There is a new edition of non-statutory document ‘Guidance for safer working practice for those working with children in education settings’ (2019), endorsed and recommended by the Safer Recruitment Consortium.
The original guidance was developed by a DfES network in 2005, revised in 2009 and 2015. It is essential reading for everyone who works with children (professionals and volunteers) and I always make reference to it in my safeguarding awareness training. It should guide every setting in the development of their own safeguarding Code of Conduct and ideally in my opinion be included in the appendix of that policy for everyone to be able to read for themselves.
Why have a safeguarding Code of Conduct? Are they strictly necessary?
Keeping Children Safe in Education (2018) states that a Code of Conduct for staff is one of the key safeguarding documents that should be agreed by governors and shared at every Induction. And I agree it is an absolutely vital document – all the more concerning that I sometimes see some settings fail to grasp its vital importance.
A safeguarding Code of Conduct policy details acceptable behaviour for adults around the children they work with. It has two main purposes:
- To safeguard children by ensuring that adults are working safely with them.
- It ensures that allegations of misconduct are greatly reduced as the staff team are seen to be working consistently and appropriately to agreed guidelines.
A Code of Conduct makes clear the behaviour that is expected when coming into contact with children, and therefore makes any conduct not in accordance with the Code easily identifiable. It is not meant to inhibit natural interactions with children but to support respectful relationships between staff and the children they come into contact with. An effective and detailed Code of Conduct gives a clear message to staff that unacceptable behaviour will not be tolerated and that, where appropriate, legal or disciplinary action is likely to follow; accordingly this document may be referred to in disciplinary proceedings.
All staff have a responsibility to maintain public confidence in their ability to safeguard young people and be aware that their behaviour, either in or out of the workplace, could compromise their position within the work setting in relation to the protection of young people, loss of trust and confidence, or bringing a setting into disrepute.
It is worth stating that the vast majority of adults who work with young people act professionally and aim to provide a safe and supportive environment for the young people in their care. But as a result of their knowledge, position and the authority invested in their role, adults will always hold a position of power over children – and there is always therefore great potential for exploitation and harm. A clear code of conduct should address all these issues in compelling detail.
A typical code of conduct may cover these areas:
Dress and appearance
Gifts and Rewards
Intimate and Personal Care
One to One situations
Physical Contact and Intervention
Code of conduct in specific settings or venues
Social contact outside the workplace
A code of conduct might cross-reference with and include reference to other policies that the setting may have in place, including:
Admissions and Exclusions
Health and Safety
Recruitment and Checks
Special Educational Needs (SEN) and physical disabilities
All those working with children and young people should:
- follow the safeguarding code of conduct at all times;
- be responsible for their own actions and behaviour;
- avoid any conduct which would lead any reasonable person to question their motivation and intentions;
- work, and be seen to work, in an open and transparent way;
- discuss and/or take advice promptly from the DSL about any incident which may give rise to concern;
- contribute positively to our ongoing culture of vigilance, challenging unacceptable behaviour, and promptly reporting all allegations/suspicions of abuse in other staff; and
- continually monitor and review their practice.