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This book aims to provide readers with a deeper and contemporary understanding of the role that schools are playing as part of the multi-agency response to child protection and safeguarding in England. It draws on a research project that was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council in which we talked to over 300 people including school staff, social workers and experts in child safeguarding policy and practice, with many more responding to surveys. It places this investigation within the historical, policy and political realities that impact on schools and the agencies with which they work. This book is not a guide to how people working in schools and other agencies should work together to protect
and safeguard children. Rather, it describes how people in schools and other agencies do work together to protect and safeguard children and how this work might be improved.
Collaborative practice to protect children from harm was promoted by the Children Act 1989, one of the intentions of which was to reduce compulsory intervention in families’ lives by promoting more supportive partnership with families whose children were identified as being ‘in need’. The first roadmap to this Act was in the form of the 1991 statutory guidance Working Together Under the Children Act 1989: A Guide to the Arrangements for Inter-Agency Cooperation for the Protection of Children from Abuse (Home Office et al., 1991). This set out how the Act was to be interpreted. As Parton and Berridge (2011) remarked, by the time the next version of this document appeared in 1999 it had not only
undergone a substantial rewrite, but it had also acquired a new title. The reference to abuse was dropped and it became Working Together to Safeguard Children: Inter-Agency Working to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children (Department of Health et al., 1999). This terminology reflects the emerging view of this area of work as a continuum from parental support at one end to child protection at the other, which underpinned Lord Laming’s proposals in response to the Victoria Climbié inquiry (Laming, 2003) and the Children Act 2004. This Act, together with the Every Child Matters (ECM) programme (HM Government,
2003) that applied to the well-being of children and young people, required a range of professionals not only to work together to manage the protection of children, but also to engage with the broader safeguarding agenda, tackle social exclusion and promote the welfare of all children (see Parton, 2016). The 2006 version of the Working Together guidance (HM Government, 2006) defined what ‘safeguarding’ covered. The concept brought together protection from abuse, the prevention of damage to health and development, and the promotion of those conditions that would improve children’s life chances. This chapter provides background on the rationale for the research and outlines the methodologies used at each stage, as well as setting the context for subjects explored in later chapters. The research took place between 2017 and 2019 and, while some work was conducted with other agencies, our focus was on schools. There were sound reasons for this. It is widely recognised that schools are in a good position to identify abuse and neglect, because school staff see children nearly every day in term-time, and so they are often able to recognise any changes, be they good or bad. As a result, education services are an important source for the identification and referral of child protection concerns, accounting for 20 per cent of all referrals to local children’s services in the year to 31st March 2020 (Department for Education (DfE), 2020a) compared with 29 per cent from the Police and 15
per cent from the NHS. This is a substantial increase since 2014 when the figure for education services was 16 per cent. While schools are a source of referrals, they are also required to work in partnership with other agencies. Progressively schools have also been brought into a multi-agency response to children’s and families’ needs and, in some instances, are charged with the task of coordinating support to families. While there is a vast literature on multi-agency work, much of which identifies facilitators and barriers, there is very limited empirical research on how it translates into service delivery or outcomes (Baginsky, 2018; Daniel, Taylor and Scott, 2011). We set out to examine the role of schools within the kaleidoscopic world of child protection through the lens of the increased autonomy granted to all schools over the past 20 years largely through the extension of the Academies programme and the greater independence of all schools. Our study focused on England alone because of the extent to which policy and practice in child protection and safeguarding in the four UK nations have diverged in recent years, as well as pre-existing differences in education systems. In particular, none of the three other nations have introduced the equivalent to academies so have not experienced the increased complexity in the relationship between schools and local authorities that occurred in England
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBristol
PublisherPolicy Press
Number of pages177
ISBN (Electronic)9781447358282
ISBN (Print)9781447358268
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2022


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