Protect’s Head of Policy Andrew Pepper-Parsons attended the OneEducation Safeguarding conference in Manchester on 8 February to deliver a whistleblowing workshop for those tasked with overseeing or running safeguarding procedures within schools.
Delegates were fairly expert on safeguarding and knew the appropriate way to handling a safeguarding issue raised with them, but my workshop emphasised how whistleblowing arrangements (by this I mean both a whistleblowing policy and the culture that sits around it) could complement what they were doing around safeguarding.
Three key tips for the education sector to ensure they have an effective whistleblowing arrangements:
- Have a policy that is written in plain English: small schools may not need a dedicated policy, many roll up a safeguarding policy and whistleblowing policy into one but whatever is created needs to be written in plain English. Avoid legalistic language that can make the whole policy seem very defensive and scary.
- Promote and test awareness of the arrangements: This is really two points but they’re closely linked. Publicise the policy, through intranet messages and newsletters but also test levels of awareness. Some organisations run staff surveys but even small schools can hold team briefings or meetings with staff to see what how aware they are of the policy.
- Reacting correctly to a whistleblower is key: A good policy and high levels of awareness among staff can be undone by poor handling from a manager. Making sure that those handling whistleblowing concerns are aware of their obligations around taking action on victimisation and the importance of feedback to a whistleblower is key. It can be a big step for someone to come forward, and if they feel unsupported this can ripple out to other staff and negatively affect the culture among other staff.
- Governor training: Ensure all governors are up to speed and know what to do when it comes to effectively handing a whistleblowing concern