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Leadership webinar: addressing self-harm among pupils (video and webchat)

Discussion in 'Senior Leadership Team' started by AndrewFIS, Dec 2, 2015.

  1. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Self-harm appears to be a growing problem among pupils, and is a highly tricky and sensitive issue for schools to address.

    So, as part of the TES Leadership webinar series, I’ll be putting your questions about it to leading lawyer Yvonne Spencer of Veale Wasbrough Vizards.

    We will be discussing schools' responsibilities regarding self-harm and will highlight best practice in handling this sensitive issue.

    Post your questions below now - and, if you can, join in our live web chat on December 4 at 4.30pm.

    Before that, you can watch a video we’ve made in which Yvonne and I discuss the issue, with key advice for school leaders.


    To access all the videos and webinars in the TES Leadership series, plus an exclusive database of grants available to schools, become a TES Leadership subscriber.
  2. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    I no longer work in education, @AndrewFIS (after twenty-odd years, latterly as a member of SLT) but have requalified in law. I specialise in employment law and do a lot of work with teachers experiencing WRS - mostly, of course, sign-posting them to sources of good, experienced, specialist legal advice where union support has been deficient.

    The last webinar on pregnancy discrimination was excellent and I think these are a great initiative.

    Over on Workplace Dilemmas, we are currently inundated with cries from teachers signed off with WRS and leaving the profession in droves.

    May I propose that a timely topic for a webinar sometime soon would be employers' duty in respect of work-related stress?
  3. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    I'm glad you enjoyed the last webinar @GLsghost.
  4. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Thanks for your suggestion. That's a timely suggestion as we have been discussing this as a possibility. We have a series of other topics coming up over the next few weeks, so this would probably be one for the New Year.
    jonnyprestidgetes and GLsghost like this.
  5. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Good afternoon and welcome to the second in our series of webchats aimed at school leaders.

    In a few moments I will hand you over to Andrew, editor of FIS, who will be hosting this week's hour-long webchat.

    Andrew and this week's guest, leadership expert panel member Yvonne Spencer who will be available for the next hour to answer your questions on dealing with the sensitive issue of self-harm and the best practice for schools.

    If you have any questions please submit them below. Don't worry if we run out of time, any unanswered questions will be responded to and posted on this thread later this week.

    I'll now hand you over to Andrew.

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  6. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Hello and welcome to a live webchat with leading lawyer Yvonne Spencer on the issue of self-harm. Welcome, Yvonne.
    Could I start by asking how schools can identify a pupil who is self-harming?
  7. Yvonne_Spencer

    Yvonne_Spencer New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    Thanks Andrew, the main things for schools to recognise in pupils are:

    1. Changes in activity and mood e.g. pupil is more aggressive than normal.
    2. Lowering of academic grades - this is dependent on the good use of data to track grades.
    3. Increased isolation from peers.
    4. Expressing feelings of failure, uselessness or loss of hope.
    5. Sudden change in weight.
    6. Signs of physical abuse e.g. cuts on arms.
    To identify most of these signs, having an effective pastoral system, where at least one member of staff knows each pupil well, is essential.
    bare fun likes this.
  8. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    What should a school do if it is concerned that a pupil may be self-harming?
    bare fun likes this.
  9. Yvonne_Spencer

    Yvonne_Spencer New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    If there are concerns, the non-statutory guidance Mental health and behaviour in schools states that "…there should be an assessment to determine whether there are any causal factors such as undiagnosed learning difficulties, difficulties with speech and language or mental health issues."

    Schools may wish to use the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), which can assist schools in taking an overview and making a judgement about whether the pupil is likely to be suffering from a mental health problem.

    SDQ can be found at: http://www.sdqinfo.com/

    SDQ online version with automatic scoring: http://youthinmind.info/py/yiminfo/

    The SDQ can be completed by the pupil (if 11 or older), a member of staff or a parent. Do remember that only a suitably qualified health professionals can make a diagnosis - so if the SDQ results in an “abnormal” score, which identifies children who are struggling with high levels of psychological difficulties, you should refer the child either for a specific intervention or for a comprehensive assessment by specialist CAMHS.

