Perspectives on safeguarding and child protection in English schools: the new educational landscape explored.
Baginsky, M., Driscoll, J., Manthorpe, J. and Purcell, C. 2019
Changes in England’s education policy have increased the autonomy of schools, thus substantially altering the nature of the role played by local government. Concurrently, a sharp rise in referrals to children’s social care services, together with budgetary pressures, have led local authorities to seek to manage demand by emphasising the role of other agencies in providing early help to children and families.Purpose:This article focuses on schools’ engagement with safeguarding and child protection from the perspective of senior education and children’s social care professionals employed within local authorities. It considers the effect of policy developments on the relationship between local authorities and schools in meeting their statutory duties to identify and support vulnerable children and families (safeguarding) and intervening in those considered to be at risk of significant harm (child protection). This research was undertaken as the preliminary stage of a study investigating schools’ decision-making in child protection, their engagement in multi-agency working, and the support available to schools.Methods:Scoping interviews were conducted with 68 professionals working in children’s social care or education services in 20 local authorities across England that varied in terms of geographical location and socio-economic diversity. Interview transcripts were analysed qualitatively, using a two-phase process. The analysis included the identification of a thematic framework, mapping and interpretation.Findings: In-depth analysis of the rich interview data allowed exploration of the participants’ perspectives, which elucidate and give insight into some of the emerging pressures that are challenging schools and local authorities, as well as the agencies supporting them. Key factors identified were: increasing school autonomy; the upward trend in the rate of referral to children’s social care services and rising thresholds for accessing those services; and the availability and nature of ‘early help’ for children not meeting the threshold for social care intervention.Conclusions:Pending later data gathered through surveys and directly from schools, the findings from this preliminary study suggest that local authorities face new challenges in working with a fragmented educational community: while their statutory responsibilities remain, the channels by which they are carried out have been severely weakened.
NIHR School for
Social Care Research