Y2 Safeguarding Survey – June ’23 Y3 Safeguarding Survey – June’23 Y4 Safeguarding Survey – June ’23 Y5 Safeguarding Survey – June ’23 Y6 Safeguarding Survey – June ’23
Dear Parents /Carers
The way I see it the very best reason for schools is that they are places where we can learn together with our peers. When you watch a skilled teacher harnessing the combined potential of all their pupils by getting them to work well together and from each other, it is a thing of inspiration, something to marvel at. It is for this very reason I believe that some studies have shown smaller class sizes can be less desirable because there is less to harness. The flipside of course (there is always a flipside) is that learning alongside others can be difficult for us all sometimes- especially in that you are constantly having to compromise your own individual needs for the sake of the collective. For a head teacher this is a constant conundrum, a constant weighing up when making decisions. As a staff we are constantly talking about/ thinking about individuals and what would be best for them but in the hubbub of a school day, we must also of course weigh one individual’s needs against those of others around them and the school as a whole. So many of our assemblies come back to a core message- the need for compassion and consideration of others. For us parents of course the needs of our child are paramount –we are their key advocate; we will we know them best and we will want the best for them but we also know the school has to be there for all the children.
This last year we have faced significant behaviour challenges as a school. I often look to sidestep that word ‘behaviour’ because it feels like such a loaded word; a word that can induce a way of thinking and working which can lead, directly or by association, to less desirable feelings in all of us like judgment and shame. I have been especially cognisant of this this last year because some of the challenge has been indicative of a greater incidence of neurodiversity and mental health issues and I have therefore preferred to use the term ‘emotional dysregulation.’ I strongly believe that behaviour is communication and given so many pupils are struggling more than they once did under the broad banner of mental health issues, it is hardly surprising that more of it is being communicated. I still sometimes get the ‘I think maybe we’re attending to it too much’ line or a variation on the theme of that awful expression ‘snowflake generation.’ Now of course everyone is entitled to their opinion. As a head teacher working with children struggling throughout my school, I in turn feel entitled to say this is a real and present struggle and certainly not one that be solved by pulling up one’s bootstraps (which by the way, when this was first used as an expression, was meant to be sarcastic because it is impossible to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps).
Unfortunately, nothing comes without a cost and this is where I find myself back to those weighing scales mentioned previously. We recently carried out a simple pupil safeguarding survey with pupils from Year 2 up to Year 6. The three questions about safety produced answers that were a concern for us. To get you to the gist of this quickly, a key finding was too many pupils answering ‘mostly’ as opposed to ‘always’ when asked if they felt safe in school and/or if they felt safe at lunchtimes. Also when asked if they felt confident approaching an adult about their safety or happiness, pupils saying a straight yes was lower than expected. When I say ‘less than expected’ I need to qualify this. The school generally has a reputation for good pastoral care and staff visibly work hard to listen to and respond to need. Feedback from pupils and parents has always been positive when it comes to this aspect of the school’s work. It must be noted that while the %’s of ‘yes’/ ‘always’ were lower than expected, the vast majority of pupils answered in the affirmative eg choosing the ‘mostly’ option instead of ‘always’ or choosing the ‘sometimes’ option instead of ‘yes.’ However, these findings send us a clear message that we must do better; that we must maintain a better balance between individual need and overall safety. One possible conclusion could be that the high level of need so many pupils have been exhibiting over the last year has stretched our capacity and our human resources thin and raised levels of anxiety generally, either amongst those who are struggling or amongst those who are witnessing the struggle. Another possible conclusion is that we need to be more consistent; that pupils did not commit to ‘always’ because not all adults respond in the same way. We are working now to improve both these aspects.
One other area that we feel we must improve on is pupils getting into verbal or physical fights. While speaking this out loud makes the situation sound worse than it is (I must here reassure you that playtimes are generally happy and incident free); equally there is little doubt that we have ‘sustained’ a higher level of physicality in the playground than we have ever had to do previously. We have approached this issue like we have approached a myriad of other issues this year- with understanding and support. There have been occasions where we have had to take matters further but in the main we have set out to hold our children through some difficult times. There is a definitive sense that this has worked and we have come through and out the other side; that the children are well set for days without incident or upset. Given this but also given the findings above, we are therefore choosing this moment to firm up the school’s response to incidents of fighting. While of course every incident demands careful investigation and good judgement, there is now a far higher likelihood that some form of suspension will take place if a child gets involved in fighting in school, directly or indirectly. This could involve an internal suspension but could equally involve a child being sent home. We will work hard to avoid the necessity for this- it is not something any of us want. Levels of supervision, support and training has been increased yet again but, for the sake of safety for all pupils in school and for the sake of all our pupils feeling safe, we now need to draw the line more firmly. If you are discussing this with your children, please reassure them the chances of it happening are remote and encourage them, as ever, to talk to us or yourselves if they are anxious about anything in school.
If you want to discuss this change in emphasis or its implications for your child, please feel free to get in touch.