Child Protection and Safeguarding training-Why is it so dreadful?

Finally, after 15 years of teaching I have had training on child protection and safeguarding that was not dreadful and/or pointless.

Pretty much everyone I have asked has found child protection training similarly pointless and/or dire.

I believe my previous schools viewed child protection training as a box that needed ticking so they could tell OFSTED that everyone had done it. The intention of the training could not possibly have been to convey any useful information to staff. (If it was then that will achieve the difficult task of lower my estimation of the competence of the Senior Leaders concerned.) This led to them either finding the cheapest provider they could or, even worse, doing it in-house.

I have lots of family members that work with children as social workers, youth workers, teachers, psychologists and doctors. I have had an awful lot of knowledge and expertise to draw on. Child protection is something I know a lot about as a result. This combined with my ADHD doesn’t help when it comes to finding CP training useful (or even tolerable).

I will describe the training sessions I have had on CP and safeguarding as best I can remember them.

  1. “If you suspect there is a child protection issue then tell the child protection officer.” This was padded out into a 2 hour session with a staggering tedious and pointless lecture on why child protection and safe guarding are important which managed to contain no relevant, useful or interesting information at all.
  2. Trainers role played being students making a disclosure. They did so REALLY badly so nothing was learned by anyone. I spent the session making my top ten reggae tracks. Pressure drop by Toots and the Maytals is my clear number 1.
  3. As we walked into the session we are asked to choose a picture of someone we recognised from the floor. The pictures were all of either famous nonces or children. I picked Ian Brady. We spent about 15 minutes holding these pictures. We were eventually asked to hold up our pictures and the trainer observed that everyone was holding up a criminal. The message was the victims are often forgotten. I still to this day don’t understand why that message was relevant or important. We then were treated to a speech about how CP cases are treated in the media and about how it’s important to be objective, not jump to conclusions and not be self-righteous. By this point some colleagues had made masks out of their pictures and were wearing them in protest. We had to discuss the question “What do pupils need?” in groups and then feedback. When someone said “Love” the trainer spoke at length about how pedophiles claim to “love their victims” so it had to be “Right love not Wrong love”. The phrase “Wrong love” was knocking around our school for years afterwards. During the Q and A I tried to work in as many Brasseye gags as I could. I managed Nonce sense and crab DNA. No useful information besides the name of the designated CP officers was imparted during the entire morning.
  4. Only new staff were allowed in the next CP inset due to “inappropriate behavior of some staff” in the INSET described above. The new staff told me it was awful.
  5. Dealing with homophobic bullying- The trainer came in looking for an argument. She started off by saying there should be posters up around the school saying homophobia was unacceptable. The poster prominently displayed in the classroom was pointed out to her. She then asked how many Senior Leaders were gay. It happened that it was about a third of the SLT team. She then asked how many of them were “Out and proud” with the parents and pupils. All these questions were asked very aggressively and she appeared disappointed to be unable to pick a fight. She then changed tack and asked different teachers to name famous gay people from their subject. Amusingly she started with the Art and Drama departments. By this point I had written my Star Wars verus LOTR football teams. I decided the star wars team would probably win due to having the Sarlak in nets. We were given some hypothetical situations to discuss. Mine was that a member of staff was receiving homophobic abuse from a pupil. I said that the homophobic element of the abuse would make no difference to how I dealt with the incident in the first instance. The issue here is a pupil is abusing a teacher and that has to be stopped. I said I would intervene. Remove the student to the withdrawal room. Write the incident up and let SLT deal with the homophobia. Apparently that was complete wrong because the trainer was very angry and pretty much accused me of being homophobic myself.
  6. The trainer gave us a history lesson on the evolution of child protection law beginning with the poor law. It was broadly correct but a bit pointlessly long. He then talked about no touching policies and how he disapproved of them. He got us o brainstorm situations in which it would be acceptable to touch a pupil. We fed back. He did not appreciate my facetious answers. He then talked about how lots of teachers and institutions are too afraid of getting things wrong and getting complaints/sued. As a result teachers can appear too distant and inflexible. He then described how he behaves when he volunteers with the religious charity he works with. The behavior he described as perfectly acceptable and reasonable sounded very inappropriate to me. Borderline grooming in fact. I certainly wouldn’t do anything similar or be happy if anyone behaved in that way with my kids. Much of what he said was factually inaccurate or extremely dubious practice and he responded very aggressively and negatively to people questioning his knowledge or examples. By the end I had completed by top 10 Motown tracks, films, muppets, cartoons, super villains, dictators, revolutions as well as putting my comic book football 11 against one of my colleagues. I won because I put Galactus in nets. Far superior to Mr Fantastic in the opposition goal.
  7. I was not allowed to attend the next CP inset. I was informed that the trainer practically accused people who didn’t know the answers to her questions of supporting pedophilia. Sent 2 of my colleagues out for being flippant. Dreadful by all accounts.
  8. Brief discussion of types of abuse and what to look for. Then went through the main types of abuse the school encounters along with warning signs and what to look for. Went through what to do when a pupil discloses something. Went through the disclosure policy. Talked about Female Genital Mutilation. Give us a list of things to look out for. The session was short, snappy and had information of some practical use. Best CP INSET I have ever been to.

In my experience INSET about behavior management has been the only INSET that has been consistently as awful as CP INSET. This is unfortunate because if there are 2 things that schools really need to get right then they are CP and behavior management…

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