Termly safeguarding audits would help heads ‘sleep at night’

A specialist body of safeguarding officers should be set up within or separately from Ofsted because inspections are “too short” to cover the issue properly, a multi-academy (MAT) trust executive has said.

Stephen Tierney, chief executive of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic MAT in Blackpool, said that safeguarding pupils was “too important” to be assessed as part of wider inspections every few years.

Instead a special team of  “chartered safeguarding experts” should be visiting schools every term, with a follow-up the next term, “just so headteachers can sleep at night.”

Speaking to delegates at the Headteachers Roundtable Summit in London today, Tierney said safeguarding should be treated as an auditing issue rather than an inspection issue.

“We should establish chartered safeguarding officers who are outside of schools, who audit you every single term, and who come back and say it’s still not strong enough until you’ve got it right. Our kids are worth it.”

Since forming as a trust, the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic MAT had requested the local authority to carry out safeguarding audits “not for Ofsted, but so I can sleep”, said Tierney.

It was impossible for Ofsted to do a thorough job of checking safeguarding issues in short inspections, he added.

Ofsted introduced shorter inspections of one day, every three years, for schools previously graded as “good” in September 2015. If the school’s performance appears to have dipped or improved, a full inspection will follow.

A headteacher from Islington in north London told audience members at the summit that he “totally agreed”, adding: “It may be helpful for Ofsted to shift safeguarding somewhere else. I don’t think what’s being done at the moment is sufficient.”

The head also questioned how much safeguarding training Ofsted inspectors received.

Joanna Hall, deputy director for schools at Ofsted, said: “The training is ongoing, it’s not just two days but goes on throughout an inspector’s time in their role. Safeguarding permeates everything we do in every region.”

Dr Becky Allen, director of Education Datalab, also said she wanted every inspector to undergo a “quality assurance” test – such as watching videos of schools – before being allowed to make public judgments.

“I am concerned there’s no kind of basic test to see that inspectors are making the kind of judgment they should make. I want to force every single inspector to watch a video and prove they can make the right judgment before they go out.”

Safeguarding is defined in the updated Ofsted guidance from August last year as protecting children from any “maltreatment” or negative effects on their “health or development”.

Headteachers would sleep better at night

It includes “ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care” and “taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes”.

The guidance said schools may need to protect pupils from issues including physical, sexual and emotional abuse, as well as bullying, domestic violence, and substance misuse.

Among these were also sexting, pornography, teenage relationship abuse, “poor parenting, particularly among young children”, and “fabricated or induced illness.”

Ofsted has previously placed schools in special measures over safeguarding failings.

For instance, Saville House School, an independent school in Nottinghamshire, was rated as ‘good’ in an Ofsted inspection for pupil achievement and quality of teaching over two years ago.

But the school was judged ‘inadequate’ and placed in special measures overall because staff had not had “the required safeguarding training” and did not know what “procedures to follow in the case of a disclosure.” Its risk assessments were also criticised.

A follow-up inspection in 2015 showed these requirements had now been met.

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