Of all the responsibilities entrusted to those who run or work in schools, safeguarding children and young people from harm must be chief among them.
In order to do that, it must be everyone’s responsibility to be cognisant of the obligations that come from the trust placed in them. Every child has the right to protection from all forms of abuse, neglect or exploitation.
We know from The Promise how important it is to have a focus on the safety and wellbeing of children. Children and young people must be listened to and meaningfully involved in decision-making about their care and welfare, with all those involved properly listening and responding to what children and young people want and need.
Furthermore, Scotland’s approach to improving the wellbeing of children and young people, Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC), is a means for families to work in partnership with those who may support them, such as doctors, nurses, teachers and other education practitioners.
Having reflected on the evidence presented during the sixth stage of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (which focused on boarding schools in Scotland), the Scottish Government requested that the Registrar of Independent Schools develop guidance for the proprietors of independent schools (the term ‘proprietors’ here assumes the meaning given in section 135 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, i.e. the managers of the school; which could be a governing body, trustees, or other person or body of persons responsible for the management of the establishment).
This guidance is not statutory, however, it does relate to statutory and other legal obligations on proprietors. The guidance is not intended to provide an exhaustive list of actions and responsibilities. As ever, proprietors will wish to seek independent legal advice where appropriate to satisfy themselves that they meet their legal obligations.
For further guidance, proprietors may wish to contact HM Inspectors, the Care Inspectorate, Registrar of Independent Schools, GTC Scotland, or the Scottish Council of Independent Schools for advice.
Beyond the guidance, regulation, and legislation that exists to enforce the good running of independent schools, and their primary objectives of keeping children and young people safe and facilitating their continued high-quality education, it is for proprietors to look to their individual contexts and develop robust and reliable means of challenging and improving practice.
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