Why all schools need a Safeguarding team?

Avengers: Endgame is smashing box office records. No surprise!

My favourite film of 2018 was Avengers: Infinity War. There, I’ve said it. Obviously, I’d like to say it was Roma or The Favourite or Green Book. However, it wasn’t. I should point out I’m not a fan of superhero films per se, (although, for the record, I must confess I thoroughly enjoyed Black Panther, too, but that’s for another day, perhaps?) The narrative of Avengers: Infinity War is the very simplistic and well-trodden path of good vs evil but there are some extremely poignant moments, especially relating to ethics and morality, albeit told through fancy costumes, CGI and spectacular battle scenes. There is one key theme throughout and a point to this introduction (you’ll be pleased to hear, I hope). The Avengers are all formidable in their own right – with many individual and spin-off franchises – however, they know that they are more powerful as a team and collaborating positively may/may not (no spoilers!) increase their chances of success against the villain of the piece. Thanos, said villain, in contrast, is only prepared to work alone, takes no advice and believes that his actions are entirely justified, irrespective of how despicable they appear to other people

So, what if anything, has this got to with Safeguarding?

Only 5-10 years ago, Safeguarding and Child Protection in many settings could be viewed as an ‘individual franchise’. In the not too distant past, the ‘industry standard’ in schools was to have a single ‘Child Protection Officer’, probably assisted by one Deputy, if they were lucky. The ‘Caped Crusader’ with a trusted companion, if you will. This ‘superhero’ swooped down in times of need. They often ‘lived in the shadows’ but came to the fore when disclosures were fielded and referrals made. The role was almost always reactive and there was insufficient time or resources to enable the CPO to be pro-active. Of course, this was dependent upon the size of the setting. Paper files were held securely (with two keys) and nigh on impossible to access from home during the holidays. It wasn’t uncommon to hear ‘only the CPO has all the info’. Apparently, in this parallel universe, Safeguarding and Child Protection were term-time only!

Although schools are still required to have a named Lead DSL, the responsibility and level of accountability in Safeguarding and Child Protection must never be under-estimated, hence, just like the Avengers, I believe very strongly that key professionals must come together and work as a Safeguarding team. This ensures collective responsibility, the ability to share information and to draw from a pool of expertise, to ensure effective communication with families who will ‘know’ the DSL responsible for the care of their child and, lastly, to ensure that all members of the team are clear that their own professional development needs to remain an absolute priority.

So, at our weekly meeting, the team might think they’re Deputy Designated Safeguarding Leads but, in my head, I’m staring at Captain Marvel, Captain America, Okoye, Thor et al.