Agenda item

Safeguarding in Education


(a)     That the content of the safeguarding in education report be noted.

(b)     That the positive work undertaken by Flintshire schools to safeguard children and young people during the pandemic be noted.



The report was presented by the Senior Manager (School Improvement) and provided an update on the discharge of statutory safeguarding duties in schools and the Education portfolio with the format different this year because of the pandemic.


            Information was provided on how schools were looking at safeguarding and the challenges in lieu of the Wales Safeguarding Procedures, Keeping Learners Safe Guidance and requirements from Estyn.   She praised the way pupils and teaching staff had adapted to the different ways of learning both in the classroom and virtually with teachers maintaining contact with children and parents which was a huge area of concern and responsibility for schools.  She reported on the close working relationship with colleagues in Children’s Services and the Silver Tactical Group and said schools had different challenges every year with safeguarding at the forefront.  


            The response to Covid 19 and the ALN Act had resulted in the new procedures for safeguarding and appropriate training was provided to support this.  She referred to the challenges with remote and blended learning with children having access to the internet and social media and confirmed a detailed report would be brought to the next meeting of Education Youth & Culture O&OC.


The Senior Manager then provided detailed information on the updated Wales Procedures, Update of the Schools Guidance, virtual training and professional support for Head Teachers, Governors and schools.  She confirmed Claire Sinnott had co-ordinated this and provided an overview of the Safeguarding in Education Panel and its links with the Corporate Safeguarding Panel.  The Panel met regularly to ensure schools had the processes in place, were supported, monitored and held to account around safeguarding which was something which never stood still and was always changing.  She reassured members that this was constantly challenged and moving forward.  The Senior Manager (Children and Workforce) praised the positive working between schools, education and social services with children at the forefront and that this was reinforced with the work of the Silver Tactical Group which he felt privileged to be a part of.  The Chief Officer valued the contribution from the Senior Manager (Children and Workforce) which enabled robust responses to support vulnerable children and young people throughout the pandemic.


            The Deputy Leader of the Council (Partnerships) & Cabinet Member for Social Services referred to the work covered within the Corporate Safeguarding Panel which ensure all children were supported and received the best care but that this had been carried out differently. During the pandemic Education and Social Care especially ensured all the families were monitored virtually and in person to ensure they received the support they needed.  She was really proud of the way Flintshire responded to safeguarding and were always proactive developing new procedures, training and the great partnership working for children and adults.   The Chief Officer (Social Services) added that he co-chaired the Safeguarding Panel with the Chief Officer (Education & Youth) and that with the support of the Cabinet Members for Social Services, Cabinet Member for Corporate Management & Assets this had solidified the corporate safeguarding approach over recent years.  Safeguarding was always changing and this required constant challenge, learning and development and that the new procedures were a significant step in Wales and colleagues across the council had managed this well to ensure it moved forward.


            Councillor Gladys Healey referred to children who were home schooled and asked who monitored these children to ensure they were well cared for.  She also asked who paid for children who were home schooled.  Flintshire had a duty of care for these children and she had concerns unless a parent was a teacher how could they follow and teach the curriculum.    The Chief Officer (Education & Youth) responded to say the issue of home elective education was an entirety in itself and suggested that this item be included on the Forward Work Programme for the Education Youth & Culture Committee for this cycle.   The report would contain the processes that the local authority undertook, its statutory responsibilities and monitoring of the quality of education provided.  The Chief Officer stated that these children sat outside of the authority’s systems as those parents had chosen to take them out of school and they were their responsibility. The authority did not receive funding for these children but monitored the quality of curriculum provided.  She added that the challenge was the level of intervention powers the authority had and that this would be outlined within the report.  She continued to say that if a child was unable to attend school because of particular reasons then the Inclusion and Progression Service would be able to provide suitable provision.  In cases where the parent’s first choice school was full she confirmed that parents would be offered other places in schools but it would be their choice to accept that alternative place or elect to home educate their child.  The Chief Officer suggested that the report be circulated to both the Education Youth & Culture and Social & Health Care Committees which was agreed.


Councillor Tudor Jones commented that this was an excellent report which had achieved so much prior to impact of the pandemic.   He asked the following questions:-


  • Under consultation in the report it stated “none required” he asked in view of what had been happening of the last few months should a consultation be considered.


