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Early intervention at risk by budget cuts

Posted by Sam Preston

The safety and welfare of British children could become high risk, as SENCos, amongst many vital support staff roles are axed in a bid to batten down the hatches. According to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the recent freeze on school funding has led to more than a quarter of the 1300 schools it surveyed being prepared to make cuts in teachers and support staff.

In a time of austerity, where schools are losing vital safeguarding expertise with, in some cases, even part-time support staff are being drafted in, the question is what can be done to ensure that the remaining staff are proficiently trained in child protection?

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Dave Hill, president of the  Association of Directors of Children’s Services for 2016-17, shared his hope for the care system in 2017, quoting a much needed shift in how we invest our money, with an even stronger emphasis placed on early help. He went on to highlight how, in some councils, out of necessity, limited resources are used on high-end services – “firefighting&rdquot; rather than investing in preventative services. Frontline professionals in schools have a vital role to play here, with secondary school students spending over 700 hours each year under their care.

Now, for those teachers and support staff that do weather the storm, workload is inevitably going to rise. Safeguarding relies upon extreme vigilance and regular communication between staff and agencies and as resource pressures set in, where is this going to come from? Just this week, BBC News reported that support staff in Scotland’s schools are feeling exhausted, undervalued and stressed, according to Unison. The trade union said over 1800 jobs supporting teachers in schools had gone since 2010 which is having a direct impact on the workload of those remaining in post.

And finally, to the Department for Education, where the answer to the budget cut conundrum is to cut mainstream school “workforces” by £1.7bn over the next three years, I ask this: Where is the time and money going to come from to ensure the stalwarts still in post are properly trained and have the expertise to protect Britain’s children?