Safeguarding in School: Definitions, Roles, Responsibility, and List of Concerns

As Ana scrolled through the morning news on her phone, a pit formed in her stomach. The top story described a disturbing case of bullying at a local school that had gone unnoticed until it was too late.

Questions raced through her mind – “Could something like that happen to my 6-year-old daughter? How would I even know if she was being mistreated when I’m not there?”

For parents like Ana, the reality that their children spend a huge portion of their waking hours in the care of schools is a constant source of worry and fear.

Stories of bullying, abuse, violence or neglect of students can feel like every parent’s worst nightmare scenario.

While no child is immune to potential harm, robust safeguarding measures in schools provide an fundamental layer of protection.

For this important responsibility, it’s crucial that all school staff – teachers, administrators, support staff, volunteers, and others – receive thorough safeguarding training.

With the correct information and procedures in place, the whole school community can stay alert to possible signs of problems. Issues can be recorded, disclosed, and dealt with appropriately before they become more serious.

Creating an atmosphere where students feel safe reporting concerns is also essential.

In this article, we discuss what safeguarding in school is, who needs it, and how to protect students from bullying, abuse, and potential harm.

Also, we will look at roles and responsibilities of different school workers and important safeguarding trainings to support this roles.

What is Safeguarding in Schools?

Safeguarding in school refers to the policies, procedures, training and oversight in place to proactively guard students from all forms of harm, abuse, neglect or inappropriate treatment.

This means schools must have a strong culture of safeguarding, where students can learn, grow and thrive, free from the threat of bullying, exploitation, deprivation of needs, or other physical, emotional or psychological mistreatment.

Safeguarding means keeping children safe from harm. In schools, it means having rules and actions in place to protect students from being hurt or treated badly.

This includes protecting them from physical harm like violence, emotional harm like bullying, sexual abuse, neglect that leaves their needs unmet, and other dangers.

Schools must safeguard all students. This is extremely important because children spend so much time at school.

Teachers, staff, and volunteers all play a role in making sure the school is a safe place where students are cared for properly.

a child wearing glassed and reading

Why Is Safeguarding So Important in Schools?

1. Children Are Vulnerable

Children rely on adults to keep them safe and meet their needs. They are less able to protect themselves compared to adults. At school, staff have a critical responsibility for their wellbeing.

2. Abuse Can Have Devastating Impacts 

All forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation and mistreatment can cause lasting trauma for victims. This can severely affect a child’s mental health, behavior, ability to learn, and overall development and life opportunities. 

3. Schools Are A Refuge

For some children, school is the safest place in their lives. It needs to be a haven where they feel secure, supported and protected from violence, abuse or neglect they may face elsewhere.

4. Early Intervention Is Crucial

By identifying safeguarding risks early at school, steps can be taken to prevent abuse from occurring or escalating. This allows interventions to keep children out of danger.

5. Creating A Culture Of Safety 

Consistent safeguarding practices create an environment where children feel comfortable confiding in staff. This openness helps adults uncover issues and get students the help they need.

6. Accountability and Oversight

Schools must follow national safeguarding regulations and guidance. Proper training means staff understand their legal responsibilities and duties of care. 

7. Partnerships With Parents/Carers

Safeguarding efforts work best when schools and families work together. Training builds trust so parents/carers feel schools have their children’s safety as the top priority.

8. Protecting The School’s Reputation 

Lapses in safeguarding can devastate a school’s reputation and community standing if serious incidents occur. Rigorous training mitigates these risks.

Who Needs Safeguarding Training in School?

To safeguard children well, everyone at a school needs to understand safeguarding. They must know the signs that a child might be at risk of harm, and what to do about it.

Here are the people who need safeguarding training at school:

  1. Teachers – Teachers are with students all day, so they need to be trained to spot any signs of abuse, neglect or other safeguarding risks. They learn how to record and report any concerns properly.
  • Teaching Assistants – These staff members work closely with students, so they also need to know the safeguarding procedures to follow.
  • School Leaders – The principal, vice principals and safeguarding lead staff oversee all the policies and rules to keep children safe. They need an advanced level of training. 
  • Administrative Staff – The office team, lunchroom monitors and others who interact with students should have basic safeguarding awareness training.
  • Coaches and Club Leaders – Any adults running after-school activities or sports teams must understand their safeguarding duties.
  • Caretakers and Security – Even maintenance staff should know about safeguarding in case they notice anything concerning on the premises.
  • Governors – Those in charge of governing the school need to ensure robust safeguarding practices are enforced.

Levels of Training

At a basic level, everyone should get an introduction to safeguarding concepts. More advanced training covers:

  • Understanding different types of abuse
  • Recognizing signs of abuse or neglect
  • Responding to disclosures from students
  • Reporting and documenting concerns properly
  • School safeguarding procedures to follow
  • Specific areas like online safety

School leaders need comprehensive training to implement effective safeguarding policies and protocols across the entire school.

What are safeguarding issues in schools?

Before we go into explain the safeguarding issues in schools that student often experience, it is import we also list the safeguarding concerns in schools:

List of Safeguarding Issues

  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Neglect Bullying
  • Cyberbullying
  • Inappropriate Online Content
  • Online Predators
  • Radicalization
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Mental Health Concerns
  • Drugs and Alcohol
  • Gangs
  • County Lines
  • Modern Slavery
  • Missing Children

Explanation For Each Listed Safeguarding Concerns in schools

Here are explanations and examples for each of the safeguarding issues listed:

1. Physical Abuse

Physical abuse involves intentionally causing physical harm or injury to a child. Examples include hitting, shaking, burning, biting, kicking, or using objects to inflict pain.

Signs may include unexplained bruises, welts, fractures, or injuries that don’t match the given explanation.

2. Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when a child is forced or coerced into sexual activities. This could include rape, sexual assault, exposing them to sexual acts or pornography, or having them touch someone in a sexual way.

Signs may be age-inappropriate sexual knowledge, physical symptoms like infections, or behavioral changes. Learn how to support girls through our female genital mutilation (fgm) course and forced marriage course.

3. Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse involves actions that have an adverse effect on a child’s emotional development or self-worth.

Examples are constant criticism, threats, rejection, or causing a child to frequently feel frightened or in danger. Signs can include low self-esteem, developmental delays, or disturbed sleep/eating patterns.

4. Neglect

Neglect refers to persistently failing to meet a child’s basic physical and emotional needs like food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, and affection.

Signs could be poor hygiene, inappropriate dress, being frequently tired or hungry, or untreated medical issues.

5. Physical Bullying and Harrassment

Bullying involves repeated behavior intended to hurt, intimidate or exclude someone, causing physical or emotional harm.

Examples are physical attacks, verbal taunts, social exclusion, or damaging belongings. Signs are physical injuries, anxiety, low self-esteem, or avoidance of certain situations.

6. Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying uses digital technology to bully, harass or intimidate. Examples are sending hurtful messages/images, creating embarrassing posts, or excluding someone online.

Signs are similar to in-person bullying like anxiety, low self-worth and avoidance.

Know how to identify and stop bullying and harrassment through our online anti bullying and harrassment course.

7. Inappropriate Online Content

Children may be exposed to inappropriate or explicit online content like pornography, extremely violent material, or content promoting harmful ideologies or behaviors.

Signs could include unexpected knowledge and disturbing search histories.

8. Online Predators

Online predators may attempt to build inappropriate relationships and groom children for sexual abuse or exploitation through gaming, social media and other online platforms. Signs are secretive online behaviors and concerning new interests.

9. Radicalisation

Radicalisation is the process of being groomed to support extremist ideological or religious beliefs that could lead to acts of terrorism. Signs may include increasingly extreme political or religious views. Book our Radicalisation online training today for £19.99.

10. Domestic Abuse

Children exposed to domestic abuse at home can suffer emotional trauma from witnessing or being caught up in violence between parents/caregivers. Signs are anxiety, aggression, withdrawal or attentiveness issues.

11. Mental Health Concerns

Students may experience issues like depression, anxiety disorders, self-harm, eating disorders, or suicidal thoughts. Signs could include mood swings, weight changes, self-injury and social withdrawal.

12. Drugs and Alcohol

Substance misuse puts children at risk of neglect, abuse and affects their health and development. Signs may include lethargy, mood changes, untidy appearance and deteriorating performance.

Check this helpful online drug and alcohol awareness course to learn more.

13. Gangs

Children involved in gang culture face risks like violence, crime, sexual exploitation and exposure to drugs. Signs are increased antisocial behavior, unexplained cash/belongings and associating with gang-affiliated individuals.

