“If you think you know everything you become a dangerous person”…

Not my words but those of Amanda Spielman, reflecting on her own induction into the role of HM Chief Inspector—Ofsted at today’s Education Select Committee meeting. A view which is also reflected in the recent revisions to safeguarding training, where schools and academies now are required to evidence ongoing training and updates throughout the academic year.

Spielman also went on to comment “I don’t think you should ever say the induction period is completely finished, there’s always more to learn”. As a specialist and advocate of promoting best practice, music to my ears. So why are so many education settings still operating on a model of annual one-off training? In conversations with school and academy staff we are still hearing phrases like “we’ve done this year’s training” or “we’ve had training and are covered”. So, it begs the question that, given the chief inspector’s views, just how will such opinions fare in the inspection process.

As I’ve said before, given the range and complexity of the safeguarding remit, it is impossible to achieve best practice standards using a one off training method and snippets at staff briefings as such a model cannot possibly offer the depth of subject knowledge, assessment of learning and evaluation of practice standards. In my view, training models without such triangulation not only fail to adequately equip frontline staff but should also open up a key line of enquiry re leadership and management.

So what should a good training model look like and how can you be sure of it’s effectiveness? I’d advocate applying similar broad principals we apply to curriculum delivery:

  1. Use great content produced by experts in the particular topics and avoid cascaded models of training, which dilute expert experience and quality of learning;
  2. Ensure the content is accessible, engaging and most importantly current. The best systems offer immediate updates as legislation, statutory guidance and inspection requirements change.
  3. Provide training that all staff, regardless of their ability level, experience and language requirements, will understand with access to revision of training at the point of need, not when you can fit it into staff training sessions. (E-learning can be a valuable tool to achieve this).
  4. Use a system where individual tracking and assessment can be fully monitored. This is invaluable for leaders to not only track progress but assess comprehension. Something you can’t achieve in the traditional seminar style delivery.
  5. Avoid training where assessment pass rates are below 100%. I’m often asked why our pass rates aren’t lower than 100% and my response is always the same – “tell me what part of the safeguarding remit its okay not to understand”.

Whilst I echo Spielman’s ethos of ongoing continued professional development as essential, it’s the quality of such learning which lies at the heart of best practice. If we make this our focus for the safeguarding remit, standards can only improve and we may finally see the demise of the tick list approach!

Why e-Learning should be the obvious choice for safeguarding training, but is often overlooked…

E-Learning should be the clear number 1 choice when considering staff safeguarding training and compliance with requirements. On every level it makes total sense, whether it’s cost or effectiveness of learning.

With training updated as requirements change and courses accessible 24/7/365 on any PC, Mac, Tablet or Smartphone, why would you look anywhere other than the e-Learning sector?

The answer is simple – there is e-Learning and then there’s e-Learning, and here’s the big issue and where the doubt creeps in. How can you tell the difference between one company’s service and the next, and be sure you comply with requirements?

These are the fear factors which lead schools/academies to rely on external trainers, cascaded training or sending staff out on training courses. But we know these traditional methods are problematic. How can you be sure external training meets latest standards? The expertise is often lost in cascaded training, often diluted through the process of delivery, and offers little scope for differentiation to meet the participants needs. Change is sometimes hard to face, even if it will make things better again both in terms of cost and effectiveness of learning!

So here are some tips:

  1. Always ask your potential supplier to take you step-by-step through their system. Is it complex in terms of setup and administration? It shouldn’t be!
  2. Take a look at the quality and sophistication of the presentation. If it doesn’t engage you, it won’t engage your staff!
  3. Make sure you get access to the whole system for as long as you need, don’t be guided just to what companies want to show you (their best bits).
  4. Ask how often the content is updated and how you will know if there have been changes. The best systems offer immediate updates as legislation, statutory guidance and inspection requirements change.
  5. Remember, poorly designed and overly complex system architecture and content often leaves users disappointed, disillusioned and most importantly, inadequately trained. This problem starts with the system interface and user account setup but is an unnecessary issue as good system design can overcome this problem and help, not hinder the user.
  6. Next, the user needs to be fully engaged with the particular training course. This can only be achieved by gathering content from key experienced practitioners from the education sector combined with engaging written content and digital media that only the best providers achieve effectively.
  7. Does the content offer a solution that all your staff, regardless of their ability level, experience and language requirements, will understand?
  8. Engagement is everything. The last thing users want to see is static content that they could have produced themselves. Engaged learners learn and poor content and system design will disengage the user in seconds!

In a recent piece of feedback regarding our Safeguarding Suite, one of our customers emailed simply:

“Thank you for making my job easier.”

I loved it. There really is no better place to be than that. We have a great product that is protecting children and making practitioners’ lives easier and less stressful.

At SSS we pride ourselves on providing a service to our customers, who can be safe in the knowledge that we are looking after the training that they are required to complete.

This is what great e-learning can deliver.

Take great care when interpreting child protection data trends

This month’s BBC Panorama episode “Children Abusing Children” revealed a steep rise in peer on peer abuse in the UK. A shocking statistic – yes, however, whilst these figures are alarming, we do need to carefully consider how to accurately define what they actually indicate.

As a result of freedom of information requests, latest statistics evidence a 71 per cent rise in reports of peer on peer abuse from 2013, 4,603 reports, to 7,866 in 2016. According to figures obtained by BBC Panorama, 74 per cent of these reports resulted in no further action being taken. All forms of child sexual exploitation are abhorrent but what is particularly worrying is that during the same period there have been 2,625 reported sexual offences, including 225 cases of rape, alleged to have taken place on primary and secondary school premises.

As with all areas of child protection, great care must be taken when interpreting data trends. New areas of data capture, for example online sexual offences, not previously included in categories, which may present a skewed representation of increase. Additionally, where an increase in offences is shown this may not necessarily mean this activity is becoming more prevalent, it may reflect improvement in detection rates.

What the data across the UK does indicate is that allowing for new types / methods of sexual abuse, there is a pattern of increase in detection and offence rates. As at 31st March, in England reports of sexual offences against children have increased sharply by 19%.

Children aged 16 and 17 are to a great extent not included in this statistic as the data on crimes such as rape and sexual assault is grouped with adult statistics. Due to this method of data collection, the true scale of sexual offending against all children under 18 cannot be analysed.

In Scotland, in 2016 reports of sexual offences against children under the age of 16 have increased sharply by 7% and over the past decade, sexual offences against this age group have increased by 68%. 2016 data shows that in Northern Ireland, reports of sexual offences against children have increased with a 26% increase in offences of sexual assaults and 24% increase in offences involving sexual activity. There were 46 offences of sexual grooming recorded compared to 4 in the previous year.

As the case studies featured in the programme demonstrate, despite the increase in legislation and statutory guidance and inspection requirements to demonstrate the prevention and management of peer on peer abuse, best practice models are not being robustly implemented. This indicates a need to refocus our best practice models, ensure all staff in schools and academies are equipped to recognise and support potential and actual victims of this type of abuse together with appropriate action for the perpetrators. The need for high quality training and individual assessment of staff knowledge to ensure best practice is absolutely essential, otherwise more children will be failed as those featured in the BBC programme.