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How safeguarding software can help schools protect students – during lockdown and beyond

By Justin Reilly, CEO, safeguarding specialist, Impero

Justin Reilly image

I have worked for years as a teacher and school advisor, and during that time I have developed an acute awareness of one of the least appreciated but most vital roles that teachers play: safeguarding vulnerable children. Teachers spend more time with children than any other adult beside their parents, and they have the opportunity to build a unique relationship based on respect, which is why a school’s role in the safeguarding process is so vital.

More than half of schools in the UK are still using paper-based filing cabinet reporting systems to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their students. However, with the nation’s schools closed and the filing cabinet out of reach, it has never been more apparent that this solution is woefully inadequate. This is supported by the notable decrease in child protection referrals (reported by The Guardian). We cannot allow schools’ essential safeguarding function to be put on hold for such a simple administrative failing.

Children’s lives are on the line, and that is why Impero has released a free-forever safeguarding solution called Back:drop. The cloud-based software enables teachers to report incidents while schools are closed, and it will provide continuity when schools do eventually reopen.

What is Back:drop safeguarding software and how does it work?

Back:drop is secure, easy-to-use online safeguarding software which is available for free to schools all over the UK. Just like traditional safeguarding solutions, it allows teachers and other members of staff to log concerns, but rather than writing them on a paper slip, they can use the intuitive web interface. Similarly, trusted members of staff can access existing records online to spot patterns of behaviour or concerns.

Setting up Back:drop is simple, and schools can upload existing digital records in minutes. All knowledge base articles on Impero’s customer portal have been made available to ensure that staff members get to grips with the safeguarding software as quickly as possible.

Keeping children safe online

Children have constant access to potentially harmful online content, and other digital dangers. With schools closed, they have more opportunity to access unrestricted, potentially harm-inducing material on unmonitored devices – that access is very difficult to restrict, which makes it more important to look out for and report any alarming changes in behaviour. Ofsted has made it clear, when reviewing safeguarding protocol, it will consider how schools manage online safety, whether staff have a good understanding of potential risks online and have strategies in place to keep children safe and how the school identifies children who may need early help, be at risk of abuse or need support with their mental health. Safeguarding technology plays a huge role in ensuring a coordinated and consistent response to this challenge, especially in the current environment.

Individual signs of cyber-bullying, grooming, radicalisation, and other primarily online concerns may seem benign if viewed in isolation, since it is only in the aggregate that the larger pattern becomes visible. This is why safeguarding software, which allows teachers and staff members to easily and quickly note concerns and track them over time, is so essential. Observing behavioural changes over time is the best way to identify concerning patterns so that interventions can be made to provide the child with the support they need before things go too far. In our experience, people tend to not see the value in safeguarding tools until it’s too late, and an incident has already happened. Safeguarding measures must be proactive rather than reactive in order to be effective.

Safeguarding is a critical, albeit generally underappreciated, function of schools, and it must not be allowed to falter simply because the school building is closed. In an age when we can do almost anything online, it makes perfect sense to move safeguarding systems out of the filing cabinets and into the cloud. We must ensure that no child is overlooked due to administrative inconvenience or a misplaced slip of paper. Back:drop is free, and we hope that it will encourage schools to use it to ensure that every child gets the help they need, when they need it.

Impero has been a Member of IWF since 2013. You can see a full list of IWF Members here.

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