Safeguarding children is one of the most critical responsibilities of any person working with children. At the same time, pupil safeguarding can also be one of the biggest challenges for educators due to the need to monitor, support, and measure the provision of. Based on feedback from Trust leaders about the key priorities facing the sector at the moment, Edurio and The Key partnered to conduct The Pupil Safeguarding Review. 

What's covered in this blog?

Our Pupil Safeguarding Review summarises the experience of 70,000+ students from 373 Schools and 41 Trusts. There were two overarching goals of the review for schools and trusts which took part: quality assurance of safeguarding practices and gathering evidence for action. 

QUALITY ASSURANCE: to assess whether policies, practices and curriculum are having the required impact on pupil safety.

EVIDENCE FOR ACTION: to proactively identify issues (prior to Ofsted and risk to pupils), and target dedicated resources in the most impactful areas

The first report from this review was launched in January 2023 and focuses on the overall experience of pupils in regard to safeguarding. It looks at their reflections on the support they have access to. Moreover, the report also looks at how the experiences of different groups of pupils surveyed differ.

What we learnt about Pupil Safety from The Pupil Safeguarding Review

Overall Feelings of Safety

Whilst the majority of pupils feel safe in school, around a quarter felt only fairly safe, not very safe, or not safe at all. More pupils felt safer out of school, and even more felt safe online.

75% of pupils feel safe “in school”. 

78% of pupils feel safe “out of school”.

88% of pupils feel safe “online”.

Worryingly our report also found that,

One in ten pupils (10%) Reported that they had missed school recently because they felt unsafe at school.

We can see that more pupils feel safe online than at school or out of school. For pupils who felt unsafe in school, other pupils were the most likely to make them feel unsafe. 12% of pupils who felt unsafe at school felt that way due to a teacher. Outside of school, the leading reported cause for feelings of unsafety was adults the pupils don't know. Online, pupils reported that other children (that the pupils don't know) were most likely to make them feel unsafe.

Being Safe Online vs Feeling Safe Online

In The Pupil Safeguarding review, The Key highlight the difference between being safe online and feeling safe online and what that looks like when safeguarding children.

They propose that:

“Given what we know about the realities of online risks for young people and just how ‘hidden’ many of these risks are, we could also conclude that this data presents a false positive. Posing the question: “Do pupils have a false sense of security about their online safety?”. Perhaps those who feel safer online are less aware of actual incidents. Such as predatory adults impersonating children, hacking, or trends like the 'blue whale challenge'. Alternatively, they may not grasp the sheer volume, variety and prevalence of online risks, many of which are intangible compared to 'real-world' risks.

Additionally, we know that some of the more negative aspects of being online can be fairly insidious, chipping away at an individual’s perception or ability to cope over a period of time, so some pupils might not yet be aware of their exposure to danger or the extent of an escalating threat. And, as we know, there are always limitations to how a survey question is interpreted or understood. Some very real and present online risks might not even bring about 'feelings' of being unsafe in the same way as unwanted contact or seeing something that's clearly distressing.”

Pupil Safety and Demography

Irrespective of all demographic groups analysed for this report, a higher proportion of pupils feel safe online than they do “in school” or “out of school”. Here we see pupils' feelings of safety at school by Year group.

This Image shows responses to the question, "Recently (in the last six months), How safe have you felt at school?" The findings are shown year group by year group and highlights years 8, 9, 10 and 11 as the groups that felt least safe at school. Years 3, 4 and 5 reported feeling most safe at school.

Copyright of Edurio.
Safety of pupils. Safeguarding in schools. The Pupil Safeguarding Review. Safeguarding.

There are significant differences between pupils of different ages, particularly secondary, compared with primary and sixth-form year groups. Additionally, these differences can also be seen for genders: pupils with a gender identity other than male or female have lower feelings of safety.

This Image shows responses to the question, "Recently (in the last six months), How safe have you felt at school?" The findings are shown by Gender, Male (boy), Female (girl), Don't want to say, and Other. It shows that Students identifying as a gender other than male or female are the least likely to feel safe at school with male students most likely to feel safe at school.

Copyright of Edurio.
Safety of pupils, Safeguarding in schools. The Pupil Safeguarding Review. Safeguarding. Pupil Safeguarding.

Additionally, gay and bisexual pupils have lower feelings of safety than straight pupils. 

This Image shows responses to the question, "Recently (in the last six months), How safe have you felt at school?" The findings are shown by Sexual Orientation; Heterosexual, Bisexual, Homosexual (gay), Other, Don't want to say. The findings suggest that Homosexual students and those who didn't identify with any of the predefined sexual orientations (Other) were least likely to have felt safe at school recently. 

Copyright of Edurio.
Safety of pupils. Safeguarding in schools. The Pupil Safeguarding Review. Safeguarding. Pupil Safeguarding.

Regarding ethnicity, the difference between groups is smaller than it is for other demographic groups of pupils. However, the dataset has noticeable differences, particularly with Asian or Asian British pupils feeling safer than all other ethnicities in this survey.

This Image shows responses to the question, "Recently (in the last six months), How safe have you felt at school?" The findings are shown by Ethnicity demographics; White, Asian or Asian British "Black, Black British, Caribbean, or African Mixed, or Multiple ethnic groups", Dont want to say, Other ethnic groups. 