15. County Lines

County lines refers to urban gangs extending their drug dealing activity into smaller cities/towns by exploiting children to transport and sell drugs.

Signs are frequenting other areas, unexplained cash and going missing frequently.

Be a Safeguarding Hero: Book County Lines Training. Know how to spot the tricks used by County Lines criminals to take advantage of young people.

16. Modern Slavery

Human trafficking and forced labor exploits vulnerable people through coercion, abuse of power and deception. Signs could include signs of physical and emotional abuse, malnourishment and lacking personal belongings.

17. Missing Children

Children who repeatedly go missing from home or care may indicate risk of abuse, grooming, mental health struggles and putting themselves in dangerous situations while missing. Signs are frequently being absent from school.

Roles and Responsibilities of School Staffs

Different people play different roles in safeguarding students in school.

It is important to mention the different roles and responsibilities for safeguarding in schools, starting with teachers.


  • Job: Be the first to see signs of trouble students might have, like being hurt, neglected, or scared.
  • Make Classroom Safe: Create a classroom where students feel safe and comfortable asking for help.
  • Build Trust: Get to know students so they feel okay talking to you about problems.
  • Follow Rules: Report any concerns you have the right way.

Example: Mrs. Thompson got to know her student Jacob well. He finally told her his mom’s boyfriend yelled and hurt him at home. She wrote down the details clearly and reported it to the right people.

Safeguarding Training for Teachers:

  • Learn about different types of abuse and neglect.
  • Know the physical and behavior signs that might be a warning.
  • How to react well when students tell you about problems.
  • How to write down details clearly and keep good records.
  • The steps to take to report concerns within the school and to authorities.

School Leaders

  • Job: Make sure the school has clear and up-to-date safeguarding policies based on rules and best practices.
  • Review & Update Rules: Regularly check and update the safeguarding policies.
  • Safeguarding Training for All Staff: Teach all staff about safeguarding based on their jobs.
  • Keep Good Records: Keep detailed records and documents of everything related to safeguarding.
  • Check Safeguarding Works: See if the safeguarding protocols are working well and make changes if needed.
  • Work with Others: Work with child protection services and law enforcement if needed.
  • Make School Safe: Make sure the whole school puts student safety first.

Safeguarding Training for School Leaders:

  • Fully understand the laws and guidance related to safeguarding.
  • Develop safeguarding policies and procedures specific to their school.
  • Train staff on safeguarding based on their job roles.
  • Put systems in place to document, report, and manage safeguarding cases.
  • Decide how to assess and escalate concerns.
  • Build collaborations with others in the community to help with safeguarding.

Support Staff

  • Job: Understand the basic safeguarding principles for your role.
  • See Signs of Trouble: Be able to spot likely signs that a student might be getting hurt.
  • Know How to Report: Know who to tell if you have any concerns.
  • Be a Good Role Model: Show students how to have a positive relationship with adults and keep proper boundaries.
  • Keep Students Safe: In roles like bus assistants, make sure student safety is a top priority.

Example: Playground monitor Mr. Jones saw older students bullying a younger child. He stopped them, separated them, and reported the incident following the proper steps.

Safeguarding Training for Support Staff:

  • Learn about appropriate boundaries and behavior standards between staff and students.
  • Know signs that might indicate abuse, bullying, or neglect.
  • Know the steps to take to report concerning interactions or disclosures.
  • Learn crisis response and observation skills for situations that might be higher risk.

School Nurses & Counselors

  • Job: Spot possible signs of trouble through physical exams and mental health counseling.
  • Do Private Assessments: Privately check on student health and well-being.
  • Provide Medical Care: Give medical care and document any injuries or signs of distress.
  • Report Concerns: Report any confirmed concerns following the proper steps.
  • Offer Help: Offer counseling and support programs to students who are affected.

Safeguarding Training for Nurses & Counselors:

  • Learn how to detect physical and behavioral signs that might indicate abuse or neglect.
  • Record examinations and counseling sessions clearly.
  • Learn crisis management and how to care for students who have experienced trauma.
  • Work with other school-based programs to get involved and support students.

