Jo Perrin has written this blog to get you thinking about the types of data we hold on a child, which may be used to evidence a safeguarding concern and demonstrate improvements (or decline) in the situation.
What’s the Issue?
Safeguarding work, and wider pastoral work, can sometimes feel like the poor relation in Education when it comes to evidencing through data. League tables and multiple spreadsheets, the domain of many of our colleagues, don’t – and I would argue shouldn’t – reflect the breadth of the quality work we do to keep the children in our setting safe.
The problem comes, however, when we need to evidence our success. Unlike some of our more curriculum focussed colleagues, who can demonstrate through figures how a child has improved their learning journey over a period of time, as safeguarding professionals it can be hard to neatly capture the improvement an emotionally neglected child has made in their self-belief through the early help support put in by a dedicated and skilled learning assistant, for example.
Even where we do have more “traditional” data – numbers of children for whom Child Protection Referrals have been made or numbers of children on a Child In Need Plan for example – this is limited in its usefulness as depending on your setting’s context you might have larger or fewer numbers and a poorly executed “Plan” does not improve the lived experience of a child anyway.
What Can We Use to Measure Our Safeguarding Successes?
Quantitative data in safeguarding
Quantitative data is the more traditional way we evidence work. It gives a numerical value to data. We can use it in safeguarding, and it can be useful. For example, we can give our percentage of students receiving free school meals and those receiving any type of pupil premium support, which can help give crucial context to some of the challenges our setting might face.
The word of caution would be to ensure it isn’t used in a misleading or incomplete way. A good example of this would be if a setting confidently reported a high number of cases that had been referred to their local MASH team. This could be used to demonstrate “excellent” practice – staff confidently noticing signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect or a culture where children feel safe enough to disclose.
However, as with any data, it can hide a multitude of issues. If in practice many of these referrals have been deemed not to have “met the threshold”, then the practice isn’t excellent. Either there is a training need for DSLs to complete forms in a more complete and clear way, or there is a lack of understanding of the threshold document.
Qualitative data in safeguarding
Qualitative data is the non-numerical data we have in our settings. In terms of safeguarding, this is where we generally have more meaningful data.
The problem is the information we hold about children in this regard is often not as tangible.
How do we measure improvement in this regard in a way that is meaningful for inter-agency colleagues?
- One thing to avoid is the use of “educational jargon,” as this won’t necessarily be useful to colleagues in a different sector. Use plain English wherever possible. If that isn’t possible, use phrases from the threshold document – this means it is harder for colleagues in the MASH to reject the referral as it is really clear, and we are repeating their language back to demonstrate levels of concern for a child.
- Also, be as detailed as possible in the parts of the referral form which ask for detail – dates, times, witnesses, use of the words of the child where possible and so on. In terms of describing a noticed change in a child, be specific. If a child’s communication and emotional regulation has improved, then detail how and why. What evidence is there? Do you have an example of something that they used to find challenging but recently have accomplished? Be descriptive and precise – especially if we are describing a decline in skills and attitudes.
- If we are looking at our safeguarding culture and ethos, what qualitative data have we gathered? Have we led student focus groups, and if so, have we worked with a variety of groups of students – mixed ages, mixed academic ability groups, mixed ethnicity, with louder and quieter students? Have we asked children to document how safe they feel in our settings – one example of this would be to ask children to RAG rate their school setting around how safe different areas feel, followed by a discussion of reasons why certain areas feel safe or less safe.
Is One Better than Another? Qualitative vs. Quantitative.
The short answer is absolutely not!
Both have a place and a value. The problem comes when the wrong one is used to try to justify action or inaction.
Train your staff to know the difference – what information do you need to best support a child in any particular situation, and what format is going to help you to get any inter-agency support that is needed?
Quantitative data can be really useful to show why a child’s academic progress has been limited, for example, due to a known or suspected safeguarding issue. Whereas qualitative data around the same issue would give a potential explanation for types of behaviour demonstrated and potential support that could benefit.
If this blog has got you thinking about the topic, it can be useful to list your sources of information about a child’s wellbeing and progress – possibly use a staff meeting for this so all colleagues consider the type of information they can use to evidence concerns about a child.
Need more support with this topic?
If you would like support with how to deal with concerns regarding safeguarding, please feel free to contact our safeguarding team at email@example.com
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About the Adviser
Jo Perrin - Adviser, Services For Education
Jo Perrin taught PSHE in schools for over a decade and held the role of Designated Safeguarding Lead and pastoral lead. She currently works as an Education Adviser for Services For Education which allows her to combine her experience in schools with a personal knowledge of childhood trauma as a former foster carer.
In addition, Jo worked as a West Midlands’ Adviser for a national PSHE resource, has delivered a presentation to the Sex Education Forum National Members’ Event and has created a variety of RSE resources as part of her role for Services For Education.
Jo’s advisory experience is not limited to training school staff as she works with non-education based organisations to support them in safeguarding and emotional health and well-being aims and is an affiliated trainer for Mental Health At Work.
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