  •  At point 1.06 in the report it stated that it was an updated document October 2020 but since then there had been an enormous amount of information about inappropriate use of e-communications amongst children with bullying and sexting now moving online with children highlighting the consequences which had happened to them.  He asked if this document was the place that this could be addressed


  • At point 1.04 he referred to the bullet points and asked if this was where we responded quickly to what had been revealed by the children in the last few months as widespread vindictive and damaging bullying.  Was this the place to address these issues and add to the document which would strengthen our actions on how we keep safe these children who were victims?  He was distressed to read that a school had suggested its girls should wear cycling shorts under their skirts to prevent up-skirting by mobile phones and he felt that this was making the victims responsible for what was happening to them and that the authority should be intervening with whoever was perpetrating these offences.


            In response the Senior Manager shared the concerns of Councillor Jones at the reports from our young people and welcomed the WG and Minister’s response to ask Estyn to investigate this and look at the culture that some of our young people find themselves in.  She reassured members that the authority would be working with Estyn and schools and must never be complacent.  She referred members to the Keeping Learners Safe section on Hwb which was the WG platform for school resources and provision which also provided supporting documentation for those issues available for schools and practitioners.   The team at WG had been coordinating a range of resources and documentation together with guidance for schools with keeping learners safe guidance updated regularly and this was promoted to schools.  She confirmed specific advice had been provided to schools regarding inappropriate images shared on social media.  She provided information on the UK Council for Internet Safety and the work of Education Working Group but the challenges were that the digital world moved so quickly and that this needed to be responsive to need. This was a social issue as well as school issue and governing bodies should be involved in asking questions and that this was on the agenda for the next meeting.  She continued to provide information on the support and advice given to schools through training, links with Children’s Services and enhanced support for the designated staff at schools and the plan moving forward.


            Mr Hytch referred to the Office for Standards and Education report and the website which allowed incidents to be reported and said that half of Flintshire secondary schools had incidents reported on there including sadly a couple of primary schools.  The Children’s Commissioner felt that this could be the tip of the iceberg and has called for an Estyn Review.  He asked the following questions:-


            Firstly with regard to inappropriate enquiries by local media he asked if there were strategies in place to field these without exposing individuals and schools.


            Secondly could a more in depth view of how to combat issues which were wider than schools, the authority and governing bodies be considered?  This culture was more widespread than the pre-digital age and he hoped that the Education Youth & Culture Committee would be able to look at this in detail.


      The Chief Officer referred to the email communications between herself and Mr Hytch and reassured him that if a school received a press enquiry they were to direct it to the Council’s press office who would work with the school to make appropriate statements.  She referred to the website and the schools identified and advised that officers were working with those schools.  This was on the agenda for forthcoming portfolio and corporate safeguarding meetings.  She also reported on the engagement with schools and Secondary Heads Federation meeting.


            Councillor Marion Bateman thanked the officers for all their dedication and hard work.  She referred to an incident which was brought to her attention (not in Flintshire) of a 6 year old child who was participating in a remote learning lesson in lockdown where the teacher was at home. The 6 year old was left in the care of older nephew who, once they logged onto the lesson, left the child alone in the house.  This became clear to the teacher during the course of the lesson.  Councillor Bateman asked if that were to happen in Flintshire what action would the teacher take and would it be carried out immediately.


            In response the Chief Officer confirmed that the teacher would follow the school’s child safeguarding procedures and raise it as a concern to the Designated Safeguarding Lead Officer who would take the appropriate action and speak to Children’s Services for this to be investigated.  She felt very confident that because of the level of training on this that no member of staff would feel reticent about this.    The Senior Manager confirmed clear guidance had been provided to schools at the start of the pandemic together with the national guidance from WG.  There should always be two members of staff on screen to enable the Designated Safeguarding Officer to be contacted and that there was always someone in school who could action this immediately.


            The Cabinet Member for Social Services referred to Councillor Healey’s point on home educated children saying that she had been pressing WG for a register for children who were home schooled for a number of years.  The Cabinet Member and Chief Officer (Social Services) had met the new Police & Crime Commissioner who had agreed to add his support and hopefully he would be able to progress this further.

            Mr Hytch fully supported the comments made by Councillor Jones regarding online bullying with evidence supporting an increase during the pandemic.  He referred to the stance the Education Youth & Culture committee made not to make hostile comments online which was backed by Full Council and it was hoped that this could be carried through to schools at assemblies to change the culture.   Unfortunately this was not the schools responsibility as this was happening at home in children’s bedrooms but schools received the blame however they could change the behaviour.


The recommendations, outlined within the report, were moved and seconded by Councillors Janet Axworthy and Ian Smith




(a)     That the content of the safeguarding in education report be noted.

(b)     That the positive work undertaken by Flintshire schools to safeguard children and young people during the pandemic be noted.


Supporting documents: