Jason Tait, the Director of Pastoral Care and Designated Safeguarding Lead at The American School in England, reflects on the ways in which a Contextual Safeguarding approach is being used to safeguard students.
This blog was written by Jason Tait, the Director of Pastoral Care and Designated Safeguarding Lead at TASIS, The American School in England in England and advisor to The Student Voice
Contextual Safeguarding – a meaningful progression for our Learning Journey
Contextual Safeguarding is an empowering, child-centred approach that enhances the way TASIS, The American School in England, navigates safeguarding students. Continuing to recognise the vulnerability of young people in a range of social contexts, including school, is important for us as we know students may not always be vulnerable in just one environment. This evolving and forward thinking approach to safeguarding has the capacity to allow school leaders and Designated Safeguarding Leads to learn and understand how they can proactively keep their school communities safe at a greater depth than reactive safeguarding practices. Perhaps more importantly, Contextual Safeguarding can authentically provide schools with the opportunity to teach students how to take responsibility for creating safer communities. This potential benefit cannot be underestimated and emboldens all within a community to play their part in creating safer and healthier communities.
The development of Contextual Safeguarding has allowed TASIS to learn more about and reflect more deeply on the answers to the following key questions:
- How do we know our school community is safe?
- What safeguarding issues do our students really face?
- How effective are safeguarding interventions?
- How are we providing authentic opportunities for our students to own the concept of safeguarding and to be principled, open-minded and compassionate citizens?
The Student Voice – What
The Student Voice gives students the platform to share information about how safe they feel on campus and in the local area through interactive maps. Additionally, due to the opportunities for learning we have all experienced through our response to the coronavirus pandemic, we are more aware that students take time to adjust to transformational cultural changes such as online home schooling, a new routine and limited social contact. With the advent of this situation, we have added an interactive world map where students can share relevant concerns that assists us in staying connected with our students, adapting our support as a school and respond effectively no matter where in the world the student may be.
The Student Voice – Why
Evidence suggests that students may be reluctant to share sensitive safeguarding issues with teachers face to face because their social conditions favour them to stay silent (Contextual Assessment Framework, Firmin 2015). The Student Voice, in partnership with TASIS, have developed a Contextual Safeguarding information sharing tool that seeks to provide opportunities for student peer group engagement with a view to developing a stronger school culture. The Student Voice seeks to bridge this perceived communication gap by listening to students and allowing schools to respond to their concerns effectively; with the overall aim being to proactively identify and intercept safeguarding issues, and to ultimately protect our students and provide them with a forum to play their part in this process.
The Student Voice – How
Students with information to share can access these maps and report on any area outlined. They are asked to rate the safety of an area as GOOD, OK or BAD and to provide further detail about their rating. All submissions are anonymous, unless the student elects to share their identity.
Students are encouraged to share what is working well, in addition to areas and issues of concern. In the time between May 2019 and March 2020 we received on average 30 submissions per month, 59% of which were positive. It is fair to say that we learned just as much, if not more, from these positive reports than the issues of concern that were raised. We have learned that we often take for granted what is working well and that doing more of what works well can make a tangible difference in the life of our students. The following infographic outlines the data gathered thus far: