Supporting and engaging schools in decision-making and multi-agency working for the protection of children.

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: King's Policy Institutes

Abstract

Schools are an important source for the identification, referral and management of child protection concerns. Yet schools often lack robust arrangements for working in partnership with children's social care departments and/or find it difficult to implement these effectively (Baginsky, 2007; Ward, Brown & Maskell-Graham, 2012). A recent major review identified a lack of engagement by schools with safeguarding, despite the statutory framework to promote inter-agency co-operation (Davies and Ward, 2012). Furthermore, in recent years state-funded schools have been able to sever their links with local authorities and there has been a significant increase in the number of Academies and free schools giving heads and teachers greater freedoms and flexibilities. The Government is clear that schools of all types should continue to maintain a strong relationship with local authorities over child protection and safeguarding concerns, although schools are able to determine the shape of that relationship. These changes, combined with changes in local authority structures and the introduction of Health and Wellbeing Boards (HWBs), mean research to understand and promote strong local collaborative safeguarding arrangements is timely and important.

In June 2010, the Secretary of State for Education requested an independent review of child protection in England from Professor Eileen Munro. As part of this work Professor Munro considered the wider organisational system in promoting or hindering good critical thinking. In order to be able to reflect the dynamic and unpredictable nature of child protection within a multi-agency context it is intended to use an approach that is capable of allowing this complexity to be examined and analysed.

The research will comprise three distinct but related phases:

1. Inception and scoping informed by:
a. a literature review;
b. discussions with representatives from key stakeholder groups;
2. A survey of all education and children's social care sections of children's service departments (or equivalents) in all local authorities; all LSCBs; all HWBs to:
i. identify the relative contributions of predictive variables in successful multi-agency working; and
ii. enable the selection of five case study authorities which represent a range of collaborative practice as identified through the survey, as well as different types of authority.
3. Five case studies:
a. a short pro forma will be sent to all schools and Further Education colleges in the five case study authorities, to capture their experiences of involvement in safeguarding practice and to inform sampling of ten educational establishments in each area (total 50) to reflect diversity of provision.
b. in the 50 identified educational establishments, all relevant key personnel will be interviewed and also asked to complete the Organisational Social Context (OSC) measure, a validated measure developed in United States (US) but used in a small number of English authorities.
c. the school data will be mapped onto a framework developed by Professor Bob Hudson to assess capacity for collaborative practice and partnership, in this case of individual schools.
d. discussion groups will be held with representatives from local authority agencies in the case study authorities and school staff to discuss the survey and interview data.

This research will provide information on the current arrangements existing between schools and the key bodies with responsibility for child protection and on how these arrangements are working. It will also contribute to what we know about decision-making around child protection by all the agencies concerned and make recommendations about the structures and support that best reflect the needs of the newly configured educational context. Evidence generated by the research will be pertinent to the debate around mandatory reporting of child protection concerns, both nationally and internationally.

Planned Impact

Academic impact: contribution of new knowledge and understanding to an under-researched aspect of an area of critical importance and insight into the impact of:
a) recent rapid changes in both educational and local authority governance; and
b) organisational contexts
on the way staff in schools make decisions in relation to child protection and its impact on their engagement in multi-agency work. The application of complexity theory and the Organisational Social Context measure will build on recent work using systems theory and provide an enhanced understanding of the reasons for the failure of child protection practice to adopt lessons from Serious Care Reviews.

Innovative methodologies and cross-disciplinary approaches: The mixed methods and multi-level methodology underpinning the study are innovative and complex. They offer an opportunity to study multi-agency work from the perspectives of all key stakeholders and gain greater insight into the complexities of collaborative practice within and beyond local authority structures.

Economic and social impact: The project will contribute to the research priorities for child protection, social work reform and intervention identified by Government (DfE, 2014):
-Improving professional awareness of abuse and neglect to achieve more appropriate referrals and a better understanding of what motivates professionals to refer or not;
-Understanding the barriers preventing professionals referring safeguarding concerns to social services in an effective and timely manner;
-Identifying effective interventions in improving the quality and consistency of referrals; and
-Assessing the impact of:
a) different models of inter-agency working and information sharing on the quality and timeliness of decision making;
b) local organisational and leadership changes; and
c) the different ways LSCBs operate and factors influencing the effectiveness of LSCBs.

Contributing towards evidence-based policymaking at local, regional and national levels: By engaging with key national and local stakeholders the project provides a significant opportunity to inform the development of policy and practice at national and local levels.

Shaping and enhancing the effectiveness of public services: In addition to influencing the development of local authority models of inter-agency working, the project offers considerable potential to enhance safeguarding practice at school level and to influence the development of the role of local authorities in supporting all state-funded schools to fulfill their statutory duty to safeguard children.

Transforming evidence-based policy into practice and influencing and informing practitioners and professional practice: Study findings will enhance understanding of the factors impacting on schools' capacity and motivation to engage in inter-agency collaboration and will support development of relevant training and skills.

Improving social welfare: Professional identification of safeguarding issues, early intervention, appropriate referral and effective multi-agency working are critical to the prevention of child abuse and neglect and to ensuring the welfare of children, as well as to the efficient operation of overstretched children's social care services.

Changing organisational culture and practices: The project has significant potential to influence:
a) development of models of inter-agency governance at local government and school levels to promote best practice in safeguarding and child protection; and
b) structures and support required to strengthen safeguarding practice in schools and schools' role within multi-agency collaboration. It would facilitate the adoption of solutions that reflected the needs of the newly configured educational context.

Publications proposed in: British Journal of Social Work, Children & Youth Services Review, Child & Family Social Work, Journal of Educational Research and Journal of Integrated Care
 
Description Two major contextual influences were:
• schools' increasing autonomy, including the development of academies and free schools, and their emerging collaborative arrangements with local authorities (LAs)
• the impact of austerity on schools, especially increasing demands from parents requiring support and funding cuts affecting non-teaching posts.

The study addressed four areas through survey (SD) and case study (CSD) data1:

1) How inter-agency arrangements support schools in the identification, referral and management of child safeguarding concerns
• Overall schools were satisfied with:
a) LA support
b) training available for designated safeguarding staff (DSS) and on specific topics. (CSD)
• There were differences - across the five areas (covering 50 case-study schools) - in satisfaction levels with support and responses from LA designated education leads, but not between LA-maintained schools and academies (CSD) nor did it reflect levels of congruency between education, children's social care (CSC) and Local Safeguarding Children Boards' (LSCBs) respondents. (SD)
• Referral procedures to agencies beyond schools varied and could be time-consuming. Reasons for accepting or refusing referrals were not always explicit. Schools with good experiences of inter-agency working were more likely to report better referral experiences, especially if combined with strong LSCB engagement or high congruence between local agencies. (CSD)
• Many referrals were passed back to schools to address, where support to address ongoing concerns varied. (CSD)

2) How schools make decisions about child protection concerns and cases
• Classroom teachers and support staff reported concerns to DSSs who then assessed and sought advice if necessary / available and, where appropriate, referred to a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub or to CSC. (CSD)
• LA threshold documents stated the criteria for accepting referrals for statutory intervention, but awareness of these documents, and of their significance, was lower in primary than secondary schools. (CSD)
• Schools wanted improved information sharing with other agencies about children's well-being and safety, but felt:
a. this was not always reciprocated
b. disadvantaged by lack of access to CSCs' information systems. (CSD)

3) How structural differences in relationships between schools and other local government agencies impact upon safeguarding practice
• Despite the emergence of academies and greater autonomy of schools, nearly all LAs maintained a free or traded support service for all schools. (SD)
• While still a minority, three times more social care respondents (28%) than education respondents (9%) thought that 'academy' status presented a barrier to inter-agency working. (SD)
• There were no discernible differences between safeguarding practice in academies and LA-maintained schools nor in their use of LA support services. (CSD and SD)

4) Changes that could be implemented to strengthen schools' engagement in local arrangements for safeguarding children (Confirmed by both SD and CSD)
• Additional training for schools on threshold documents.
• Exploration of how schools can access CSCs' information systems.
• Greater clarity about classroom teachers' competence and confidence to identify and notify concerns.
• Increased transparency over LA assessment processes.
• Sufficiently resourced early help support.
• Improved communication systems between schools and other agencies to create opportunities to address schools' concerns that their opinions and contributions are not always recognised or respected.
Exploitation Route Following the initial analysis of the data collected feedback was offered to education safeguarding leads at each of the case study sites. A 'policy lab' was also delivered to share the initial findings with key stakeholders and to discuss plans for wider dissemination and further research.

Findings from the early phases of the project have already been presented at academic conferences and in the journal Educational Research. Further conference presentations and journal articles are planned alongside a book targeted at both researchers and practitioners.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education

 
Description The research team contacted a range of experts and interested persons in the early stages of the project. This had the effect of raising the profile of the work at an early stage and started the process by which we came to be seen as key informants on issues relating to schools and safeguarding. So, for example, as a result of the Lead Analyst for Children's Social Care at the Department for Education (DfE) being a member of the project's Advisory Group we were invited to contribute to preparatory work on consultation exercises in relation to children missing from education conducted by the DfE. In addition, we also provided advice to officials when they were considering amendments to Keeping Children Safe in Education. Similarly, we have also been invited to join discussions in Ofsted with Yvette Stanley and Lisa Pascoe and with Professor Leon Feinstein when he was at the Office of the Children's Commissioner. Towards the end of the project, we provided detailed feedback to the five local authorities and the one academy chain where the case studies had been conducted. These discussions led to several invitations to provide feedback to school leaders but the pandemic, with the additional pressures that created for schools, interrupted these arrangements. We shall return to these when the book (see below) is launched which will be an opportunity not only to report the findings but to demonstrate the contributions they have made. The European Social Network (ESN) approached Dr Baginsky to conduct a review of the integration of support for children across Europe and the report that produced led to an invitation to attend an event at the European Parliament to discuss 'Promoting Quality Social Services with the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+)' in 2019. She was subsequently invited to contribute to a conference on multiagency networks at the Centre for Family Research, at the University of Torun, Poland (March 2019) and to give a keynote address and lead a seminar at The Democritus University of Thrace, Komotini, Greece (November 2019). All these events provided the opportunity to disseminate findings from the project, open up debate on cross national experiences and establish contact with a wide range of practitioners, policy makers and academics. In February 2020 the research team held a Policy Lab that was attended by over 30 participants from local and national government, policy organisations, voluntary organisations, schools, judiciary, police, and academia. As a result, we strengthened our links with relevant projects in the What Works for Children's Social Care, National Centre for Social Research (Nat Cen) and the Early Intervention Foundation. During COVID-19 Dr Baginsky and Dr Driscoll both received funding that built on the work conducted during the project. Dr Baginsky and Professor Jill Manthorpe received funding from the ESRC Slingshot funding stream to examine the way in which children's social care in 15 local authorities had adapted to the pandemic in the early months of 2020, with one focus being on multiagency work. Building on this they received King's Together funding to test the robustness of multiagency child protection and safeguarding arrangements for schools. This project consisted of 40 interviews with 46 informants across five of the local authorities that had taken part in the first COVID-19 study. They involved strategic and operational leads for education and children's social care, as well as police, strategic managers in health services, schools and colleges, the school nursing service and child and adult mental health services. These data were supplemented by a targeted survey of schools in the five areas. In addition to the work conducted in England key informants in five countries - Australia, Israel, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the United States - provided details of the situation in their countries. These contacts allowed the dissemination of information on the ESRC funded Safeguarding in Schools project and to invitations to provide briefing sessions via Zoom for relevant senior managers in County of Santa Clara, California; academics at the University of Auckland, New Zealand and to officials in Tusla (The Child and Family Agency) in the Republic of Ireland. In addition to an article, both reports on these projects have been widely referenced and together have had nearly 2,500 downloads. Partly arising from insights from the Safeguarding in Schools project, Driscoll led a study funded by King's Together (King's College London) and the ESRC IAA-SSIF grant on multi-agency arrangements for child safeguarding during Covid-19 (total £53,689), comprising interviews with 67 London-based safeguarding leads in seven relevant disciplines/roles (children's social care, health, police, education and mental health services, lawyers and Safeguarding Partnership independent scrutineers or chairs) and a nationally distributed survey to the same groups. Outputs to date include five professional briefing papers (including one on Education and the Role of Schools); a summary report from each stage; a full report; two academic conference presentations and around 20 presentations to professional groups; two published articles; a policy lab; and an advocacy letter to government resulting in a response from the Secretary of State for Education and a symposium for government officials, academics and sector leaders on 'future-proofing' the child safeguarding system. Relevant findings from the Safeguarding in Schools project have been widely disseminated through the Covid-19 project, including through presentations, documents distributed by the National Association of Head Teachers and in the briefing prepared for the symposium. In Spring 2021, following the reports of the extent of sexual abuse of pupils by their peers linked with the large number of anonymous testimonials published on the Everyone's Invited, Dr Baginsky was approached by the production team working on BBC's Panorama programme to provide contextual information on the role of schools and safeguarding for a programme they were preparing. The programme was aired in September 2021. In February 2022 Dr Baginsky accepted an invitation to contribute to the review of children's social care in Northern Ireland led by Professor Ray Jones. A particular focus of the review will be on schools and the role they pay in supporting children and she is drawing on the work from the ESRC project to inform her input. Similarly, she has used the work conducted during the project to inform consultative services provided to Hampshire and Hertfordshire County Councils. Policy Press commissioned a book where the findings of this study will be reported: Baginsky, M., Driscoll, J., Purcell, C., Manthorpe, J. and Hickman, B. (2022) Protecting and Safeguarding Children in Schools: A Multi-agency Approach. Bristol: Policy Press It will be published in summer 2022 with a launch at King's College London in September 2022. In addition to contributions from the research team there are reflections by Professor Anne Edwards, Professor Emerita, Department of Education, University of Oxford; Dr Alun Rees, former Virtual School Head and Consultant, University of Oxford and Dr Susannah Wright, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies, School of Education, Oxford Brookes University. Sir Tim Brighouse, the former Chief Commissioner for Schools, has contributed the Foreword Dr Baginsky and Dr Purcell were asked in to advise the Department for Health and Social Care on a NIHR proposed research proposal on multi-agency children's safeguarding and their contribution has informed the call for research. Prof Manthorpe has acted as a panel member for the NIHR on its call for research on children's mental health services.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Contributed to research on 'Prevent and Counter-Extremism' for the Department for Education
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
URL https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/7646...
 
Description Contributed to the Department for Education review of policy on home education
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
URL https://consult.education.gov.uk/school-frameworks/home-education-call-for-evidence-and-revised-dfe-...
 
Description Contribution to the New Zealand Family Death Review Committee via Dr Irene de Haan of Aukland University. A key focus of the Committee's work is to explore the role of other agencies such as schools.
Geographic Reach Australia 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description Discussion with Barry Chaffkin - CEO at Fostering Change for Children to discuss roles of schools in relation to children who are looked after in England and USA
Geographic Reach North America 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Discussion with Cindy M. Bautista-Thomas - Associate Director of Field Education at Columbia's School of Social Work
Geographic Reach North America 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Discussion with Dr Hanelie Malan of North Western University, South Africa about multi-agency work in relation to child protection and schools
Geographic Reach Africa 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Discussion with Professor Liz Beddoe of University of Auckland in New Zealand about the role of schools in relation to child protection
Geographic Reach Australia 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Discussion with Professor Riki Savaya at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel regarding child protection and the role of schools
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Discussions with What Works Centre for Children's Social Care regarding the placement of social workers in schools
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Linked up with Dr Fred Wulczyn at Chapin Hall University of Chicago who is leading a project on child protection referrals from New York schools
Geographic Reach North America 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Provided advice to the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department of Education to inform the commissioning of research on the impact of Multi-agency Safeguarding Arrangements in England
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Review of the integration of support services to children for Eurpoean Social Network
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description Senior Ofsted inspector expressed strong interest in the research project and its potential to inform the training of Ofsted inspectors.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Study findings used to inform teacher training education for the PGCE cohort at King's College London
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Supported schools to review and improve safeguarding policies and procedures
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Schools that have participated in the research have reported that their participation has helped them to reflect on current school policies and practices relating to safeguarding and identify areas for improvement.
 
Title Supporting and Engaging Schools in Decision-Making and Multi-Agency Working for the Protection of Children, 2017-2019 
Description To investigate the engagement of schools in decision-making and multi-agency working in relation to child protection four data sets were collected during three phases of the research. The first data set is 17 transcripts taken from 'scoping' interviews with local authority education and children's social care staff. The findings of these interviews were used to inform the second phase of data collection involving national surveys of: (a) local authority education safeguarding leads; (b) children's social care leads; and (c) Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs). This is the second data set. The third phase of the project involved interviews with key staff involved in safeguarding and child protection work in 50 schools spread across 5 local authority areas. Staff were also asked to complete the Organisational Social Context questionnaire. The interview transcripts and questionnaire results from these case studies are included here as the third and forth data sets. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Unknown 
URL http://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-854716
 
Description Consulted by BBC Panorama regarding child sexual abuse in schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Following a review of child sexual abuse in schools by Ofsted in 2021, Dr Baginsky was aked to advise journalists working on a Panorama documentary on the subject.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Don't tell me teachers are not social workers: schools' response to safeguarding and protecting children 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Discussions subsequently took place with Professor Agapi Kandylaki and colleagues from Democritus University of Thrace on how the lessons from this research can contribute to development of work with schools in Greece, particularly around absorption of children from asylum seeking communities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://blogs.kcl.ac.uk/socialcareworkforce/2019/11/11/social-austerity-child-protection-and-human-r...
 
Description New child safeguarding arrangements for England 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Published response to an article in the British Medical Journal on new Multi-agency Safeguarding Arrangements
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bmj.com/content/367/bmj.l5813/rapid-responses
 
Description Policy Lab: Role of Schools in a multi-agency approach to safeguarding and child protection 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The initial findings of the project where shared and discussed with key stakeholders including representatives of the Department for Education, teaching unions, local authorities, schools, and other researchers. Participants included those who had participated in the research through the case studies or as advisory group members. Very positive feedback was provided by participants regarding the event as well as the key findings of the project. Participants also shared ideas for wider dissemination and future research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation at National Association of Special Schools Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The findings from the scoping phase of the research were presented to conference delegates. Discussions at these meetings contributed to the design of the case study phase involving visits to 60 schools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Presentation at annual congress of the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (BASPCAN) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presented the findings of the scoping phase of the research project and discussed plans for national survey and case studies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.kcl.ac.uk/scwru/pubs/2018/conf/driscoll-baspcan-congress-9th-april-2018-clean.pdf
 
Description Presentation of findings to case study sites 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Findings were presented to the case study participants to inform local poloicy and practice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentations to 3 networks of school safeguarding leads and headteachers in two local authority areas 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The findings from the scoping phase of the research were presented to safeguarding leads and head teachers at three network meeting in two different local authority areas. Discussions at these meetings contributed to the design of the case study phase involving visits to 60 schools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Seminar for staff of the Newham (East London) Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Baginsky shared and discussed the findings of this research project with staff of Newham CAMHS including psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, nurses and staff embedded in schools and Youth Offending Teams. Participants provided very positive feedback and indicated that they would be looking at examples of best practice in the case studies to inform service development.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Seminar presentation and discussion on study findings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Findings presented to practictioners as part of seminar series hosted by the research team at King's College London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description The role of schools in helping to refocus social work: sustainable change or hope over reality? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact As a result of this presentation discussions are continuing with staff from Det Pædagogiske og Samfundsfaglige Fakultet, Institut for Socialrådgiveruddannelse, Copenhagen, Denmark to explore possible future collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://kuleuvencongres.be/ecswr2019/home