The evolution of expectations for school communities on safeguarding & child protection
The evolution of expectations for school communities on safeguarding & child protection
Ray Davis



By Ray Davis, International Education Advisor, Former CIS Associate Director/Director School Support & Evaluation

 

 

An unsettling scene in 2014

The international education world was rocked by the revelation of child abuse by a trusted member of the community in 2014.

The realisation that the international school community was vulnerable to infiltration by perpetrators of child abuse and child exploitation and that these perpetrators could be trusted and respected members of our educator community encouraged the leaders of seven international education associations(1) to come together to form The International Task Force on Child Protection (ITFCP). 

 

‘ ... existing policies and practices within international education were insufficient to effectively protect young people in international schools from exploitation and abuse.’

 

A global collaboration to move from reactive to proactive safeguarding

The ITFCP’s first task was to appoint Jane Larsson, CIS Executive Director, as Chair.

Jane understood that no one sector, organisation, or individual alone could bring about the successful protection of children and young adults in international schools. It required the global collaboration of international educators, recruitment specialists, global and national law enforcement agencies, and experts in the field of child protection. 

Jane’s energetic, determined, and persuasive actions were instrumental in leading members of the ITFCP to realise that existing policies and practices within international education were insufficient to effectively protect young people in international schools from exploitation and abuse.

While many schools were mindful of the need to promote better safeguarding and child protection protocols, there was no pressing incentive to do so. Many school boards and leaders also lacked knowledge about developing and improving safeguarding practices.

Under Jane’s leadership, the ITFCP resolved to produce recommendations for schools and identify resources to support schools in implementing safer recruitment practices and designing school policies and practices for safeguarding and child protection.

Colourful origami from ball to flying bird

 

To achieve this, the ITFCP set up the School Evaluation Committee and the ITFCP Safer Recruitment Committee. And I was honoured that Jane asked me to chair the School Evaluation Committee.

Our brief was to collect, review, and assess current external processes, standards, and indicators used to regulate, evaluate, and monitor school practices designed to ensure child protection and safeguarding and determine the measures needed to ensure their effectiveness.

The committee comprised serving international school leaders, child protection professionals, representatives from regional international school associations and representatives from accreditation/inspection agencies.

Research & recommendations for school evaluation

The Committee conducted extensive research into effective child protection practices, consulted a wide range of professionals in the field of international education and child protection(2), and reviewed existing requirements of school evaluation, accreditation and inspection agencies operating within national and international contexts. 

Their recommendations for accreditation, inspection, and evaluation agencies considered the requirement for schools to conform to legislation within the countries they operated and the extent to which each agency was subject to the legislation, regularity framework, and expectations of their sponsoring organisations and governments. 

The Committee’s fundamental belief was that school boards and leaders have the ultimate responsibility to ensure high-level safeguarding and protection for their students, and a strong values statement and robust policies and practices should underpin this. 

The Committee’s recommendations fell into two sections:  

  1. ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS that must be comprehensively considered and which form the basis of whole-school community dialogue on the school’s policies and practices related to safeguarding and child protection.
     
  2. A set of comprehensive EXPECTATIONS that school evaluation, accreditation, and inspection agencies adopt as essential requirements within their evaluation programmes. 

The recommendations were published in November 2015.

 

‘School boards and leaders are ultimately responsible for ensuring high-level safeguarding and protection for their students.’

 

The results of the June 2015 Training Needs Survey of schools conducted by ITFCP, in cooperation with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), demonstrated the need for such comprehensive standards to be universally adopted and the need to provide appropriate and effective training to enable schools to meet these standards.

A universal approach to adopting robust standards

Jane understood that schools would not universally adopt the ITFCP recommendations unless compelled to implement more robust child protection standards.

Her way forward was to lead all major accreditation and evaluation agencies, beginning with her organisation, the Council of International Schools (CIS), to adopt the recommendations and make them compulsory elements of their accreditation/evaluation requirements.

As Chair of the School Evaluation Committee, I was tasked with bringing together as many international and national accreditation, inspection, and evaluation agencies from across the globe as possible.

We aimed to ensure that the recommendations of the School Evaluation Committee were incorporated into the evaluation protocols of each agency.

