts of suffering abuse as children, allowing us to reflect on the complexities that prevent young people from confiding in adults outside the family home. Whilst signs and risks varied from case to case, we learned that building trusted relationships with children is always paramount to their care, as well as creating opportunities for them to ask for help. Inspired by their stories, some DSLs arranged to work alongside the Survivors Project more closely in school.
What did our delegates think?
I really enjoyed Manchester’s Early Help workshop, where Anthony talked about his first-hand experience as a child and also as a professional working with different individuals in need, sharing his passion to protect others. His experience and insight was really inspiring. I also got to spend time picking Laura’s brain and learning more about safeguarding against harmful sexual behaviour, which has been really useful. This has been a great opportunity to meet other practitioners and share good practice.
Vicky O'Farrell, Manchester Secondary PRU
For me, the highlight of the day was the workshop by the Survivors Project. It was so inspiring. Their bravery is astonishing. It’s made me want to go back and reassess every case, ask more questions, and relook at everything with a new perspective. Anthony’s talk in the Early Help workshop was also really powerful and motivating. Everything I’ve learned today has been so useful, especially at this difficult time.
Tom Rudd, Newall Green Primary School
I have thoroughly enjoyed today, I think it’s been very informative, lots of advice that I can take back to school and implement. Good range of presentations and workshops. The time’s gone very quickly which I think indicates a really good, enjoyable day full of information, help and advice.
Andrew Litchfield, Acacias Community Primary School
Again, we’d like to thank our keynote speakers and workshop leaders for all of their help and inspiration. We were astounded not just with the scale of their knowledge and research, but with the amount of resources they shared with us. We never left a session empty-handed.
And of course, a huge thank you to our delegates for coming. It was lovely to hearing from you and seeing you all exchanging ideas with each other. We’re so pleased that many of you left the event with new contacts to connect with in the future.
As always, we’ll reflect on your contributions as we’re designing future opportunities for Safeguarding development, to make sure you’re well-equipped with relevant tools and practical advice. We hope to see you all again soon.