2019 Spring Term 1

The know zone

  • Contextual safeguarding
    ASCL Parliamentary and Inclusion Specialist Anna Cole details a new framework set to transform the way professionals approach safeguarding young people. More
  • Framework focus
    Response to the broad direction of change for Ofsted inspections has been positive but it will take time to develop curriculum and assessment expertise, says Stephen Rollett. More
  • Be prepared
    Incidents of cyber fraud are on the rise and schools and colleges are not immune to this type of crime. Here ASCL Specialist Hayley Dunn highlights steps leaders and their staff can take to mitigate the risks. More
  • Retirement planning tips
    Whatever stage of life you're at, now is a good time to check whether you are on track to enjoy a comfortable retirement, says Managing Director of Lighthouse Financial Advice Ltd Lee Barnard. More
  • Time out
    The use of isolation rooms/booths in schools has featured in the media recently. What are your views? Do they work? Do you use them in your school? Here, ASCL members share their views. More
  • We're here for you
    ASCL Hotline Leader Rachel Bertenshaw provides an overview of our dedicated Hotline service available to members all year around. More
  • FYI: TLA's are our USP...
    FTU (For the uninitiated), the headline is suggesting that the teaching profession is revelling in its usage of three-letter acronyms, AKA TLAs. Carl Smith wonders if this trend has yet to go OTT or if we should desist PDQ. More
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ASCL Parliamentary and Inclusion Specialist Anna Cole details a new framework set to transform the way professionals approach safeguarding young people.

Contextual safeguarding

Ask your pupils where young people congregate and when and where crime happens, and most likely they will know. Hotspots could be the local park, shops and takeaways, so-called ‘party houses’ or disused garages. It could be a train platform, an alleyway or even upstairs on the 5.47pm bus. 

We know that much of the criminal and sexual exploitation affecting young people occurs in public spaces such as these, and, for the first time, a Contextual Safeguarding Framework to plot and map these potentially unsafe areas has been developed by Dr Carlene Firmin MBE and her team at the University of Bedfordshire.

What is contextual safeguarding?

Dr Firmin began her three-year review in 2012, looking at the way that we respond to peer-on-peer abuse. She found that the UK’s current child protection system, and the legislative policy framework that underpins it, were designed to protect children and young people from risks posed by their families or for situations when families were unable to protect their children. However, the system was not designed to identify abuse within peer groups, or child sexual or criminal exploitation. 

The Contextual Safeguarding Framework supports and enables professionals and practitioners working with young people to consider the risks that percolate and escalate within peer groups, in schools, neighbourhoods, on public transport and in other public spaces. It includes online activity and intimate peer relationships and is particularly pertinent, but not limited, to all forms of child sexual exploitation, County Lines, gang-related violence and other child criminal exploitation. 

The concept of contextual safeguarding is now referenced in the DfE’s guidance, Working Together to Safeguard Children (https://tinyurl.com/nfpas5c), and Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment between Children in Schools and Colleges (https://tinyurl.com/y7b2j7oy). 

Dr Firmin’s framework has been successfully piloted in the London Borough of Hackney since 2017. It is now entering a new phase with further pilots across the country to be announced in April 2019. I am pleased to have been invited, on behalf of ASCL, to join the Advisory Panel for the Scale Up project where I will be working with colleagues from a wide range of sectors, including central and local government, children’s social care, Ofsted, the police, health, transport, security and licensing services.

How it will work in communities

To enable local partnerships to commission contextual safeguarding early with preventative and reactive interventions, the research found that professionals needed a policy and practice framework that moved them beyond working with individuals and families to recognise the influence that contexts have in shaping the behaviours of young people, and the impact that extrafamilial settings can have on the ability of parents and carers to be protective. 

Contextual safeguarding also shines a light on the role that peers play in influencing other vulnerable young people to commit abuse and helps protect young people who have instigated or perpetrated harm, as well as those who have been abused. 

At a strategic level, the Contextual Safeguarding Framework expands the way we ‘do’ safeguarding by supporting local safeguarding partnerships to have oversight of the range of social and geographical contexts in which abuse has occurred beyond the family. The framework supports professionals to create a contextual plan concerning a vulnerable child, a group of children or a geographical place. For example, in one of the areas studied, a stairwell where a rape had occurred continued to be a hotspot for further abuse six years after the original attack. Safety mapping helps practitioners understand young people’s experiences of the places and relationships in which they feel safe or unsafe. 

Much of this may seem like common sense, however, this research is a step change because, for the first time, it creates a strategic framework within which professionals can consider the whole picture around a young person, and really understand the range and impact of the risks and influences that affect them.

Find out more:

Join the Contextual Safeguarding Network at www.contextualsafeguarding.org.uk where you’ll then be able to download the Contextual Safeguarding Framework and other free resources including tutorials, videos, briefings and a school assessment toolkit.

Anna Cole
ASCL Parliamentary and Inclusion Specialist.

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