    Alternatively you may wish to use the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) to assess the pupil's needs, and involve other professionals where there is a concern over the pupil’s health, development, welfare, behaviour, progress in learning or any other aspect of their wellbeing.

    The important thing is for the school to act on the concerns that have been raised about the pupil.
    bare fun likes this.
  10. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    On suspicion that a pupil is self-harming, what is the best first course of action?
    Faircloughkathy and bare fun like this.
  11. Yvonne_Spencer

    Yvonne_Spencer New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    To begin with schools need to think about addressing this in the same way that it would with any other safeguarding concern.

    The matter should therefore be reported to the school's designated safeguarding lead (DSL). They will then refer to children's social services for further advice which may or not involve a response from social services. The DSL should discuss with CSS the need to communicate with the pupil's parents, and if the pupil will not consent to the parent being told, the pupil's age and Gillick competence will need to be discussed. The right to confidentiality can only be overridden where there is a clear risk of significant harm to the child or others.
  12. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    One of our forum members, who wanted to remain anonymous, has asked why is it so important to have a protocol in place for handling self-harm issues?
  13. Yvonne_Spencer

    Yvonne_Spencer New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    There are several reasons, first, the self-harm protocol ensures that all staff are made aware of the importance of dealing effectively with self-harm; and also,so that they know what to do when these things come to light and urgent action is required.

    It also ensures consistency with safeguarding practices in the local area. Pupils also need to to be aware of who they can speak to, so that's a relevant issue too.

    The protocol once embedded with staff, is also evidence of the school's safeguarding practices and this will be important for your Ofsted inspection evidence. The Ofsted framework from September 2015 includes the heading 'Personal development, behaviour and welfare'.
  14. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    For those of you following this thread, please feel free to post your query. Remember to refresh your page to see the updates as they appear.
  15. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Who are the stakeholders in the school who should form part of the self-harm protocol?
  16. Yvonne_Spencer

    Yvonne_Spencer New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    There are a number of key staff in your school who will need to be referred to. This will include the Head or Principal, the Governors and also the Designated Safeguarding Lead and the SENCo. The reason being that self-harm may impinge on these two post-holders' expertise. In relation to SEN, the new SEN framework refers to 'social emotional and mental health'.

    There are also wider roles that become relevant, for example the PHSE curriculum is a ready opportunity to educate pupils on self-harm and mental well-being.

    Some larger schools or multi-academy trusts operate a student support service and many schools offer school counselling services.

    In summary, reflect carefully on your school's practices.
  17. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Typically, what should a protocol include?
  18. Yvonne_Spencer

    Yvonne_Spencer New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    The protocol or self-harm policy may include:
    • An explanation of links to other policies (SEN, Child Protection, social and health education, health and safety and behaviour policies).
    • Roles and responsibilities of Head or Principal, other staff and governors.
    • The requirements of all staff.
    • The expectation on pupils.
    • Expectations of parents.
    • Explain the different types of self-harm.
    • Ensure that there is no stigma attached to self-harm.
    • Any local authority safeguarding protocols that are relevant.
    • Any relevant advice or protocol from the local CAMHS.
  19. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    What action should a school now take to ensure it is prepared for dealing with self-harm?
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2015
  20. Yvonne_Spencer

    Yvonne_Spencer New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    There are a number of things that can be implemented:

    • Have a policy in relation to self-harm which includes the correct approach to confidentiality.
    • Ensure that all members of staff understand that in instances of self-harm, the safeguarding procedure is to be followed.
    • Provide training to staff so that they can learn about self-harm, its risk factors and signs.
    • Work with other agencies (such as the police or children's social services) and ensure you follow locally agreed procedures.
    • Look at how you might use the SDQ or CAF to assess pupils when there are concerns.
    • If incidents do occur, you should ensure that you provide any necessary support to members of staff, so that they can talk about the impact self-harm incidents has on them personally.
    • Ensure that all staff involved keep good written records.

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