Safeguarding of pupils has been hampered by a “frustrating” lack of communication between children’s social care (CSC) services and teachers, according to a new government report.
The Learning for the future research report, which analysed 235 serious case reviews (SCRs) between April 2017 and September 2019, said that teachers found initiating CSC involvement for vulnerable pupils difficult, particularly in regard to escalating existing reports of concerns over their safeguarding.
The review, published today by the Department for Education, reported that “formal processes for escalating concerns were not always clear to schools” and that there was “a sense among some educators that they were powerless and that their professional judgement was not valued by CSC”.
The rejection of referrals from schools to CSCs because they had not been specific about support required “can act as a form of gatekeeping”, which could “place schools and CSC in a kind of stalemate”, especially if the rejections are without explanation or advice, the report warned.
Teachers, headteachers and school staff “felt frustrated and anxious” for pupils’ safety as a result, the report found.
In one case it reviewed, teachers said they had tried to escalate concerns about a child and were told they would be discussed at an upcoming common assessment framework (CAF) meeting. However, subsequent meetings were either cancelled or the CSC representative did not attend.
However, the report also said some school staff lack understanding of CSC reporting and learning processes.
One member of the Children and Young People’s Service (CYPS) told the review that there was often an “expectation” by schools for CYPS support in lieu of other “more suitable” routes, such as psychology and behaviour specialists.
Two “knowledge sharing” events for the review were hosted in early 2022 and attended by more than one hundred representatives from different public services bodies, including local authorities, safeguarding advisers, social workers, nurses and police officers. The report noted that no school staff were present.
Recommendations from the review include a new tool for measuring neglect, clearer and more consistent information sharing between agencies and an ”explicit focus” in policy and training on the distinction between the effects of poverty and forms of neglect.
The review is the last in a series of government-commissioned reports on serious case reviews, which kicked off in 2001. The review system was replaced in 2021 by a new process of rapid reviews, national reviews and local safeguarding practice reviews, the document notes.
This is being overseen through a multi-agency model involving local authorities, the police and local health services.
A 2021 review by Sir Alan Wood, former president of the Association of Directors of Children Services, found that while improvements had been made to the previous system, more central government support was needed to improve the “stretched” resources for protecting children.
Upon the official culling of the Schools Bill last week, education secretary Gillian Keegan confirmed that the safeguarding measures to introduce a register of children not in schools and crack down on unregistered schools outlined in the legislation would still be pursued.