How to safeguard students from the toxic trio

Astrid Schön

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Neglect, abuse, safeguarding issues never happen in isolation:  they always overlap. There are three main features that lead a child being harmed and then placed on a 'child in need plan' or a 'child protection plan'.


When we have to make a referral to Children's’ Social Services, we often find that the pupils have lived in conditions where they were affected by a multitude of issues.

So many of our students have been victims of domestic violence or have witnessed their parents being victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. Growing up in a household where DV is a regular feature from a very early age is traumatic and can cause extreme behavioural issues in children, leading to problems in all aspects of their upbringing.


"In ‘How safe are our children’, the NSPCC stated in 2014 that ‘1,796,244 children in England live in households where there is a risk of domestic violence’."

Domestic violence can be a symptom of parental mental health and substance abuse. All three features are present in the majority of cases we refer to social services.

We know that a child’s environment is crucial to their development, their health, safety and well-being.
Research has shown that there is an overlap between these parental risk factors and are the reason for injuries and even death of children.

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As a rule, this overlap of risk factors causes poor outcomes for children of all ages in all aspects of their development, ranging from their own mental health, substance abuse, educational outcomes, job prospects, future relationships and so on.

The report from the NSPCC also states that 250,000 to 978,000 children have a parent who misuses drugs and that 920,000 to 3.5 million children in England are affected by parental alcohol problems.

It is estimated that up to 2 million children live with parents that have mental health problems.

The scale of the problem is far-reaching and demonstrates how vigilant schools have to be when it comes to safeguarding their students. Child protection and safeguarding is not the responsibility of Children's’ Social Services alone – these agencies rely on schools for information and referrals.

A school’s Child Protection officer relies on all members of staff to report when they notice something untoward, a child in crisis, a child in need of support and protection.

It is all our responsibility to ensure that the children in our educational provision are cared for and that we all know the lines of referral should we have concerns.



About our Community Expert


Astrid Schön
Community Expert

With 15 years of experience in mainstream schools and over four years in alternative provision, Astrid has worked with the most able as well as the most disadvantaged students in London.

She is currently the Deputy Head at London East AP, the pupil referral unit in Tower Hamlets, one of the largest in the UK, leading on many teaching and learning initiatives to address underachievement of students in both mainstream and AP. Astrid also leads on curriculum development, assessment and strategic development of the pupil referral unit.

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