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Dealing with disclosures in school

Posted by Karen Foster on Sunday, 7 July 2019
Karen Foster
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Concerning safeguarding, a disclosure is when you are told something that indicates that the person is currently, or has previously been subject to a form of abuse.

Keeping Children Safe in Education makes it very clear that safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility, therefore as someone in a position of trust you have a duty of care to ensure that you report all concerns in line with your school’s safeguarding policy & procedures, and also to ensure that you capture accurately what has been told to you.

safe cape

Disclosing that you have been harmed, physically, sexually or emotionally can be a traumatic experience for anyone, much less a child or young person who may have been made to feel that they won’t be believed if they tell, or feel ashamed, embarrassed or to blame about what has happened to them.

They will often fear that there will be consequences for them or others if they ‘tell’, and so may delay disclosing for a long time, or never tell; even if they want to.

Children need to feel that they are being believed by the adults who are there to protect them, therefore it is vital to remember that as a practitioner in a position of trust, you must respond to, and act on any disclosures made to you that express that the child or young person has been harmed.

The Paramountcy Principle within The Children Act 1989 (2004) makes it clear that the child / young person’s voice must be taken into consideration. “The welfare and protection of the child / young person is ‘paramount’, and must come first”.


Anything disclosed to you will need to be recorded verbatim or in the words of the person telling you, so that it is a true and accurate account of what they have said. The child must be told that you have a duty of care to report all safeguarding concerns that are reported to you in line with the school’s’ safeguarding policy and procedures, and you should never promise confidentiality.

Consent to share is not required from the child, however, it may need to be obtained from their parent/carer, unless doing so would put the child or young person at more risk, ie, the allegation is about the parent/carer. In these situations, the DSL would seek advice from children’s social care.

Below are some steps from the NSPCC that should be followed when a disclosure is made:

1. Listen carefully

Avoid expressing your views on the matter. A reaction of shock or disbelief could cause the child to 'shut down', retract or stop talking.

2. Let them know they've done the right thing

Reassurance can make a big impact on the child who may have been keeping the abuse secret.

school halls

3. Tell them it's not their fault

Abuse is never the child's fault and they need to know this

4. Say you will take them seriously

A child could keep abuse secret in fear they won't be believed. They've told you because they want help and trust you'll be the person who will listen to and support them.

5. Don't talk to the alleged abuser

Confronting the alleged abuser about what the child's told you could make the situation a lot worse for the child.

safeguarding hands

6. Explain what you'll do next

If age-appropriate, explain to the child you'll need to report the abuse to someone who will be able to help.

7. Don't delay reporting the abuse

The sooner the abuse is reported after the child discloses the better. Report as soon as possible so details are fresh in your mind and action can be taken quickly.

All concerns need to be reported in line with your school’s reporting procedures; CPOMS, email, concerns form to ensure that the matter is dealt with immediately. If a child is in immediate danger then the matter should be reported to the police.


About our Community Expert



Community Expert

As an experienced practitioner Child Protection, Safeguarding and Behaviour are key areas for much of Karen’s expertise and experience. She has been working with children, young people and adults for over 15 years in a multitude of settings which include dance and performing arts companies, local authorities, youth clubs, education and the welfare to work sector.

Karen’s main expertise is in safeguarding and behaviour management and modification strategies, with her most recent role being a national Safeguarding Lead. Karen has also been a school governor for nine years, two of which have been as Vice-Chair.

Karen has also run a behaviour unit (inclusive PRU) within an Academy and worked with the most disaffected students whose behaviour was disruptive who weren’t accessing the curriculum within the mainstream setting. She has and also worked with disaffected young people within a youth club, most of whom were at risk of permanent exclusion and carried out safeguarding audits whilst working for a multi-academy trust.

Topics: Safeguarding


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