Those of you who have read my blog on the College website (Pioneering new standards in safeguarding) will be aware that I recently commissioned a full review of our safeguarding policies and practices. This was conducted through Semester One by independent consultant Suzanne Murray of Fairchild Safeguarding – the work was undertaken with the intention of being able to celebrate everything we already do well and to highlight any areas for potential improvement, along with a roadmap for ongoing development. The point at which a new leader arrives always presents lots of opportunities for sense-checking and temperature gauging – this review of safeguarding was by no means the only deep dive I took! However, this is the one I really want to share with you – my aim is to not only meet WA standards, but to excel and to continue to excel. I want to set new standards in providing a culture of care which rigorously supports the safety of our students against any state, national or international standards.
Our aim is to provide an environment that celebrates and empowers all girls, where each individual is nurtured and valued, and where stereotypes are left by the wayside. The Penrhos environment is one where girls are empowered to make decisions for their education that support them in their chosen journey, and enjoy learning in a safe environment where everyone is supported to speak to what she believes in, to freely explore her passions, creativity and academic excellence, and to achieve her personal best. Our vision speaks to an outstanding culture of care which goes beyond what is expected and required to keep children safe, so they can achieve their true potential.
The Fairchild review findings are evidence-based and formulated in the context of a desktop review across a large range of College documentation. The review also allowed for a snapshot of practice, based on virtual meetings with students, staff and parents. Due to the Covid 19 restrictions on travel, it was unfortunately not possible for our consultant to conduct a site visit.
I want to share with you the main findings, as follows:
Fairchild reports strong evidence of the College’s commitment to child safety, with a clear focus on positive relationships and outstanding pastoral support for wellbeing. This is to be celebrated – Suzanne Murray notes ‘a consistent understanding of statutory requirements – the College has embedded the principles of child safety into both policy and practice, with many policies in place and available to staff and parents.’ She goes on to positively observe that child protection officers are members of the College Leadership team and that the child safety agenda is discussed regularly at a variety of forums – ‘there is a large team of well-trained and experienced leadership staff in place, all of whom are clearly committed to supporting all areas of child safety and wellbeing.’
Fairchild reports that our College psychologists have a strong presence and a recognised supportive role – Suzanne notes favourably that our psychologists accept referrals from staff, parents and students and observes ‘it is clear the student voice is sought in the development of the College’s student code of conduct.’
Fairchild describes Penrhos as ‘a listening college … a caring and nurturing environment with a strong culture of support.’ Our open-door policy was evident to Suzanne, who observed that students feel safe here – her report indicates that our girls ‘trust they are supported by adults who care.’ Further, Fairchild noted ‘an impressive use of consistent language when speaking about being safe’. Penrhos is to be commended on its strong sense of inclusivity and belonging.
Whilst bullying was generally mentioned by some students, there were no significant areas for concern. The College clearly promotes understanding with curriculum provision. Fairchild report notes that some secondary students would welcome more opportunity to discuss issues such as consent and peer on peer abuse, amongst other areas I explored in my blog.
The report also notes our strong protective behaviours program, and that it is also available online; Suzanne notes ‘the curriculum is developmentally appropriate for all students, addressing the boundaries between appropriate and inappropriate interactions and when and how to tell when a boundary has been crossed.’ Fairchild observed it was impressive to find a common language and understanding around these issues during student conversations.
In other notes, the report referred to our ‘several student-centred policies which continue the thread of protection – the College works to ensure that material is culturally appropriate, and particular care is given to address the needs of the boarders and our Aboriginal student population.’ Penrhos is also recognised as being strong in the areas of cyber and e-safety, with our provisions including our social media policy and cyber safety team.
I am pleased that the Fairchild report also includes acknowledgement that our students benefit from a wide variety of opportunities to engage in an extensive range of co-curricular activities, which support student wellness and mental health.
Key recommendations include:
- Develop a stronger safeguarding (child safety) message for communication to all stakeholders with a clear point of reference for parents
- Review current data collection, ensuring all stakeholder opinion is sought, and implement / centralise a single cross-College system of reporting and recording
- Develop and implement a Community Cohesion Policy
- Develop a role-specific training tracking database
- Provide bespoke training for all safeguarding and leadership staff
- Review and streamline policies
- Implement an identification system for all adults on campus and communicate simple guidance on how to behave whilst on campus to all visiting adults
In conclusion, Suzanne had the following to say “It has been a pleasure to evidence some good and outstanding practice at Penrhos College and, whilst I have made several recommendations, many are to ensure that the College moves from successful compliance, to being a world leader in safeguarding and child safety.”
So, we have tested our foundations and we have found them to be robust and secure. Now, we will build on them and we will continue to build – we are already in the process of creating an action plan around Suzanne’s recommendations, and we are committed to pioneering new standards in safeguarding, so the Penrhos example may shine as a beacon in safeguarding and child safety across WA and beyond. Please keep checking the Penrhos blog for the latest updates and be part of this important journey with us.