Safeguarding in schools is essential for keeping children safe. It means having:

  • Whole-school policies and procedures
  • Staff and volunteers confident in identifying and raising concerns
  • Leadership confident in responding to and referring concerns and working with other agencies to protect children
  • Teaching resources to promote wellbeing.
Schools as both organisations and environments play a very significant role in the protection of children. Safeguarding is an important process that all schools must carry out. It will benefit children  by ensuring schools are safe places, where a child can feel comfortable to talk about any issues they are dealing with.  Schools  are in a unique position to build and develop relationships with pupils and to notice the indicators of abuse. Teachers and other school staff are also central components within the multi-disciplinary team around the child.

What is Safeguarding?

Safeguarding in schools is concerned with making sure children are protected from being abused, neglected or exploited.  It is often assumed that the term safeguarding is a matter of child protection, but it is actually a much wider issue. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, child protection concerns the protection of pupils at risk of abuse, but safeguarding applies to all pupils within the school. This means that all schools have a responsibility to ensure that they protect the best interest of each pupil from significant harm. This includes protection from abuse, harm to health or development, provision of care that meets their needs, and securing the best possible outcomes.

Safeguarding in Schools

Under the Education Act 2002, schools have a statutory responsibility for ‘safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people’. As a result, schools have a responsibility to adhere to the statutory guidance that serves as a cornerstone of child protection and educational practices.

In schools, safeguarding involves protecting and promoting the health and wellbeing of pupils. Their main safeguarding responsibilities include:

  • The provision of a safe environment in which children feel heard.
  • Creating positive relationships with pupils, premised on mutual trust and understanding
  • Be aware of the indicators and symptoms
  • Ensure vigilance in recognising changes in behaviour or mood.
  • Supporting the Designated Safeguarding Lead.
  • The hiring and safe recruitment of staff.
  • Ensuring all staff have received the relevant training.
  • Teaching about staying safer online and in the real world.
  • Reporting concerns regarding abuse.

Safeguarding  encompasses a number of different types of harm:

Prevent Duty and Radicalisation

The government introduced Prevent Duty as part of the CONTEST strategy, and it aims to prevent people from becoming radicalised or engaging in terrorism. It is premised upon the fundamental British values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance. Within the documentation, they define extremism as being vocal or active opposition to these. As well as educating pupils regarding these values, teachers and schools are legally required to take due regard to prevent people from becoming radicalised and to report anyone they have concerns about.

Child Sexual Exploitation

A form of sexual, emotional and physical abuse, Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a form of child abuse, in which children and young people under the age of 18 are exploited for sexual purposes. They may be given things such as money, possessions, drugs and alcohol to coerce them. In some cases of CSE, the young person may not be able to comprehend the nature of the abusive relationship and may see themselves as being in a relationship with the older adult. As a result, schools need to be aware of the indicators of CSE and the appropriate actions to take. As part of the Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum, schools are also responsible for educating children and young people about grooming, consent and what constitutes a healthy relationship.

Forced Marriage

Forced marriage is ultimately a violation of a person’s human rights. In that, everyone has the right to choose who they marry or whether to want to at all. Moreover, forcing a child or young person under the age of 18 is a form of child abuse, with the individual being placed at risk of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Any form of forced marriage is illegal in the UK and this also includes taking someone overseas to force them to marry. Indicators that a pupil is at risk of forced marriage could include long periods of absences, evidence of self-harm, being subject to unreasonable restrictions, and the individual going missing or running away, amongst others.

Honour-Based Violence

The term honour-based violence is defined as being some form of ‘cultural justification for violence and abuse’. It is often associated with harm that is done in a misguided attempt to protect someone or a group’s ‘honour’. The term is relatively broad and internationally recognised. Although, in recent years it is used less frequently as it is increasingly recognised that there can be no honour in violence.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Also known as female circumcision or cutting, FGM refers to any procedure in which female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, and this encompasses several different operations. In the UK, any form of FGM is always illegal and it is a form of abuse. It is also a criminal offence to take a woman or a girl overseas for this purpose. 


Grooming is a form of abuse and manipulation and it refers to the process of an adult befriending or establishing a relationship with a child or young person to abuse them, often for sexual purposes. Whilst it is often considered to be an online issue, grooming can also occur within the real world. 


Children and young people are online today more than ever before, and e-safety refers to the safe and responsible use of technology. Regarding this, schools have a dual responsibility to protect children when online at school, as well as ensuring pupils are equipped with e-safety skills and knowledge. However, within this the school needs to encourage pupils not to share personal information, only use age-appropriate sites, and report any inappropriate behaviour or bullying. Schools are also responsible for the manner in which they manage online safety in schools.

Self-Harm and Self-Neglect

Self-harm refers to behaviours that an individual does that intentionally injures or damages their body. This includes a wide range of behaviours including cutting, burning, hitting and hair pulling, amongst others. Self-neglect refers to an inability or unwillingness to attend personal needs. 


In Working Together to Safeguard Children, neglect is defined as being a ‘failure to meet a child’s basic, persistent, physical and/or psychological needs’. It is the most common form of child abuse; making up half of all child protection plans.  Many of the signs of neglect are visible, and schools are well-placed to spot potential indicators.


Child abuse is an umbrella term that includes four main types: neglect, physical, emotional and sexual abuse.  Schools have a responsibility to report any concerns regarding child protection.