Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How a Children's Charity Will Keep Teachers Safe, Too

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How a Children's Charity Will Keep Teachers Safe, Too

Article excerpt

NSPCC to give legal protection to staff who blow the whistle

Teachers who report concerns about child abuse or other welfare issues at their school will be granted special protection against disciplinary action, TES can reveal.

After a report this week revealed that schools were among the agencies that failed to prevent six vulnerable girls in Oxfordshire from being exploited by a gang of men, prime minister David Cameron announced radical new plans to protect children from sexual abuse.

Under the proposals, teachers who fail to report suspicions of child abuse could face up to five years in prison for failing to protect their pupils from sexual exploitation.

Now it has emerged that the NSPCC has been granted "whistle-blowing status", meaning that school employees who are dismissed or treated unfairly after raising concerns with the children's charity will be given legal protection.

John Cameron, the charity's head of child protection operations, said he hoped the move would encourage teachers worried about their school's handling of child protection issues to report their misgivings using its helpline.

"We know that junior staff in particular, but other staff as well, are anxious about challenging their employer if they feel there's something untoward about how they have responded to a child welfare matter," he said.

"If a teacher alerted the headteacher to concerns about the welfare of a child but believed the school had failed to take adequate action, they might be worried about reporting it to the local authority. They might fear that their identity would become known and that could put them at risk [of dismissal]."

Between April 2013 and March 2014, the charity received 413 calls from teachers concerned about a child. Of these, 101 cases were referred to social services or the police.

As a result of the NSPCC's new legal status, any teachers who lose their jobs as a result of raising concerns about their school will be able to claim unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal.

The move was welcomed by Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union. "This will afford education staff who are worried about children's welfare and safety the opportunity to raise their concerns, should they feel unable to do so with their employer," she said.

Debbie Barnes, chair of the educational achievement board at the Association of Directors of Children's Services, told TES she was pleased that there would be "another avenue" through which teachers could raise potential problems.

In cases where there was a disagreement between school employees about the level of risk to a pupil, Mr Cameron said that the NSPCC's new status would encourage more teachers to get independent advice. …

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