The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Luke Ramsden

A day in the life of a safeguarding lead in lockdown

Luke Ramsden reflects on the 'new normal' of life as a safeguarding lead during lockdown and beyond.

 

At a time when the media has generally described schools as ‘closed’, teachers have in fact been busier than ever, trying to adapt well-practised lesson plans and schemes of work to a world of online learning.

This is certainly the case for the safeguarding lead, whose workload is rising as the pressures of lockdown affect students and their families.

Here are a few reflections on the day-to-day experience of safeguarding in lockdown, which I think might be useful even when we return to school in person.

Preparing classrooms for the day ahead

The start of every day involves making sure that the classrooms are set up for those who are still coming into school.

Like many DSLs, I want to be on site, given the vulnerable children coming into us.

Typically, setting up has consisted of trying to adjust ventilation in classrooms to reduce the spread of the virus while keeping temperatures high enough to avoid freezing!

With coronavirus apparently here to stay, it seems this is going to be a theme of school life for quite a while.

Keeping track of attendance, on and offsite

I take the register of all the students in school at the usual time and then ask the attendance team to follow up on anyone who has not come in.

In the same way, all the form teachers working from home are also meeting their students and taking their own registers so that we also know who hasn’t ‘arrived’ for online learning too.

We are very aware of how easy it could be for an absence to go unnoticed and, without being able to see students in person, any absence is treated as a potential red flag until we have heard from the student’s parents.
 

Prioritising safeguarding

Much of the rest of the day will be spent talking either by phone or computer to parents and students about a variety of pastoral issues.

With so few children in school, we are now tending to follow up even apparently quite minor issues to check nothing more serious is going on.

Being able to keep vulnerable children in school throughout all the lockdowns has saved many of them and their families from complete meltdown. The situation has made it clearer than ever that school is often the best and safest place for them to be.

With so few children in school, we are now tending to follow up even apparently quite minor issues to check nothing more serious is going on.

Maintaining communication

One positive of lockdown has been the rise in the use of online communication platforms like Zoom. This makes it easier to talk to many families and to see them ‘face to face’ than it was in the past.

For instance, TAF (Team Around the Family) meetings for social workers, families and the school are much easier to arrange online than trying to get all the relevant people physically together.

I am sure online meetings will remain a feature of how we talk to parents long after the end of lockdown.

Checking on teachers’ wellbeing

Another important part of life in lockdown is keeping in touch with staff. With less daylight and colder weather, this winter lockdown has seemed rather tougher than last year, with everyone hoping for a return to school on 8th March.

The senior team has been making sure we are in regular contact with the teachers, who themselves are having to cope with lockdown and often their own children being at home, while still preparing lessons, teaching and marking.

I think we will all now appreciate how important coming into work is for the health and wellbeing of adults as well as children.

I think we will all now appreciate how important coming into work is for the health and wellbeing of adults as well as children.
 

Testing the testing

New to this term have been the lateral flow tests for staff and senior school students, carried out by the school nurses.

An unintended positive consequence of this lockdown is having more time to prepare for the reality of doing these tests for all our staff and students.

Even just testing the staff and students who are in school has been quite a big job, and as a result we have increased the staffing and amount of time and space that we think will be needed to complete the tests.

Keeping an eye on the news

I also find myself, like school leaders up and down the country, waiting for the latest government updates about what is happening next for schools.

I do find myself wishing that, when the government does update its COVID guidelines, it could highlight the changes in red to make life easier for us.

The tendency to release important announcements on a Friday afternoon or at the weekend is also not helpful.

Maintaining the school community

A real spirit of togetherness across the school community has helped us all to get through this difficult time, from the numerous messages of thanks from parents to the whole-school charity events.

We will, though, be waiting with fingers crossed for our full return to school!

Support for safeguarding leads

Are you a DSL or safeguarding lead looking to build your support network? Our Leading Safeguarding conference takes place in June 2021. Join us for practical and interactive digital modules designed with leading experts and a wealth of downloadable resources, including recordings of every session.

Check out the programme

 

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