Being ‘that’ safeguarding governor

My governance journey started in 2016, up until 2019 I had not ventured much into the world of safeguarding, it felt too big, too weighty and beyond my skills. The more I have researched, learnt and worked as a safeguarding governor, the more I have realised that it is essential for all governors. I now sit in the experienced governor sub-set, I know the acronyms, the places to find out information, how not to be operational and when to speak up. Of course, I am always learning, that never changes, if it did, I would not be as effective in governance, as the world that we and children and young people are in is always changing.

This year, once we had completed NGN’s new SEND page, my eyes naturally moved to safeguarding. I have researched safeguarding extensively since taking on the safeguarding governor role in 2019. I have read around the subject as well, a book called The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande was impactful as it reinforced my ‘get the fundamentals right’ thinking. Speaking with those whose job it is to safeguard children at school and local authority level, the methodical auditing approach is vital to not missing anything. Once I had fully grasped this, I moved on to the culture of safeguarding.

Colourful graphic with outline of people all connected by cogs, wording what is a safeguarding culture?

Vision, ethos and culture, never easy to define but so important to embed and strive for. Understanding what a culture of safeguarding means involves understanding what governance is, understanding the purpose of governance and core for me understanding the responsibility at all levels. Safeguarding, is still weighty, still big and my skills have to keep evolving to not be overwhelmed. 

In their guidance ‘The governance of safeguarding’ the National Governance Association state that to lead on a safeguarding culture, those in governance must ensure that:

  • safeguarding and child protection are at the forefront of school/trust planning and operation
    • ultimately, all systems, processes and policies operate with the best interests of the pupil at their heart
  • ensuring that adults who work in the school, including volunteers, don’t pose a risk to pupils 
  • staff undertake training so that they know how to respond to concerns and are kept up to date with policy and practice 
  • pupils are taught about staying safe
  • an environment where pupils feel confident to approach a member of staff if they have a worry or problem, and pupils’ wishes and feelings are taken into account when determining what action to take and what services to provide
I feel strongly now that all governors should be a safeguarding governor, not trained to the same level but able to articulate and challenge in the areas of safeguarding. Understanding the overlaps with other areas of governance and leadership. Just for a moment think about areas in which you govern and how safeguarding is involved, here is mine:
  • SEND – there is a huge overlap with safeguarding, from protecting our most vulnerable children and young people with complex needs to how we view behaviour and foster inclusion
  • Attendance – the always late or absent patterns can be the first sign that there is something wrong, as well as the concerns around children missing in education
  • Exclusions – children who are excluded are at greater risk of harm or reduced life chances – the Timpson Review of School Exclusion is important to read in order to understand the risks to excluded children
  • Finance – making sure that the school has sufficient training budgets, staff have sufficient time in order to carry out their DSL roles and that the school invests in good systems
  • Curriculum – from the EYFS framework right through secondary education, ensuring that children know how to keep themselves safe is paramount to safeguarding including RSHE, PSHE and online safety
  • Transition – I am a huge advocate of getting transitions right,  does the paperwork follow the child, is that child ready for that next stage, have they learnt to stay safe, the list goes on
Of course one key area that I have not listed is about people, children, staff and parents, do we listen to children, do they feel safe in their school? Are staff confident in the safeguarding processes at school and do parents feel comfortable sending their children to school. 
Colourful graphic with outline of people all connected by cogs, wording being that safeguarding governor

The new safeguarding page is now live and is the product of a lot of conversations at local and county level, as a governor I do not know all, I never will. Thank you to all who have fed into this, recently and over the years.

I am happy to be known as ‘that’ safeguarding governor, the one who doesn’t stop learning, doesn’t stop asking and doesn’t underestimate the importance of the role. So, please feed into our governance theme pages and stay in touch via social media and at our events.

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