Safeguarding and Pastoral Care in International Schools

Our International Account Manager, Martha Baker, sets out six of the most important things that staff in international schools need to consider when safeguarding the children and young people in their care.

There are several challenges that international schools face in respect to preventing harm to those in their care, which differ from the issues that UK-based schools might experience.

The mix of boarders and local pupils

A smorgasbord of local students, boarders and ‘Third Culture Kids’ can create an interesting dynamic that needs to be managed with care. Whilst a multi-cultural cohort can have huge benefits in terms of cultural acceptance and a better understanding of different religions and beliefs, it’s still one that staff in international settings need to be mindful of. Bullying is prevalent in all schools, and whilst international schools generally promote a culture of openness, caring and acceptance it’s important that schools have the correct process in place to manage bullying and to record incidents in order to prevent situations from escalating.

 

 

Guardianship and Pastoral Care

Pupils living (often a long) way from their home and their families can bring a new set of issues and concerns which staff need to manage sensitively and responsibly.

Pastoral staff and guardians will have ultimate responsibility for parental controls and discipline, whilst also have demands placed upon them for nurturing, acting as role models and providing advice and guidance when required. Managing these elements alongside puberty, plus added school pressures, can sometimes create behavioural problems or issues with integrating with peers. Self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety and depression are common forms of mental health issues and are concerns that are prevalent amongst children and young people across the globe. It’s also reported that 1 in 10 young people between ages 5-16 will suffer from a mental illness.

Arming your pastoral staff with the right tools (such as the correct training and robust reporting channels) to manage these issues, whilst creating a culture of recording major as well as (seemingly) minor issues might also allow early intervention and early help plans to be activated.

Sharing Safeguarding Information with Staff

A recent survey undertaken by COBIS and TES Global highlighted that 22.94% of international schools find it ‘somewhat’ or ‘very challenging’ to find high calibre, teaching staff. With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that a high staff churn is common amongst international schools. One of the main challenges, when staff turnover is high, is making sure that all staff are well informed about local safeguarding procedures and are aware of the safeguarding risks and trends in their school.

Sharing relevant information with staff is crucial to the effective management of safeguarding. The existing legislation and guidance provide a framework to enable that to happen. Data protection legislation and guidance actively encourage the sharing of information when there are concerns about the welfare of a child and we know that the failure to share information can lead to catastrophic outcomes. The sharing of information to protect children will always out-trump data protection!

Introducing a robust, electronic safeguarding recording system will allow wellbeing and pastoral concerns to be stored securely and shared with the people that ‘need to know’. Even when staff move to pastures new, you can be safe in the knowledge that the history of a student has been recorded and will be easily accessible for the new staff member to access as needed. An effective system will also ensure that your information-sharing is based on a restricted access basis, so you know that staff can only ever see data that is relevant to their role in the organisation.

 

 

Multi-Campus Establishments

With many international schools spread over multiple campuses or large and complex sites, it can create a wealth of difficulties when it comes to sharing important, sensitive wellbeing data. Telephone calls aren’t always appropriate when other pupils or staff are in the vicinity and do not allow for a traceable record (should you later need one). Emails and spreadsheets can cause their own GDPR issues, as information might be intercepted or accessed by other staff members. Finally, the historic issue of paper forms being the subject of a great many issues such as tampering, loss, theft, fire or flood, means that recording safeguarding concerns in this way are simply not fit for purpose. It also creates other issues as it does not allow a safeguarding lead to see the bigger picture of the challenges that might be facing that child or the history of that student, which might be relevant.

Online messaging and secure notifications regarding safeguarding and wellbeing concerns can be sent between staff using systems such as MyConcern, meaning that staff can be updated in real-time and actions can be taken immediately. Staff who need to be made aware of situations can be kept abreast of information quickly and communications between staff on different campuses can be made simple.

Different Cultures

International schools can attract a broad selection of nationalities, catering for both British families living overseas as well as local families. As already discussed, managing a wide range of cultures in a classroom situation can be challenging, but so too can recognising the differences in pupil behaviour. Different cultures may have different non-verbal cues: eye contact, body language and respect for seniors are some ways in which pupils may show signs of distress or anxiety. Being aware of these and responding to them sensitively can be difficult for teaching staff, so making sure they are fully briefed is an essential part of the induction process.

There may also be differences with local laws (such as ages of consent or corporal punishment) which might challenge your British Values or beliefs. Making new staff aware of these and having the correct policies in place to react to these issues when they arise is important.

Keeping local policies centrally where all staff can access this can be tricky if you’re a school with multiple sites. MyConcern has a dedicated area where all staff can easily access these policies, as well as legislation, guidance and serious case reviews, all kept updated so your staff have access to valuable information at their fingertips.

 

 

You’re not an island

Finally, recognise that you’re not alone in managing safeguarding and wellbeing in your organisation. Children and young people have increasingly more and more pressures due to the advent of digital and online safety issues. It’s important that you have a team of people in place to manage these varied and complex issues. There is also support available from companies such as One Team Logic (the makers of MyConcern Safeguarding Software) who provide a wealth of useful resources such as topical webinars, briefing guides and other useful tools.

As safeguarding and the wellbeing of pupils is everyone’s responsibility, embedding a culture of safeguarding right through your organisation is key. Implementing useful tools such as MyConcern for the recording, monitoring and reporting of safeguarding concerns will allow easy and secure information sharing, whilst also ensuring you remain compliant at the same time as putting the safety and wellbeing of your pupils first.

Elena Benito, Chief Executive Officer at the King’s Group explains, “As CEO and safeguarding Governor, MyConcern has enabled me to monitor the quality of safeguarding provision across our schools. Safeguarding is always our top priority across the group and the software allows us to continually monitor and review our provisions ensuring pupil welfare is at the forefront of our agenda.”

This blog was originally published on the COBIS Website, you can find the original HERE

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