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Perspectives on safeguarding and child protection in English schools: the new educational landscape explored

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-481
Number of pages13
JournalEducational Research
Volume61
Issue number4
Early online date22 Oct 2019
DOIs
Accepted/In press2 Oct 2019
E-pub ahead of print22 Oct 2019
Published2019

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Abstract

Background
Changes in England’s education policy have increased the autonomy of
schools from regulation by local government. Concurrently, a sharp rise
in the number of referrals to children’s services and budget cuts have led
local authorities to seek to manage demand by emphasising the role of
other agencies in providing early help to children and families.
Purpose
This article considers the effect of policy developments on the
relationship between local authorities and schools in meeting their
statutory duties to identify and support vulnerable children and families
(safeguarding) and intervening those considered to be at risk of
significant harm (child protection). It focuses on schools’ engagement
from the perspective of senior education and children’s social care
professionals employed within local authorities.
Methods
Interviews were conducted with 68 professionals working in children’s
social care or education services in 20 local authorities across England.
This was the preliminary stage of a study investigating schools’ decision making in child protection, their engagement in multi-agency working,
and the support available to schools. In the absence of a contemporary
body of research, this scoping stage was an important contextual
exercise at the start of the study, but findings from it have wider
importance as a source of information on an under-researched area.
Findings
The findings elucidate some of the emerging pressures that are
challenging schools and local authorities, as well as the agencies
supporting them. Three elements were identified as having a significant
impact: the increasing numbers of academy schools; the upward trend in
the rate of referral to children’s social care services and rising thresholds
for accessing those services; and the availability and nature of ‘early
help’ for children not meeting the threshold for social care intervention.
Conclusions
Pending later data gathered through the surveys and directly from
schools, the findings suggest that local authorities face new challenges in
working with a fragmented educational community: while their statutory
responsibilities remain, the channels by which they are carried out have
been severely weakened.

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