Childminders & Youth Program Staff

  • Job: Understand the safeguarding policies and limits for interacting with students.
  • See Signs of Trouble: Identify possible signs that a student might be getting hurt, neglected, or behaving in a concerning way.
  • Supervise Students: Watch over students and make sure they are safe and well.
  • Report Issues: Report any concerns or disclosures to program coordinators.

Example: Sarah, a youth course leader, noticed a participant seemed withdrawn and had bruises. She remembered from her training that this could be a sign of neglect and reported it to the program coordinator following the established protocols.

Safeguarding Training for Childminders/Youth Staff:

  • Learn about best practices for safeguarding awareness and prevention.
  • Understand what appropriate and inappropriate communication/conduct looks like between staff and students.
  • Know the protocols to follow if a student says or does something concerning.
  • Learn basic first aid and emergency processes.

Volunteers & Parent Groups

  • Job: Follow the policies for appropriate boundaries and interactions with students.
  • Report Concerns: You have a duty to report any potential abuse, neglect, or wrong conduct concerns.
  • See Signs of Trouble: Identify physical or behavioral signs that might show safeguarding issues.
  • Tell School Staff: Inform school staff about any documented concerns or disclosures.

Example: During a school fundraiser, a volunteer overheard two students talking about a concerning situation at home. The volunteer remembered from the training that they had a duty to report, so they discreetly informed a school staff member about what they heard.

Safeguarding Training for Volunteers/Parent Groups:

  • Learn about the policies and boundaries for student-adult interaction.
  • Understand the needs and methods for reporting concerns.
  • Be aware of indicators that might suggest potential safeguarding issues.
  • Know the correct ways for informing staff about concerns.

School Boards & Oversight Committees

  • Job: Understand the legal duties and potential concerns related to safeguarding.
  • Review Safeguarding Measures: Gauge how well the district’s safeguarding policies, training, and reporting processes are working.
  • Check Records: Inspect records and how verified cases are resolved.
  • Budget for Safeguarding: Allocate funds for safeguarding personnel, programs, and ideas.
  • Make Sure People Are Accountable: Promote accountability and continuous efforts to improve safeguarding.

Example: The school board looked at the yearly safeguarding report and saw more bullying incidents reported. They decided to give extra money to start a new anti-bullying plan and give staff more training on spotting and dealing with bullying.

Safeguarding Training for Boards/Oversight:

  • Learn about the legal and compliance requirements related to safeguarding.
  • Estimate the adequacy of the district’s safeguarding policies and protocols.
  • Check documentation and outcomes of reported cases.
  • Prioritise funding for safeguarding resources.
  • Identify best ways for governance in safeguarding oversight.


  • Job: Keep the school clean, safe, and in good condition.
  • See Signs of Trouble: Notice if anything seems unusual or potentially dangerous, like broken windows or doors.
  • Report Concerns: Tell someone in charge if they see anything that worries them.
  • Help Keep Everyone Safe: Make sure there are no slip and fall hazards, like spills or uneven surfaces.

Example: Mr. Garcia, the school caretaker, was cleaning a hallway when he noticed a broken window. He knew this could be a safety hazard, so he immediately reported it to the maintenance supervisor.

Security Guards:

  • Job: Make sure the school is safe and secure for everyone.
  • Watch Over Students: Keep an eye on things and be present in high-traffic areas.
  • Respond to Emergencies: Know what to do if there’s an emergency, like a fire or someone acting unsafe.
  • Report Concerns: Tell someone in charge if they see anything suspicious or concerning.
  • Example: Security guard Ms. Johnson noticed a group of students trying to sneak back onto school grounds after hours. She politely approached them, reminded them of the rules, and escorted them off the property.

What Next

Though every parent hopes their child stays safe from harm, the reality is that understanding safeguarding is necessary in preventing and addressing various threats that could harm a child’s well-being.

It is a fundamental aspect of ensuring student safety and welfare and should be a top priority for any school.

To help each stakeholder do their part successfully- teachers, administrators, support staff, volunteers, and others – should receive thorough safeguarding training.

With the correct information and procedures in place, the whole school community can stay alert to signs of problems. Including parents and family members.

 Issues can be recorded, disclosed, and dealt with correctly before they become more serious.

Creating an atmosphere where students feel safe reporting concerns is also essential.

For safeguarding training information, you can reach out to our course advisor on 01782 563333 or Check our Caring for Care training reviews on Google as well

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