Copyright of Edurio.
Safety of pupils, Safeguarding in schools. The Pupil Safeguarding Review. Safeguarding. Pupil Safeguarding

Do Pupils Know What To Do When They Feel Unsafe? 

1 in 10 pupils didn't know what to do at school if someone made them feel unsafe, and the same for pupils who felt unsafe online. 12% of students didn't know what to do if someone made them feel unsafe out of school. 

In this image we can see the findings to the question, "If you ever felt unsafe, would you ask an adult at school for help?" It shows that 61% of students said Yes, 23% of students said No, 13% of students said "it depends". and 3% said they did not want to say. 

Copyright of Edurio.
Safety of pupils, Safeguarding in schools. The Pupil Safeguarding Review. Safeguarding.

What we can take away from this is that most pupils feel confident they know what to do if someone makes them feel unsafe at school, out of school, or online. However, if we look at an average class of 30 pupils, that would mean that 3 out of those 30 pupils do not know what to do if they feel unsafe.

If a pupil were to feel unsafe, 23% of them wouldn't ask an adult at school to ask for help, and for 13% of them, it would depend.

Of those that responded feeling unsafe, only a quarter of them told an adult at school about it. Additionally, just under 50% of pupils told an adult outside of school about it. This suggests that a high percentage of incidents may not have been reported and gives us a good insight into what schools can do to develop safeguarding children.

What Can Your Trust Learn From Edurio’s Pupils Safeguarding Experience Insights?

Our safeguarding report highlights multiple areas of concern surrounding education practice in regard to safeguarding children. But, it also highlights that a high percentage of pupils feel safe in school.

Dame Rachel de Souza, Children's Commissioner for England,  highlights the findings of our research aptly. 

Dame Rachel De Souza, Children's Commissioner for England

“This research carried out by Edurio, and The Key shines a light on an incredibly important issue: that for a school to provide a supportive environment, it needs to feel safe to the children attending. It is a testament to the hard work of school staff who support their students and build caring school communities that 75% of children who took part in the research reported feeling safe in school. However, that leaves a quarter of children – that's eight in every class of 30 - who don’t feel safe. 10%, or three children out of a class of 30, said they missed school because they didn’t feel safe enough to attend. That harms their education and puts them at risk of disengaging completely.” 

Practical applications for school leaders

The Key also highlights multiple ways school staff and school leaders can support their students with the challenges highlighted by our report. Here, The Key discusses ways in which school staff and leaders can support students' feelings of safety online; 

The Key Support Services:

“When it comes to online safety, schools are in a difficult situation. They may be meeting national expectations around staff training and pupil education. Still, most online incidents happen outside school, on pupils’ own devices or their friends, rather than on the premises on a school computer or tablet. An area of opportunity here - and one that’s often not easy - might be to engage with parents with more informational or practical sessions, factsheets, assemblies and other forms of education and support. 

The data shows that of the 12% of pupils who haven’t felt safe online, nearly half (44%) said that someone they didn’t know had made them feel unsafe - an adult (18%) or a child (27%). It’s notable, then, that Roblox - the platform that the highest proportion of pupils said they were using when they felt unsafe - relies on user-generated content and draws in multiple players, who may or may not be known to the user. Finding ways to support more pupils and parents to understand the risks of such activity is something that schools might consider.”

What next? 

Leora Cruddas CBE perfectly summarises how Edurio’s and The Key’s research project can help progress the sector's understanding of safeguarding children. It provides some suggestions on how the survey can be used to advance provision in schools. 

Leora Cruddas, CBE Chief executive, Confederation of School Trusts:

“These findings should be reflected on by all school leaders to help them devise strategies to close the gaps between different pupil demographics to create safe, inclusive environments in which all pupils can learn and flourish. They also provide a valuable model for schools and trusts who wish to listen more systematically to pupil voices in their own settings sitting alongside existing pastoral and parental engagement.

The findings go beyond the school gates, reporting on pupils’ perceptions outside of school and online. As educators, we have less influence in these settings. Still, we do have a role in equipping children – and, to some degree, their parents and carers – to understand the risks and manage their safety as they grow into independent adults. At a time when there is so much public, professional, and political anxiety about online safety, it is perhaps surprising that the report finds children feel safest online; we need to understand more about whose perception is closer to reality.”

Where our findings have recently featured:

About The Pupil Safeguarding Survey

Edurio has worked in partnership with The Key over the last six months to develop, build and conduct one of the largest safeguarding surveys in the UK. It explores students' views of safety and safeguarding matters. The Review explores the largest dataset to date of LGBTQ+ and non-binary student views on safeguarding. Our survey explores students' perceptions of readiness to Learn, access to help, feelings of safety, treatment of others and the curriculum elements relating to safeguarding.

The Edurio Safeguarding Survey can provide the feedback you need.

  • Evaluate your trust's safeguarding strategy at scale
  • Uncover aspects of safeguarding not covered by policy audits and incident trackers
  • Gain practical ideas to improve safeguarding across your schools
  • Contribute to national research that guides policy and practice

The new Edurio safeguarding diagnostic was designed with trust safeguarding experts. It will provide insights into factors contributing to a safe environment, the level of safety felt in various school settings and pupils' understanding of what to do if they feel unsafe.

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