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 'Safeguarding and child protection in schools - a guide for schools' gives advice on child protection for schools and others.
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
- suitable 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 teacher responsible for child protection. They will take suitable action based on procedures set out by the local authority and local safeguarding children board, letting the authorities know where it is required.
Once the authorities are told, they will decide on the best way forward. The school's role is then limited. School staff will not take part in an investigation, though they may be called on to give information. They may also be asked to give support to the child or young person.
To discuss concerns about child abuse contact:
- Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)
- Gateway Service Teams in the Health and Social Care Trusts
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 is in a ‘position of trust’ with 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: