Celebrating 10 years of Arthur Terry Learning Partnership – Safeguarding in the Digital Age

The Safeguarding Company's safeguarding manager Natasha Lawrence reached out to Sue Bailey, Multi-Academy Trust Safeguarding Lead of the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, to discuss safeguarding systems and the benefits of using our safeguarding solutions MyConcern and Clarity.

You are one of our flagship schools can you tell me a little bit more about the Arthur Terry Learning partnership?

We have recently celebrated 10 years of partnership, Arthur Terry is our lead secondary school, but we have also been joined now by four other secondary schools and we also have several primary partners. In total, we are responsible for 10,000 students and around 1500 members of staff. Our partnership operates across 3 different local authorities, 3 different safeguarding boards and we have schools in a variety of contexts. 

 

You adopted one of our safeguarding products early on. What safeguarding system did you have in place before MyConcern?

Well, they were inconsistent and different authorities had different systems but nearly all of those were paper-based. Inconsistent, not efficient, and not very easy to obtain one overall picture of what was happening to a child. 

 

What were the key issues you identified using a predominantly paper-based system?

 Sadly, staff were often so busy they would forget to sign, forget to date, it did not have the information we wanted, sometimes there were initials instead of full details and it was rarely in chronological order. Sometimes different pieces of information were in different parts of a school, if the child was on the special needs register then the information might be in that department, there might be child protection information in a separate file, the tutor, head of year, progress leader might all have pieces of information or there might be other information in an academic file from primary school. Our information was not in one place and it was not easy to access. 

 

Can you recall any specific challenges you were experiencing during this time? 

Yes, I was putting together some case records for a child for a section 47 assessment and we had very little time to prepare, it was a nightmare because it was all over the place, wasn’t in order and sometimes not signed or dated so couldn’t be used. It took a long time to get it ready to go for assessment and for me, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The other issue was I had to do that on school premises because the information was in a variety of places, I could not sit at home and do it as I can with MyConcern. It was that situation that finally made me realize we needed a better system. 

 

 

When did you first become aware of MyConcern?

I listened to a demonstration at a safeguarding conference run by the Birmingham safeguarding board and I thought that is just what we need. I made contact and the rest is history. We were just so pleased to find something that suited our needs. 

 

Excellent and how are your schools? Are you getting much feedback from them on how they find MyConcern? 

Some schools are making fantastic use of it, other schools have been a little more hesitant and reluctant to give up paper, but everybody is getting there. Your other system Clarity highlights those schools who might be struggling, it allows me to see how they are doing in terms of their recording and the number of concerns they have raised. I can then see when it might be necessary to go in and support or arrange some extra training. 

 

What would you say are the key benefits of MyConcern for you? 

I can access it anywhere including from home which is fantastic particularly during lockdown and isolation. I like how I can copy a social worker in on a case rather than emailing the social worker or the police officer. It gives me a much bigger window on what is happening in my school and across the partnership in terms of safeguarding and keeping those children safe. The biggest thing is I have that jigsaw all in one place. 

The ability to see the big picture works particularly well in our primary schools. We have some schools in areas where neglect is a real concern and it is important our staff record all those instances where a child has arrived without their lunch, without the proper clothing, they look dirty or they are hungry. [Recording those things] is easy to do and you have that picture of what is happening to a child which is so much better than having scraps of paper everywhere. Now I can see I have this many instances on MyConcern where we have been concerned with a particular child’s welfare. Again, it is that bigger picture. 

 

 

You mentioned you can access it from any device, with the challenges of this year MyConcern must have been extremely useful for you. 

Absolutely, during lockdown we did not see the children and being able to access those records from home has been immeasurable. Across our partnership, we made 10,000 calls to families to check-in and they are all recorded and logged. I can go back and see what we did during the lockdown and that is all evidence that helps keep a child safe. MyConcern was invaluable during the lockdown and our staff have worked hard to make sure all the work that went on to look after our children was logged and recorded. It is satisfying to see the big picture and you can say look at the number of calls we made, the number of families we have been in contact with and because of these calls look at how many families we have put into contact with a food bank or a support agency. 

 

That's fantastic to hear. Did you attend any of our support seminars that started during lockdown?  

Yes, I found those sessions personally extremely useful and I know a lot of my DSL’s did as well. It can be a lonely job, particularly when you are working at home and to have that contact with other people, to compare problems and solutions was beneficial. 

 

Does MyConcern give you confidence in how you record and act on child protection information?  

Yes, absolutely and we have done some training around what we record and how we record it so when you then look at that picture that gut feeling you have about a child is backed up.

 

As well as MyConcern you also use Clarity our multi-establishment reporting platform, how is it helping you in your Trust at the moment? 

It has allowed me to look at all our schools and examine emerging patterns and trends. I have been looking at domestic violence; we had some domestic violence training at the beginning of lockdown because our data was telling us then that this was becoming an issue. We now need additional training because the data across the 14 schools is showing that domestic violence is one of our chief categories of concern. It also shows me that in our secondary schools, students wellbeing is top of the list and that is linked to mental health, anxiety, depression and home issues. We have a lot of families who are facing severe financial pressures resulting in problems at home. Families have been furloughed, lost jobs, been made redundant or have suffered a bereavement. Clarity enables me to look at those trends then consider what training our DSL’s need in response to the new groups that are coming through such as those who are now struggling with financial difficulties.

 

You've mention staff training, can you explain some of the ways you're able to use MyConcern to inform staff development?

 It allows me to look at school level at which staff members are reporting concerns and which aren't. For example, I was able to notice, in one of our schools, where a year 4 class had a certain number of concerns logged across the year, but when they moved up to year 5 suddenly there were almost no concerns raised. We knew that the children hadn't changed, those concerns were still there, sadly the teacher just hadn't seen them, perhaps hadn't had enough training and wasn't confident. We were able to give that teacher more training and confidence so that they could log concerns as they arose. 

 

 

Moving on from the initial lockdown and ‘first wave’ what safeguarding challenges do you expect to see? 

I think across the safeguarding world we expected a tsunami of disclosures when lockdown ended, and it has not quite happened, but having been in school early this week it is obvious why. Everybody is 2 metres apart. A child must be very brave to step forward and ask to speak to a teacher while maintaining that 2 metres.  

I was talking to an art teacher who was saying a lot of the disclosures [previously] occur when she was sat with a child working on a painting or a drawing. That cannot happen now, she is 2 metres away, they are wearing masks, it is more difficult for students to communicate.  

 

What advice would you give others looking for an electronic safeguarding solution?

For me I cannot see how anyone survives on paper now, we are moving into that digital world and it needs to be electronic. I know there are other products out there but for me, MyConcern has made it so much easier to record, it's more accessible, it gives me better insight into what is happening and that bigger picture. We have worked hard over the years to make sure that any member of staff who has a concern about a child comes to tell the DSL face to face, but we also want it on MyConcern. 

It comes down to governors and senior leaders being able to analyse the data. MyConcern enables me to analyse the data and I would feel very comfortable showing it to any inspector, to explain what our data is, what it is showing and what I am doing about it.  For me, that is a key learning point, staying ahead of the game.  I can also identify which members of staff are not reporting concerns and identify where additional training is required to support those staff members.  It also enables me to measure any training, for example, if staff complete an anti-bullying course and then we get a rise on MyConcern of reported bullying issues, I know the staff have taken the training onboard.  

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