Loreto College - Coleraine, Co. Derry, Northern Ireland
Loreto Crest

Child Protection

The College will do everything possible to protect pupils from abuse or risk of abuse and to foster a safe, supportive and caring environment.  Members of staff are in regular and frequent contact with children and are particularly well placed to observe outward signs of abuse or to be aware of unexplained changes in behaviour or performance which may indicate abuse.  All members of staff are asked to exercise vigilance in their observations of pupils so that important signs are not overlooked.

What action to take
The focus of attention and priority of concern must be the child.  Detailed enquiries into the circumstances of the case must be left to the investigating agencies.  It is not the responsibility of the school to undertake investigations or to make enquiries of parents or guardians.  In some cases it could be counter-productive to do so.  However, when child abuse is suspected, it is essential to have a record of all the information available.  Staff should note down carefully what they have observed, when they observed it and what was said to them.  Signs of physical injury should be described in detail or sketched.  Under no circumstances should a child’s clothing be removed.  Any comment by the child concerned, or other person(s) regarding the abuse should be written down as soon as possible afterwards, preferably quoting the words actually used with times and dates noted.

A note should be taken of any subsequent conversations or contacts.

Any delay in reporting can be highly dangerous for the child.  Although staff talk routinely to parents about many matters concerning children it is not appropriate to raise with parents, worries about abuse or neglect without first consulting Mrs S McCarry (the designated teacher, DT) or Mrs G Doherty (the deputy designated teacher, DDT) who will, if necessary, consult the Social Services Department.  The name of the child is never divulged to the Social Services unless the decision has been made that a referral is necessary.
Any teacher who suspects that a child has been, or is at risk of being physically, emotionally or sexually abused or neglected should try to create an opportunity to talk to the child in a tactful, sympathetic way.  It is not appropriate to probe deeply.  If it is not possible to talk to the child or if the child's responses do not dispel suspicion, teachers should immediately make their concern known to Mrs S McCarry or Mrs G Doherty.

Non teaching staff should similarly report any suspicions they may have.

The best interests of the child must be the paramount consideration

A summary of the reporting procedure is as follows: teacher/person with concern ® designated teacher (Mrs McCarry) ® Principal ® Social Services/Police & NEELB

Allegations against Staff
Where an allegation is made against a teacher or other member of staff it is the responsibility of the School Principal to ensure that any complaint is thoroughly investigated by instigation of the normal Child Protection procedures.  Where the complaint is against the Principal, the Chairperson of the Board of Governors has this responsibility.  The alleged abuser must also be informed of the allegation.  To ensure that this does not interfere with the process of investigation the timing of the notification to the alleged abuser must be agreed at the strategy discussion.  In all aspects of such an occurrence the school will act according to the directives of DENI Document: Pastoral Care in Schools - Child Protection (99).  Parents who have any concerns about the behaviour of a member of staff or about the safety of a child in the school should make their concerns known to the Principal, Mr M James (or if the suspicion is regarding the Principal, to the Chairperson of the Board of Governors, Mr Gerry McCabe).
A parent may contact Social Services or the Police at any time.

Abuse may take a number of forms.  They include Neglect, Physical Injury, Emotional Abuse, Sexual Abuse.

The persistent or severe neglect of a child, failure to protect from danger (including cold and starvation) or failure to provide important aspects of care the absence of which results in impairment of the child's health or development.

Symptoms of Neglect include: inadequate supervision - where children have a lot of freedom they may be prey for those who will abuse; habitually dirty; seeming to be lethargic and lacking sleep; unhealthy appearance; inadequate clothing; from conversation seem to be left alone for long periods or overnight; permitted to engage in adult/dangerous activities - consume alcohol, work long hours, drive cars underage.

Physical Injury
Actual or likely physical injury to a child or failure to prevent physical injury.

Symptoms of Physical Abuse include: bruising especially in unusual places which would not result from normal accidents;  grip marks / black eyes / burns.

Emotional Abuse
Persistent or severe emotional ill-treatment or rejection.  (All abuse involves some emotional ill-treatment).

Symptoms of Emotional Abuse include: over compliance; seeking attention / affection to an unusual extent; anger / resentment; constant guardedness; bullying or domineering relationship; victim role; running away from home.

Sexual Abuse 
This is the use of children by adults or older children for sexual gratification.  It involves the child or adolescent in sexual activities which they do not truly comprehend and to which they cannot give informed consent.

Symptoms of Sexual Abuse include:  speech or drawings may indicate they have inappropriate knowledge; victims experience distorted sexual development, carry a sense of stigma (feel different from peers in a negative way); experience a sense of betrayal where the abuser has been a 'carer'.  Victims feel powerless - the result of abusers exercise of power in the course of the abuse and in enforcing secrecy.  Offenders are predominantly male and tend to be in calculated and purposely cultivated relationships rather than spontaneous attackers.

Recognising Abuse
A young person may
- speak directly or indirectly about an experience about which he/she is unhappy.
- have marks or obvious injuries of a kind that cause you to question how they happened.
- show in their behaviour signs of distressing / inappropriate experiences.

The issue of Child Protection/Child Abuse is addressed with every class within the College's Pastoral Care programme.

Grave concern
While strictly speaking not a form of abuse but a category of registration of abuse, this term covers children whose situations do not currently fit any of the four categories above but where social and medical assessments indicate that they are at significant risk of abuse.  These could include situations where another child in the household has been harmed or the household contains a known abuser.  Such children will be identified to Heads of Year as their situation becomes known.

Teachers often worry about confidentiality when talking with children who are experiencing difficulties at home or who may be being abused.  It should be remembered that the degree of confidentiality should be governed by the need to protect the child.  When talking to a child, or interviewing anybody else offering information, it should be made clear that it may not be possible to maintain confidentiality if this would prejudice a child's welfare.  Protecting the child must always overrule any consideration of confidentiality.

General Points
Teachers must be careful in their dealings with pupils.  Corporal punishment must never be used.  It is unwise to touch a child, even in jest.  To tap with a pencil or ruler, prod with a finger, pinch, tweak an ear or shake by the shoulder could all be construed as assaults.  When quelling a fight, if verbal correction is not effective, a pupil may be physically restrained.  A very distressed child may be comforted though teachers must use discretion in this regard.  When interviewing a child alone, it is wise to have the curtain drawn back on the vision panel, or the door of the room left ajar and a consistent practice followed that is familiar to pupils.

Vetting of Staff
It is the policy of the school that all staff (teaching, secretarial, tutorial, ancillary and coaches will be vetted in the following ways
• application for posts through official application form
• the names and addresses of referees sought and references obtained
• confirmation of registration with GTC and Substitute Teacher Register
• police check via records check
See attached Appendix.

As a learning-for-all school the College is committed to promoting and facilitating relevant training for both the professional and personal development of staff enabling them to carry out their duties and responsibilities more effectively.

Designated Teachers
The Designated Teacher for Child Protection is Mrs Siobhan McCarry.
The Deputy Designated Teacher for Child Protection is Mrs Geraldine Doherty.

The College will review this policy annually.  It will be promoted and implemented throughout the school.

Related Policies
Positive Behaviour and Discipline Policy
Anti-Bullying Policy
Code of Conduct for Staff
General Complaints Procedure
Guidelines for Self-Protection
Use of Reasonable Force
Using Images of Pupils and Staff – Guidance
Education for Wholeness, Dignity and Self-Esteem
ICT Policy re misuse of
School Rules regarding mobile phones and recording devices.