Dear Parents and Carers,
As the designated safeguarding lead for the college I am more aware than ever of the importance of having regular contact with all our students and their families. It is a crucial part of ensuring that the young people in our community are safe and are not being exposed to any significant harm. It is by this regular liaison with our families that we are able to offer advice and guidance to support you, not just in these very challenging times, but at any point in a young person’s educational journey.
Despite the current situation, the college continues to work with a number of agencies who can support families who, for a whole host of reasons face challenges. Some of these may be related to the current pandemic others may be independent of this. However, whatever the reason and whatever the challenge please make us aware of any difficulties you face. In the first instance this is likely to be your child’s tutor or Head of House although over time you may find that you develop a working relationship with one named person. The staff at the college are committed to supporting you and your children but we can only help if we know you are experiencing difficulties. You can contact staff at the college by phoning 01237 477611 and asking for a call back or by email. The email contacts of teaching staff can be found at https://bidefordcollege.org/teaching-faculty-contact-details/ and support staff https://bidefordcollege.org/support-staff-contact-details/.
It is for these reasons we ask students to regularly check emails and respond to any messages from their tutors, Heads of House or teachers. When we don’t receive these responses, naturally staff begin to worry and I have asked that all tutors start phoning home when emails have not been responded to. If a member of staff rings and leaves a message then please return the call on 01237 477611 and choose the option to speak to the pastoral team or respond with a quick email. If we do not hear from students or parents we will have to escalate our concerns to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and ask the local police to complete a welfare check. It is essential therefore, that to avoid using resources that are already stretched to the limits, that students and parents communicate effectively with staff at the college.
Those families who are on a Child Protection plan can expect phone calls from Bideford College and other professionals involved up to three times a week. Families on a Child in Need or Early Help Plan will be contacted once or twice a week dependent on the current situation in the family home. Students with Special Educational Needs who have been allocated a keyworker within the SEN team will be contacted by them on a regular basis, as agreed with parents.
At a time where the majority of students are completing work remotely via the internet we recognise that whilst being an important educational and communication tool, parents may feel concerned about the content their children are accessing. Guidance on keeping children safe on line can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-keeping-children-safe-online/coronavirus-covid-19-support-for-parents-and-carers-to-keep-children-safe-online. Furthermore, the National Online Safety website (https://nationalonlinesafety.com/guides) provide helpful tips for both parents and students to ensure they are keeping themselves safe online. However, please do contact your child’s tutor or Head of House if you would like to speak to somebody from college about an issue.
An issue that that can also be associated with increased screen time is cyberbullying. It is important that parents discuss this with their children. This is particularly true at the moment where a lack of physical contact with their peers may lead to some behaviour which could cause other children upset and distress. For more information on this topic please see https://www.bullying.co.uk/cyberbullying/. Again, please do not hesitate to report any activity that you are concerned about to your child’s tutor.
This is a challenging and uncertain time for all of us and some will inevitably be coping with the situation better than others. Some of you may have children who are displaying extreme anxiety about their change in routine or their lack of time with their friends. Some may be concerned about people in their families becoming poorly, worrying about their parents if their jobs are affected or worrying about how this is going to impact on their own education. It is important for everyone to look after their own mental health and wellbeing at this difficult time.
Please look on the safeguarding section of the college website https://bidefordcollege.org/safeguarding-resources/ for links to websites and organisations which may be useful for parents to access in order to support their children.
Designated Safeguarding Lead