Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash
As we all know, the need to protect children is of paramount concern to all international schools worldwide. It is in our DNA to create a safe environment on every campus where students can grow and learn. Recent incidents of child abuse have rocked our community because these predatory practices strike so deeply at that shared DNA.
The response from our international school community has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Hundreds of educators have given their time to initiatives that have resulted in standards of practice for child protection, universal guidance, and a global taskforce to help ensure our schools are safe.
At the center of this work is adult training. Funny that way, isn’t it, that teaching individuals would be the cornerstone of good practice for schools? And this practice has shown that when adults understand child protection principles and their place within that, the risk of child abuse is significantly reduced.
However, child protection training in our schools is as complex as the threats to our students are present in the varied backgrounds and home situations from which they come. The needs of each stakeholder group require different methods of training.
Teachers require what is known as Level 1 child protection training, also known as Child Protection Induction for Educators. In this course, educators learn foundational strategic and operational child protection basics that apply to their role as the primary connection with students and parents in the school. Teachers learn about abuse patterns, employee conduct, reporting responsibilities, and their role in the duty of care.
For school leadership and key safeguarding stakeholders in the school, Level 2 training is critical. This training, also known as Advanced Training in Child Protection for Educators, builds upon the content in Level 1 to provide greater depth and understanding of the key operational and strategic elements of child protection at the school. It is more case study-oriented than content-oriented, so key members of the Safeguarding team can discuss their roles in the context of child protection at the school.
Finally, schools will need to offer Level 3 training, also known as Specialist Child Protection Training, to executive leadership and responsibility holders in the Safeguarding program. This role-specific training is designed for the leadership team, board members, Head of Safeguarding, counsellors, or medical staff. Level 3 training can also be delivered to Level 2 participants in key areas of child protection, such as safer recruitment or cyber abuse. This level of training is crucial to ensure specific knowledge of roles and responsibilities for the leaders of child protection at school.
The sum total of Level 1, 2, and 3 training provides the breadth and depth of child protection training needed for the adults in the school with direct contact and oversight of the students.
Of course, it begs the question, what about everyone else?
Child protection in a school is the responsibility of adults. All adults work as a team to monitor, protect, and report in a collective effort to minimize child abuse. By that standard, all adults in the school community require child protection training, not just the teachers and leaders.
It is critical that schools provide training to support teachers, such as coaches, relief teachers, music instructors, and instructional aides. These adults require what is known as Child Protection Basics, a workshop that trains them on their role in identifying and reporting suspected abuse within the school community.
Also, it is vital to train parents and visitors. This training should be authored by the child protection team at the school to meet the needs of these learners and the context of the school. Whether short term visitors or long-term volunteers, the diversity of their needs will vary.
This bring us to perhaps the most overlooked, yet stable, population in international schools: support staff. Our bus drivers, cleaners, office staff, canteen workers, gardeners, contractors, etc. are the eyes, ears, and beating hearts of most of our schools. Few of these adults have been adequately trained in child protection. This could be due to the fact that training for support staff is the most difficult piece in the child protection puzzle. Support staff come from varied educational and cultural backgrounds and, in most cases, English is not their first language.
In talking with these crucial employees, we have found that they have seen and heard things related to child protection that few of us would believe. Many of them are lifetime employees, having started before the expats arrived and are planning to stay long after they leave. Their role in child protection in our schools is a crucial one and they need to be trained.
In light of the potential impact of such training and these instructional challenges, we developed ChildSafeguarding.com.
ChildSafeguarding.com is an eLearning course in child protection built to be universally accessible for support staff in International schools. The instructional design was specifically written for the diverse cultural and educational backgrounds of support staff, the content provides child protection basics applicable to all schools, and our bespoke eLearning platform requires no prior online learning experience. We have also translated the course into multiple languages. These approaches address the instructional, geographic, and linguistic needs of support staff in any international school worldwide.
With the combination of ChildSafeguarding.com’s course for support staff and Levels 1, 2, and 3 for educators plus training for all other adults, international schools can create a team of informed adults in their communities that will protect to all students and create a safe learning environment.
Matt Harris, Ed.D. is a former International School administrator. He is currently Co-Founder and CEO of ChildSafeguarding.com.