Justin Reilly, CEO at safeguarding specialist Impero Software, discusses how EdTech can help staff and pupils whilst schools across the nation remain closed
Teachers are doing an amazing job. We’ve all seen the examples of them heroically continuing to deliver lessons using a variety of free and paid for online resources – some of these resources fall into the educational technology, or ‘Edtech,’ category, others are technologies that were never designed with learning in mind, but are deemed fit for purpose given the current circumstances.
However, while the focus has been on administering education, it’s important to remember that Edtech is not just about lesson delivery. It’s tech designed to help teachers do their everyday jobs, and one of the most important jobs they do within schools, on a daily basis, is safeguarding. This must not end simply because students are isolated, in fact, safeguarding is more important than ever before, as children have had their usual support networks removed with no notice.
Continuity of safeguarding
Schools are responsible for safeguarding students to ensure their wellbeing. Safeguarding involves pastoral concerns, child protection, mental health, first aid, medical requirements, and a host of other factors. Its value is such that it should not be stopped for any reason, including school closures or budgetary restraints (hence why we recently reengineered our previously paid safeguarding platform to make it forever-free for schools across the UK).
Many students – and parents and teachers – are feeling anxious as a result of the virus, and uncertainty about the future. Similarly, changes to routine such as suddenly studying from home, and being unable to see friends, can impact on a child’s mental health. These factors make the continuation of safeguarding during the pandemic even more important.
More than half of Britain’s schools still rely on paper slips, filed away in a cabinet to register their safeguarding concerns. This is obviously not a feasible system for teachers working remotely. Digital safeguarding technology, conversely, allows teachers to record and manage concerns, and alert relevant third-party agencies from wherever they’re based. This is critical for teachers carrying out home visits to children with child protection concerns. The ability to continuously log reports ensures that there will be no information gaps when schools return to normal.
Cloud-based technology not only allows teachers to continue to report pupil concerns during closures, it can also be used to review data and analyse it for patterns. The individual data log for each child can be reviewed alone or alongside the data of other pupil groups as it develops over time, enabling educators to identify behavioural trends and intervene where necessary. It’s also worth noting that the remote capabilities of a digital system mean that educators and children need not miss out on the value of months’ worth of recorded data whilst schools are closed, which could be key to spotting concerning trends.
Modern safeguarding software also enables teachers and safeguarding staff to access a history for each student, flag warning signs, and share data with parents and other bodies responsible for care.
Returning to school
Edtech solutions for safeguarding will also play a critical role whenever schools are able to reopen. If the return to normalcy does occur in the 2019/20 academic year, children will still have had multiple months away from the classroom, adapting to (potentially challenging) new circumstances. Returning to school will be another major shift for them, and pupils will need support as they reintegrate.
The remote capabilities of digital concern reporting systems mean teachers and staff will resume school with access to a complete safeguarding history for every pupil and for the student body as a whole. A concern chronology with updates from stakeholders who have been involved with children while schools have been closed, any stored documents, follow-up actions taken and any external referrals made, as well as warning signs of any suspected home abuse or suicide risk flagged during the closures, will all help teachers contextualise risk early and intervene, before things escalate.
This continuous, unbroken safeguarding record provides teachers with the strongest possible foundation upon which to start rebuilding the students’ routines and relationships with other pupils and staff members.
A chance to see Edtech’s potential
Edtech is ideally placed to step up in this crisis to support the nation’s students, teachers, and parents. In addition to the more visible task of delivering education, the silent yet critical work of ensuring student wellbeing in the immediate term also continues via digital safeguarding systems. As pupils return to school further down the line, overlooking even a single at-risk student is unacceptable. Edtech will ensure that no child falls through the cracks.
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