Parent Watch: Safety at Schools and Nurseries

Last month we explored how schools and parents can work together to keep teenagers safe. In this special feature, we look at safeguarding for younger children and ask the question: how can schools and parents work together to keep children safe?
Parent Watch: Safety at Schools and Nurseries
By Jenny Mollon
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Being safe is a fundamental right of childhood and schools play a vital role in protecting children by creating a safe environment through robust safeguarding. In order to achieve that, every adult in a child’s life has a role to play, and the connection between home and school or nursery is of huge importance. In this special feature, we explore how parents can work in partnership with their child’s school in order to ensure every young child’s health, safety and wellbeing.

The term safeguarding is one which parents will hear often during their child’s time in nursery and school, but one which many will also not fully understand. A simple way of defining the term is something education professionals often refer to the ‘three Ps’ of safeguarding, these being:

  • Protecting children from ill treatment or harm
  • Preventing impairment of health and development
  • Providing safe and effective care

If these three principles define safeguarding, how then can the adults in a child’s life recognise when a safeguarding concern is present? Having spoken to a number of experts in the subject, we would suggest being alert to:

  • Unexplained changes in behaviour or personality
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Seeming anxious
  • Becoming uncharacteristically aggressive
  • Lacking social skills and having few friends, if any
  • Having a poor bond or relationship with a parent
  • Having knowledge of adult issues inappropriate for their age
  • Running away or going missing
  • Always choosing to wear clothes which cover their body

A primary only school, Kings’ School Dubai, Head of Wellbeing Nisha Henry stressed that the best and most effective approach to safeguarding always begins with prevention and education.

“We take our children’s welfare and safety incredibly seriously. That why in my role, I don’t take a class, my job is dedicated to wellbeing. We’ve always found that the best safeguarding approaches lie in preventative measures and those really begin in the quality of our relationships with students and parents and in the education we offer…not only to our children but to their parents, too. We host regular webinars and parent workshops on important topics and we raise a whole host of different issues with our children, often via the Moral Education curriculum”.

Of course, the vast majority of children at primary will be able to play at least some part in managing their own wellbeing but for the very youngest children, those attending nursery, speaking up or explaining their worries may not be an option. At Little Land Nursery Dubai, Owner-Manager Siog Moore explains that that a culture of ‘complete transparency’ with parents is the best way to protect young children.

“When it comes to safeguarding, what nurseries are obliged to do is to be very transparent with parents. Our FAQs and our parent contract go into great detail about how exactly we will interact with your child at every step in their day in nursery. Over the years, I do think parents have become better at asking the right questions around this topic…but if you’re not sure, I would recommend parents start the conversation with their child’s nursery by asking about their behaviour policy and what to do if they have any kind of concern. Nurseries should be able to demonstrate how they effectively escalate complaints or concerns, and how they make sure they are resolved”.

Just as we found when we explored safeguarding for teens, researching this article we found that UAE schools have particular concerns around online safety for their children. Living in a place with an enviably low crime rate might well mean that adults can just relax a little more when it comes to their child’s physical life, but unfettered and unsupervised access to the internet can bring danger into our homes and your child’s bedroom.

Nisha Henry of Kings’ School Dubai elaborated,

“Digital awareness and online wellbeing are important topics, especially for our older children. It’s definitely where they are most vulnerable in this country. We cover e-safety in every single year group and we are just about to run a parenting webinar aimed specifically aimed at our year 5 and 6 parents. It will be full of measures they can take to keep their children safe online – practical tips and tools. We have to be realistic, we know that at home some children will be on apps we perhaps would prefer they weren’t, so our approach is about giving parents what they need to know about monitoring their child’s online life. I always tell parents to really get to understand what their child is doing online, and most importantly – don’t allow devices in their bedrooms, that’s vital!”.

What then should a parent or concerned adult do if they have a safeguarding concern about a child? First of all, don’t hesitate to report it. Ultimately, the old truth that it is better to act and be wrong rather than hesitate and be right absolutely applies when it comes to child welfare. Both our experts recommended that you first familiarise yourself with your school or nursery designated safeguarding leads and make contact with them. Most schools and nurseries will share this information, often on a board with photographs of the specific staff members. That said, any member of school or nursery staff should have safeguarding training and if you feel more comfortable speaking to alternate member of staff, then please do that first.

Siog Moore agreed with this point, saying that:

“I say to our staff and parents, talk to who you feel the most comfortable with. You may not have the chemistry to do so with the person on the wall. Any worries you have, anything at all is worthy of consideration and your nursery should ensure that it is dealt with effectively. If your school or nursery does not resolve your concern, then you can always approach the KHDA, Ministry of Education or even the police for advice. That’s an extreme position that I am thankful we have never come to at Little Land, but parents should know that these avenues exist. Ultimately, the needs of children come first, always”.

Useful Phone Numbers - Child Safeguarding

  • Knowledge and Human Development Agency (KHDA),  Dubai: 800 5432
  • Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEK), Abu Dhabi: 02 615 0000
  • Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA), Sharjah, 06 804 1444
  • Dubai Police Non Emergency Service (Al Ameen): 800 4888
  • UAE Police: 999

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