While the agencies engaged in collaborative dialogue, there was also a certain level of rivalry. I was unsure to what extent all agencies would be willing to cooperate on this venture.

However, after many hours of phone and Skype calls (before the days of Zoom and Teams!) and meetings in several global locations, we had an agreement from ten(3) major international and national agencies.

A historic memorandum

It was a significant and historic milestone moment when the memorandum of understanding was signed in February 2016.

All ten agencies agreed to endorse the ITFCP’s recommendations and provide unreserved support for child protection in accredited/inspected schools. Other agencies joined later.

In early 2016, CIS incorporated the ITFCP recommendations in its revised accreditation protocol. Soon after, the recommendations were incorporated into the accreditation/inspection protocols of the other agencies.

Direct guidance and support were necessary to ensure that schools fully understood and implemented the improved child protection and safeguarding standards. To that end, CIS initiated a series of CIS Child Protection Workshops at foundational and deep-dive levels.  

Holistic learning guided by expertise from outside our community

The CIS workshops continue to be facilitated by global experts in the fields of safeguarding, forensic psychology, counselling, crisis communications, law enforcement, child safety, sexuality education, classroom practice, safe recruitment, accreditation, and inspection. These remarkable individuals contribute their insights and guidance to other related resources for CIS members. (Each workshop provides biographies of the people who guide us).

When CIS promotes these—now very popular—workshops and events, they often mention how this learning content can be confronting to engage with but is absolutely and undoubtedly essential for anyone working with children and young people.

Ten years on

Here we are, ten years later. The results of all this global collaboration can be seen in the greatly improved awareness of the fundamental importance of safeguarding and child protection and the implementation of child protection policies and practices in international schools worldwide.

Most importantly, the rigorous adoption of safeguarding and child protection measures goes some way to ensuring the safety of children and young people in the care of our international school community, and our schools are no longer as prone to infiltration by the perpetrators of child abuse and child exploitation.

However, it does not mean that the international school community can be complacent about the protection it provides for students.

Our continued focus remains vital

Continued review of the standards and practices is essential, continued high-quality training must continue to be provided, and schools must constantly assess the effectiveness of their procedures and policies.

It’s vital that we all—school boards and leaders, evaluation and accreditation organisations and agencies—continue prioritising our safeguarding and child protection work.

 


(1)    Founding Members of the International Task Force on Child Protection

  • Colin Bell, CEO, Council of British International Schools (in liaison with BSME, FOBISIA, LAHC and NABSS)
  • Bambi Betts, Executive Director, Academy of International School Heads
  • Christine Brown, Regional Education Officer for Europe, U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Schools
  • Linda Duevel, President-elect, Association for the Advancement of International Education
  • Roger Hove, President, International Schools Services
  • Jane Larsson, Executive Director, Council of International Schools (Chair)
  • Kevin Ruth, Executive Director, ECIS, the Education Collaborative for International Schools

(2)    The School Evaluation Committee consulted and received input from the following:

  • Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA)
  • AdvancED (now Cognia)
  • Academy of International School Heads (AISH)
  • British Schools of the Middle East (BSME)
  • CfBT Education Trust
  • Council of International Schools (CIS)
  • Council of British International Schools (COBIS)
  • ECIS, the Education Collaborative for International Schools
  • Federation of British International Schools in Asia (FOBISIA)
  • International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • Independent Schools Inspectorate, UK (ISI)
  • Latin American Heads Council (LAHC)
  • Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA)
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • PENTA International
  • U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Schools
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Focus groups of Heads of international schools
  • Independent Child Protection consultants with medical, psychology and forensic expertise
  • Legal and Law Enforcement agencies
  • ITFCP members
     

(3) Signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding February 2016 

  • AdvancEd (now Cognia)
  • CfBT Education Trust
  • Council of International Schools (CIS)
  • Council of British International Schools (COBIS)
  • International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • Independent Schools Inspectorate, UK (ISI)
  • Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA)
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Penta International
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

 

Learn more about the International Taskforce on Child Protection (ITFCP)child protection in the CIS community, review the schedule of upcoming foundational and deep dive CIS Child Protection Workshops and resources.

 

The evolution of expectations for school communities on safeguarding & child protection