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Protecting your child from abuse at school: your school's role

Everyone in the education service plays a part in keeping children and young people safe from harm and abuse. Creating a safe learning environment, identifying pupils who are suffering or at risk of harm and then taking appropriate action, are vital to ensuring children are safe at home and at school.

The role of the school in protecting your child from abuse

Your child's school should have a number of measures in place to help protect them, including:

  • staff who have been trained to identify signs of abuse including what to do if they or someone else is worried about a child
  • a designated teacher responsible for dealing with child protection
  • procedures for checking on staff before they are allowed to work with children
  • a child protection policy which includes procedures to be followed if a teacher or other member of staff is accused of harming a child

The Department of Education's booklet ‘Pastoral Care in schools: Child Protection' provides advice to schools and others on their responsibilities in relation to child protection.

As well as having child protection procedures in place, schools should teach your child how to protect themselves. Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) lessons cover issues such as:

  • risky behaviour
  • appropriate and inappropriate physical contact
  • dealing with peer pressure

Dealing with suspected cases of abuse

School staff will listen to and work closely with parents to make sure your child feels safe and protected in the school environment.

If you suspect that a child is being abused, you should report it to police or local social services. If you work in a school, you should tell the designated teacher responsible for child protection. They will take the appropriate action based on procedures set out by the local authority and local safeguarding children board, notifying the authorities where it is required.

Once the authorities are notified, they will decide the best way to proceed. The school's role is then limited. School staff will not take part in an investigation, though they may be called on to supply information. They may also be asked to provide additional support for the child or young person.

To discuss concerns about child abuse contact the PSNI: 028 9065 0222 or Social Services: 028 9050 7000 (from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm) or 028 9056 5444 (out of hours emergency duty team)

Preventing inappropriate relationships at school

Sexual relationships with under 16s are against the law, but it’s also an offence for an adult to have a sexual relationship with someone under 18 if the adult occupies a ‘position of trust’ in relation to that young person.

This covers, for example, relationships between members of school or college staff and students. It applies as long as the young person is under 18, even if they are over the age of legal consent – though there are some defences which can apply in limited circumstances.

Vetting of school staff

Everyone employed in a school will be vetted (criminal record check) and staff and volunteers will be trained in how to identify abuse including what must be done if they or someone else is worried about a child.

Further information on disclosure and barring arrangements in schools is available from the Disclosure and Barring Service and on the Department of Education website

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