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

Ella Savell-Boss

Safeguarding after the summer break

Cultivating a safe and supportive school environment has its challenges. Ella Savell-Boss explores practical strategies to address these challenges effectively, providing the best start to the academic year.

As the summer break draws to a close, we are eagerly awaiting the return of students in September. While it is an exciting time, schools must remain vigilant about safeguarding concerns. Many staff will have some contact with students over the summer break as they may be vulnerable or at risk.

The extended break, coupled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, may have also exposed other children to various risks and vulnerabilities. Here we will highlight key safeguarding issues for schools to be aware of and provide guidance on addressing them effectively.

Promoting metal health and wellbeing  

The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health and wellbeing of students, and the summer break may further amplify these challenges. It is important to be attentive to signs of distress, anxiety, or depression among students. Schools should have clear protocols in place for early identification and intervention, including well-trained staff and access to supportive services.

Promoting a positive school climate that prioritises wellbeing will be crucial during this time. There are several national and local services available to provide additional support. The best thing to do is check in with the school community and see what they need from you. 

Fostering online safety

With increased screen time during the summer, students may have encountered various online risks such as cyberbullying, grooming, or exposure to inappropriate content. It is vital to reinforce online safety measures, including responsible internet use, digital citizenship, and the importance of reporting any concerning online incidents. 

Students might have been exposed to extremist ideologies

Regular educational sessions, both for students and families, can help raise awareness and equip them with the necessary tools to navigate the digital world safely. Double check in KCSIE 2023 with anything you need to ensure you have in place. 

For some students, returning to school after a long break can be challenging, especially if they have experienced trauma or significant disruptions in their lives. Staff should be mindful of changes in behaviour, academic performance, or social interactions that might indicate the need for additional support.  

Remember the advice of professional curiosity is so important. Are you confident your staff understand this responsibility? Creating a safe and inclusive environment, offering individualised attention, and providing support, will facilitate their successful reintegration into the school community.  

Tackling bullying

The absence of school structures during the summer break may have impacted peer dynamics, potentially leading to changes in relationships or increased incidents of bullying. Schools should proactively foster a culture of respect, empathy, and tolerance, emphasising the importance of inclusive behaviour.

It is essential for us all to be aware of the potential safeguarding issues

Establishing a strong anti-bullying policy, conducting regular training sessions for staff and students, and promoting open communication channels will help identify and address any instances of bullying promptly.  

The extended break might have exposed some students to physical or emotional abuse within their homes or communities. Schools need to remain vigilant for signs of abuse, such as:

  • unexplained injuries
  • changes in behaviour
  • excessive absenteeism.

Training staff on recognising signs of abuse, having clear reporting procedures, and collaborating with relevant external agencies will aid in the early identification and intervention of such cases. A reminder for staff about how to report is always useful at the beginning of a new academic year. 

During the summer break, students might have been exposed to extremist ideologies or online content promoting radicalisation. Schools play a crucial role in promoting tolerance, inclusivity, and critical thinking to counter extremist narratives. Providing students with opportunities for dialogue, promoting cultural diversity, and organising awareness programmes on radicalisation will help prevent the influence of extremist ideologies within the school environment.  

A collective responsibility

As students return to school after the summer break, it is essential for us all to be aware of the potential safeguarding issues they may face.  

  • Addressing the mental health and wellbeing of students.
  • Reinforcing online safety measures.
  • Supporting their reintegration. 
  • Tackling bullying.
  • Recognising signs of abuse.
  • Countering radicalisation.

These are key areas that schools should focus on.

By being proactive and implementing effective safeguarding measures, schools can ensure the safety, wellbeing, and holistic development of their students. Remember, safeguarding is a collective responsibility that requires the active involvement of all stakeholders in the education community. 

This means we must ensure everyone has received the updates to KCSIE 2023 and understands their roles and responsibilities. Try to make education and training sessions relevant to your setting to ensure maximum engagement and impact. 

Good luck and keep up the great work ☺️

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