Child Protection for International Schools
Safeguarding children is the responsibility of every member of your school community. It requires a system of clear and robust reporting channels as well as a culture that promotes awareness and vigilance.
Managing allegations of abuse by adults is one of the biggest challenges international schools face around the world. CIS members have been involved in setting standards and addressing this through the International Task Force on Child Protection (ITFCP).
There are a number of opportunities to learn more about child protection. In a global community, schools must also consider their location and the availability of professional services within social welfare, law enforcement and child health. It is a school’s responsibility to be prepared for situations which might arise, and this requires a team of people who can identify, record and report concerns.
CIS offers Level 1 training that will help all staff to understand what to look out for in their daily lives and how to report a concern. This includes all adults on campus, from cleaners to bus drivers and security guards to gardeners and office staff. It is also important to train parents and long term visitors, as they will often have the most significant impact on children.
A new Education Portal, launched by the International Task Force for Child Protection and the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, will provide a range of resources and support for educators. This includes courses on how to write and review policies, implement safer recruitment practices and how to respond when a suspicion or allegation of abuse is raised.
Every international school should have a child protection policy that sets standards and procedures for the entire community. These policies should be visible, easily accessible and endorsed by everyone in the school. They should also take into account local laws about child protection, which can differ significantly from country to country (see the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s list).
A well-established policy should include training for parents and visitors. It should address such issues as what to look for, how to respond to concerns and how to report. It should encourage a culture of vigilance, which helps staff to be alert and act quickly when they believe that a student is at risk.
Ideally, this policy will be reviewed regularly to ensure that the school is always up-to-date with safe recruitment practices, local law enforcement and medical resources. It should include clear guidelines about how to record and share information and be clear about the role of the Designated Safety Lead who is responsible for child safeguarding.
Whether abuse happens within your school walls or not, all staff have an obligation to report it. A well-developed child protection policy, along with clear guidelines on how to recognise and respond to suspected cases, is key.
AISG recognizes that the safety of children is a top priority for international schools, particularly those located outside their home countries. Abuse and neglect are violations of children’s human rights and they are impediments to their learning and development.
To address these challenges, the international schools community (including the CIS), alongside the IB and reputable British inspection agencies and American accrediting bodies, established an international task force led by Larsson to establish comprehensive standards on child safeguarding. These include guidance on crisis management, how to recognize and respond to suspected cases of abuse or neglect, how to identify those who pose a risk to students and what background checks are required of teachers and leadership. The task force has also created a series of case studies for schools to review and consider possible scenarios in their communities in order to develop policies. All these resources are available on the Education Portal hosted by ICMEC.
Child protection is more than policies and procedures; it is a culture that permeates the entire international school community, from students to teachers, support staff, leaders, trustees, governors and owners. The best way to ensure that every member of the community is on board with a vibrant and robust child safeguarding culture is through regular training.
For example, research shows that affluent and powerful parents may exert pressure on schools to hire people they like and trust regardless of the child’s safety. The ITFCP has developed a protocol to help members manage this issue.
In some locations, professional services within social welfare, law enforcement and child health are limited or nonexistent, leaving schools to take responsibility for their own vigilance and reporting. The ITFCP has created an online toolkit to help schools monitor current practices, understand opportunities for development and growth, create a shared understanding with their communities about how the school protects its students, and track progress.