The start of any academic year is always filled with excitement, enthusiasm and to a degree, nervousness. This is amplified this year because of the changes to Ofsted’s inspection framework, the update to KCSIE and updates to PSHE guidelines.
The challenges of September arise back as far as April when the new intake are offered places, but really begin as soon as pupils arrive on the first day of term.
Any issues which have affected your current pupils throughout the summer will need to be dealt with, as these can have an effect on safeguarding, mental health and behaviour issues. For example, financial difficulties can raise concerns about neglect as families may have been unable to provide regular meals when their child was away from school.
New pupils arriving at your school can also change the dynamic, which can lead to bullying issues.
Ensuring you are building professional relationships with children and families can alleviate challenges and enable you to understand when support may be needed. These issues arise with every academic year, so forward planning should see you well equipped for dealing with them once September comes around.
The challenges which the new Ofsted inspection framework will require more immediate action. From September, a culture of vigilance will be expected where welfare is promoted and where action is taken for those who need help, those who may be suffering, or those likely to suffer harm.
Ofsted has recognised those who start their journey of education with a disadvantage of any kind are more likely to be adversely affected throughout their life. The new framework has been put in place to redress this imbalance, whilst considering safeguarding measures and ensuring students are safe to learn free from discrimination.
Ofsted’s inspectors will also look at whether there is the opportunity for personal development which provides pupils with skills which enable them to develop interests beyond academic and vocational subjects. Whilst leadership and management will be looked at to ensure that leaders enable their pupils to complete their learning and do not allow off-rolling.
Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) will also be a focus from September. If your school operates under the Department for Education, you will be actively encouraged and supported to teach these subjects. From September 2020, this will then become mandatory.
With PSHE subjects, there will be a focus upon safeguarding with these following the principles of keeping children safe in education and preparing them for the world in which they are growing up in.
To summarise and to ensure you are prepared for the challenges which September brings, you should ensure that the focus of your INSET days and staff training should include 5 key areas:
1. Staff wellbeing
Ensure all members of staff are able to work to the best of their ability, feel happy and are aware of what is required of them in their role
2. Mental health
Ensure staff can think outside of the box when it comes to supporting students suffering with issues such as anxiety, low mood, depression and self-harm.
3. Child exploitation
Ensure staff are equipped to teach children about keeping safe and becoming resilient to exploitation which can occur. This will also help you to understand potential vulnerability factors, recognise signs and know how to respond to concerns
4. Creating a safe environment
Ensure staff are creating an environment in which pupils feel safe and which bullying, discrimination and abuse are dealt with quickly, consistently and effectively
5. Children missing education
Children miss school for many reasons. However, staff should be equipped to identify when prolonged, frequent and unexplained absences should be reported and dealt with
Dawn Jotham, EduCare’s Pastoral Care Specialist