Safeguarding and School Governors

A few weeks ago I delivered safeguarding awareness training to governing bodies in two schools. As ever, I was heartened by the enthusiasm and willingness of these groups of volunteers to give of their own time in a role where acknowledgement and acclaim are in very short supply: often after being cajoled into this role.

I was also struck by two thoughts:
• Just how much legal responsibility is placed in the hands of governors
• How little preparation governors are generally given for these responsibilities – as a relatively new governor myself, I can speak here from personal experience.

Safeguarding responsibilities encompass just about every area of school policy, from premises security and lettings through to the curriculum and recruitment practices. The significance of safeguarding for governing bodies was further enhanced when the inspection framework for schools changed in the autumn of 2009 and safeguarding became a limiting judgment*. Then, in January 2010, schools acquired the obligation to have at least one panel member who has successfully completed the Children’s Workforce Development Council’s ‘Safer Recruitment’ workshop or on-line programme, for every school interviewing panel.

Under the new framework, all governors are expected to have an understanding of their safeguarding responsibilities, to promote an ethos of positive practice and to ‘own’, review and scrutinise safeguarding processes across the school. The critical questions being, How do you know that it’s happening? and, How can you evidence this?

CR&A training programmes for governors explore the origins of the safeguarding agenda, describe the duties which are overseen by governors, cross-reference safeguarding to other relevant polices, clarify DfE and OFSTED expectations and describe ways in which governors can apply the standards of a “safe organisation”.

* Limiting Judgement: If a school is judged as unsatisfactory on safeguarding they cannot pass inspection however good the rest is.

John Guest