Expository Essay on Contact With Pupils: How Practitioners Can Take Steps

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Sewanee University of the South
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A significant element of a practitioner's role in protecting themselves would be to read policies and procedures that are put in place to safeguard them and children or young people in their care. In a school setting, a professional can protect themselves. All staff in schools should ensure that their relationships with pupils are appropriate to the age, gender, disability, and ethnic origin of the pupils, taking care that their conduct does not give rise to comment or speculation. Attitudes, demeanor, and language all require care and thought, particularly when the staff of either sex is dealing with adolescent boys and girls. Dress and Appearance: A person's dress and appearance are matters of personal choice and self-expression.

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However, it is necessary and wise for staff to consider the manner of dress and appearance appropriate to their professional role, as opposed to that which may be adopted in their personal life. Dress and Appearance A person's dress and appearance are matters of personal choice and self-expression. However, it is necessary and wise for staff to consider the manner of dress and appearance appropriate to their professional role, as opposed to that which may be adopted in their personal life.

Physical Contact With Pupils

Gratuitous physical contact with pupils: A pupil, parent, or observer may misconstrue physical contact. Such contact can include well intentional informal and formal gestures such as putting a hand on the shoulder or arm, which is repeated with an individual pupil could lead to serious questions being raised. Therefore, as a general principle, employees must not make gratuitous physical contact with pupils and it is unwise to attribute touching to their style or as a way of relating to pupils. Repeated physical contact with a pupil may be unprofessional and may lead to disciplinary procedures or an allegation of physical/sexual abuse. Any form of physical punishment of pupils is unlawful, as is any form of physical response to misbehavior unless it is by way of restraint. It is particularly important that staff understand this, to protect their position and the overall reputation of the school. Where physical contact may be acceptable: There may be, especially with younger children, occasions where a distressed pupil needs comfort and reassurance, which may include physical comforting.

Such reassurance could, for example, involve an arm around the shoulder or a comforting hug. Employees should use their discretion in such cases to ensure that what is, and what is seen to be by others present, normal, and naturally does not become unnecessary contact, particularly with the same pupil over a period of time. Where an employee has a particular concern about the need to provide this type of care and reassurance he/she should seek the advice of the Head. It is clear that those working with infants and young children have quite a different role to play from those involved with secondary school age or maturing children in primary/secondary/special schools.

Some young children may need a great deal of comfort and support to help them deal with day-to-day experiences in school life. Caring for Pupils with Particular Problems: All children have a right to safety, privacy, and dignity when contact of an intimate nature is required (for example assisting with toileting or removing wet/soiled clothing). A care plan should be drawn up and agreed upon with parents for all children who require intimate care on a regular basis.

Children should be encouraged to act as independently as possible and to undertake as much of their own personal care as is practicable. When assistance is required, staff should ensure that another appropriate adult is in the vicinity and is aware of the task to be undertaken. First Aid and Administration of Medication: When administering first aid, staff should ensure that another adult is present, or aware of the action being taken, whenever possible. Parents should always be informed when first aid has been administered.

Pupils may need medication during school hours. In circumstances where children need medication regularly, a health care plan should be drawn up to ensure the safety and protection of pupils and staff. With the permission of parents, the children should be encouraged to administer the medication themselves. If a member of staff is concerned or uncertain about the amount or type of medication being given to a pupil, this should be discussed with the appropriate senior colleague at the earliest opportunity. See DOH/.DfES Guidance: First Aid for Schools Private meetings with pupils: Teachers should be aware of the dangers that may arise from private interviews with individual pupils.

It is recognized that there will be occasions when confidential interviews must take place but, where possible, such interviews should be conducted in a room with visual access, or with the door open, or in a room or area which is likely to be frequented by other people. In their dealings with pupils at school, staff needs to be aware that their actions may be misinterpreted. Acts of favoritism should be guarded against, for instance, giving a pupil an unreasonable amount of private individual attention. Giving a pupil regular lifts home is not a sensible course of action. Infatuation: Staff needs to be aware that pupils can be strongly attracted to a member of staff and may develop a heterosexual or homosexual infatuation. All situations should be responded to sensitively to maintain the dignity of all concerned.

Staff should also be aware that such circumstances always carry a high risk of words or actions being misinterpreted and for allegations to be made against staff. A member of staff who becomes aware that a pupil may have developed an infatuation (on themselves or a colleague), should discuss this at the earliest opportunity with a senior colleague so that appropriate action can be taken where necessary. In this way, steps can be taken to avoid hurt and distress for all concerned. Staff needs to be aware that it is not uncommon for a pupil to develop an infatuation with a member of staff. Curriculum: The curriculum can sometimes include or lead to an unplanned discussion about the subject matter which is sexually explicit, or of an otherwise sensitive nature. Responding to pupils' questions can require careful judgment and staff may wish to take guidance in these circumstances.

Educational Visits and Extra-Curricular Activities

All staff should be particularly careful when supervising pupils in a residential setting such as a field study trip or other extended visits away from home. Similarly, the less formal approach perhaps adopted in extracurricular activities generally might be open to misinterpretation. Although more informal relationships in such circumstances tend to be usual, the standard of behavior expected of staff will be no different from the behavior expected within schools. Young people are entitled to respect and privacy when changing clothes or taking a shower. However, there needs to be a required level of supervision to safeguard young people and satisfy health and safety considerations and ensure that bullying or teasing does not occur. The supervision will need to be appropriate to the needs and age of the young people concerned.


In certain situations, staff or volunteers may be required to transport children. Given the potential risks, a designated member of staff should be appointed to plan and provide oversight of all transporting arrangements and respond to any difficulties that may arise. Wherever possible and practicable it is advisable that transport is undertaken other than in private vehicles, with at least one adult acting as an escort. Staff should ensure that their behavior is safe and that the transport arrangements and the vehicle meet all legal requirements. They should ensure that the vehicle is roadworthy and that the maximum capacity is not exceeded.



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