The government has “no plans” to replicate a Scottish safeguarding scheme that nominates someone to support every school-age child, despite concerns that English schools need to do better on safeguarding.
The “named person” scheme, coming into force north of the border next year, allocates an individual such as a health visitor or teacher to provide advice and support to every child and their family whenever it is needed.
Children are thereby able to have an independent person review any allegations of safeguarding.
During a parliamentary debate on sexual harassment and violence in schools last week, Maria Miller, the Conservative MP who chairs the women and equalities committee, said 124 schools across the country had been rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted due to ineffective safeguarding. Other MPs shared cases of constituents who felt their children’s concerns about violence in schools were not taken seriously – even though senior leaders shrugged off concerns.
MPs have been asked to check on safeguarding in schools and for more intervention from Ofsted.
The teacher’s role is principally one of educator
However, Andrea Bradley, the assistant secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, the largest teaching union in Scotland, said the named-person policy would give children access to the right services, such as educational psychologists, social workers, or the police, when necessary.
“If a young person and their family do find themselves in a crisis scenario, resources could be marshalled more quickly in order to bring a quicker end to that crisis, so children and young people can get the absolute best experience that school has to offer,” she said.
Schools Week asked the Department for Education if it was considering a similar scheme in England, but there are apparently “no plans” to do so.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of Association of School and College Leaders, said it is “critical” that problems experienced by young people are dealt with in a “supportive and caring way”, but new initiatives must not overburden teachers.
“The teacher’s role is principally one of educator,” he said.
Sarah Hannafin, a policy advisor for headteachers’ union the NAHT, pointed out that while every child should have a staff member they can turn to at school, the named person might not be their preferred choice of confidant.
“All staff need to be properly trained and supported to respond when a student asks for help,” she said. “Staff also need to be able to recognise when help is needed, without having to wait for a young person to come forward.”