School employees do more than facilitate the learning of their pupils. They also look out for the children whilst they are in their custody. There are many different laws and policies that govern how teachers and other school staff work together to take care of their students. The way that schools care for children is guided by the common law. This is a series of laws that have been created through court decisions. The common law that governs education in UK started to be developed in 1893. According to common law, school staff has the same responsibilities for children that their parents have while the pupils are in their care. According to the policy paper Safeguarding Children and Young People (2014): “Safeguarding is a term which is broader than ‘child protection’ and relates to the action taken to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm. Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility”. Safeguarding means seeking to involve the whole community in keeping children safe, promoting their welfare and putting in place measures to prevent any type of abuse. Child protection is a central part of safeguarding and means protecting children where there is the reason to believe that they are suffering or have suffered as a result of abuse. In fact, child protection is about protecting the individual children identified as either suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm.
There are many laws that protect the welfare and safeguarding of children.
The Children Act 1989: This is the current basis of all legislation that works to protect children. It was passed in 1989 but it was implemented in 1991. The Children Act 1989 has a few main principles. First, it requires that the court consider the welfare of children paramount when considering their status or making important legal decisions about them. It also transforms parental rights into parental responsibilities. The act refined parental responsibility as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. Since the welfare of children is paramount to this act, there are several points that the act makes to ensure that this consideration is made. First, the court is required to deal with a child’s case as quickly as possible to avoid any delay. Second, when the court is making decisions, it must consider several important different needs of the child (emotions, feelings, age, cultural background, gender, etc). The section 3 of the act demands that anyone who is caring for children, including school’s staff, must do anything possible to keep them safe and promote their welfare.
Every Child Matters 2003: This is a UK government initiative for England and Wales, that was launched in 2003, in response to the death of Victoria Climbié. It is one of the most important policy initiative introduced in relation to children and children’s services. It has been the title of three government papers, leading to the Children Act 2004. Every Child Matters covers children and young adults up to the age of 19, or 24 for those with disabilities. The Government has aimed to ensure that all children and young people are healthy by having access to many physical activity and living a healthy life. Any organisation with the aim of providing a service to children and young people, had to ensure that they looked after the welfare of their clients. This brought to the development of a multi-agency approach where all the relevant organisations teamed up to share information in order to help children. It also meant that children were kept from harm and had the chance to reveal how they felt in various circumstances. In fact, all children have the right to feel safe at school and at home. Children should enjoy their life and achieve their full potential through education making a positive contribution to their society.
The Children Act 2004: This helped create the post of Children’s Commissioner for England. It sets out all the processes, so the child can achieve the 5 outcomes in the “Every Child Matters”:
1. Be healthy;
2. Stay safe;
3. Enjoy and achieve;
4. Make a positive contribution;
5. Achieve economic well-being.
Each of these has a detailed framework required for multi-agency partnerships to work together in order to achieve. In fact, the main purpose of this act was the integration of children services (multi agency teams) working together to protect children from harm. The agencies in partnership include children’s centres, schools, children’s social work services, primary and secondary health services and also child and adolescent mental health services. It is crucial that all professionals working with children are aware of the contribution that could be made by their own and each other’s service.
Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006: This act was passed by Parliament in 2006.
It represents the legal basis for the establishment of the Independent Safeguarding Authority. This group manages the lists of people who are not allowed to work with children or vulnerable adults and it requires that anyone who works with children or vulnerable adults must go through a secure vetting process. This is a legal requirement for everyone who works with children and young adults and it means that anyone who wishes to work in a school must be vetted against lists for potential criminal actions. The act was created and passed as a result of an inquiry into the Soham murders, when in 2002, two girls aged 10 were found murdered near Norfolk. The man who was convicted of killing them was a caretaker.
Childcare Act 2006: This is the statuary guidance for local authorities solely concerned with early years education and childcare and it states that early years settings must improve the Every Child Matters’ outcomes, ensuring that also parents are better informed.
Working Together to Safeguard Children Working Together 2015: This is a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This is the revised version of the previous guidance from 2013. Many of the revisions have been made to incorporate legislation or statutory guidance that has been set out over the last years. It sets out information on what to do and the guidance you can seek if you suspect is child is being abused or harmed. Its key principles state that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and it promotes a child-centred approach for all services to be effective according to the needs and views of children. It also emphasises the important principles to be followed when working with children and young people: settings must always provide a safe and secure environment.
United Nations Convention in the Rights of the Child 1989: This is an international human rights treaty which states the rights every child under the age of 18 has and what the Government must do to protect them. For example, every child has the right to a standard of living that is good enough to develop their personalities, abilities, physical, mental and social needs and the Government must provide extra money for families in need in case their standard of living is not enough.
The Human Rights Act 1998: This is an Act of Parliament which aimed to incorporate into UK law the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. These rights are called Convention rights. The Act protects us against torture or inhumane treatment, forced labour, discrimination (everyone is equal) among other things. Examples of Convention or human rights include:
• the right to life,
• the right to respect for private and family life,
• the right to freedom of religion and belief.
All public authorities or bodies exercising public functions need to follow the Human Rights Act 1998, including police, NHS employees, local authorities, nursing and personal care accommodation providers, courts and tribunals, Government departments and Statutory bodies. The Human Rights Act makes it unlawful for any public body to act in a way which is incompatible with the Convention, unless the wording of any other primary legislation doesn’t provide another choice.
The Data Protection Act 1998: This is a United Kingdom Act of Parliament designed to protect personal data and controls how personal information is used by organisations, businesses or government. It follows the EU Data Protection Directive 1995 protection, processing and movement of data. This act states that individuals have legal rights to control information about themselves. Anyone holding personal data is legally obliged to comply with this Act, subject to some exemptions. The Act defines eight data protection principles to ensure that information is always processed lawfully. Therefore, every setting holding personal information about children needs to comply with the Data Protection Act. Settings must ensure that information will not be shared with anyone else and will be used only when needed.