Safeguarding Briefing - 14th March 2022
Child Q - Safeguarding Practice Review
I was shocked this week, as you will have been, to read about the case of Child Q who was strip searched by two female Metropolitan Police Officers in a school, even whilst being on her period. The review report by City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership published this week makes dreadful reading. There are a number of shocking aspects to the case, not least that no-one from the police or the school spoke to a parent. Child Q was so distressed about what had happened that her mother took her to the GP, and it was the GP that contacted Children's Services.
Strip search of Child Q should never have happened
The review report is 'clear that the strip search of Child Q should never have happened and there was no reasonable justification for it.' The report found that the school was fully compliant with expected practice standards when responding to its concerns about Child Q smelling of cannabis and its subsequent search of Child Q’s coat, bag, scarf and shoes. 'This demonstrated good curiosity by involved staff and an alertness to potential indicators of risk.'
It was what happened next where the situation worsened. As far as the review team are aware there has never been another incident of a strip search taking place in a school in these London boroughs.
School staff 'deferred to the authority of the police'
The review found that the school staff 'deferred to the authority of the police on their arrival at school. They should have been more challenging to the police, seeking clarity about the actions they intended to take. All practitioners need to be mindful of their duties to uphold the best interests of children.'
In my career working with teenagers who have social, emotional and mental health difficulties, there have been occasions when I've asked for the police to come into school to support us. There is of course a tendency to defer to the police, they have police powers and I trust them to use them appropriately. However, I think the case of Child Q does ask us to reflect on that. One member of staff from the school concerned to the review, 'In hindsight I put my trust in the law; I know now that I need to understand the law better... For example, insisting on staying with a student at all times.'
Another aspect that comes through for me, is the role of 'Appropriate Adult'. A role that I now realise I didn't fully understand. Appropriate Adults are there 'to safeguard the interests, rights, entitlements and welfare of children and vulnerable people who are suspected of a criminal offence, by ensuring that they are treated in a fair and just manner and are able to participate effectively.' Appropriate Adults are not merely passive observers, they are 'expected to be an active participant. In order to be effective, they need to be assertive and speak up.'
The review evaluated the actions of professionals involved on the day of the strip search in the context of Child Q’s ethnicity and whether she was treated differently because she is Black. The report concluded: 'the disproportionate decision to strip search Child Q is unlikely to have been disconnected from her ethnicity and her background as a child growing up on an estate in Hackney.' As complex as racism is, one significant feature here is 'adultification bias' - where children from Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic communities are perceived as being more ‘streetwise’, more ‘grown up’, less innocent and less vulnerable than other children. This particularly affects Black children, who might be viewed primarily as a threat rather than as a child who needs support’.
Webinar - Child Q
In order to understand what happened, I've looked carefully at the review and created a 40 min online seminar. I've drawn out the important issues, so that schools can ensure that, as far as we are able, a similar situation does not happen again. The seminar sets out some of the actions that schools should take to strengthen their responses when working with the police and understand what their role might be when facilitating further searches.
What happened to Child Q?
What are the different searches the police can undertake?
What is the role of the 'appropriate adult'?
What part did racism play in this case?
What actions should schools take as a response to this case?
The online seminar will be available free of charge for until 28/03/2022 and will then be moved into Safeguarding.Pro (where the slidedeck will also be available).
Register for the online seminar here: https://event.webinarjam.com/register/458/okrp9uom
Download the report here: https://chscp.org.uk/portfolio/local-child-safeguarding-practice-review-child-q/
IMPORTANT FOLLOW UP
The Independent Child Safeguarding Commissioner for the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership, Jim Gamble QPM, has had to issue a statement reminding people that they should not speculate about the name of the school or other details. The report was written carefully to maintain Child Q's privacy and naming the school would put that at risk. You can read the statement here: https://chscp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/JG-2nd-Statement-Child-Q.pdf
Advanced Safeguarding for DSLs
This is a four-session course for DSLs over a full-day. The course is offered live and as a recorded replay. When the course is live, there are plenty of opportunities to contribute with observations, questions or answers. As a recording, the interactions from other people are included and feedback notes that this makes it feel like you are not on your own.
"I came to a session in Birmingham back in 2019 (the day after the GE I think) and it was superb. Today [online] was just as good, if not better. The use of video mixed with live speaking was excellent and goes way beyond what other safeguarding courses provide. You've been there and done it, and your openness with your own story is inspirational."
LIVE ONLINE Tuesday 15th March 2022 BOOK NOW
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Whole School Safeguarding CPD Online Session
In this two and half hour online presentation aimed at staff in all roles, specialist safeguarding consultant, Andrew Hall, explores important aspects of safeguarding in schools including child protection, learning from case studies and the latest version of Keeping Children Safe in Education.
"I would like to extend my thanks to Andrew for his fantastic online training. It was filmed so well - almost as if he were here with us! We were kept engaged throughout and felt so well informed - a huge thank you. It was a real success, and we look forward to booking you again in the future - with the staff team saying it was the best safeguarding training they have ever had. We really appreciated Andrew's real-life storytelling and the way such sensitive information was shared - it was excellent training."
You book your online session here: https://cpd.safeguardinginschools.co.uk/product/whole-school-safeguarding-course-online/
Until next time, keep safe and thank you for all the work you're doing,
Specialist Safeguarding Consultant,
Success In Schools Ltd.