Every academy in England is run by a ‘trust’, whether these are Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), which operate and oversee a number of academies, or single academy trusts that are only responsible for one academy. Though there is strength in numbers, from being able to access wider resources to sharing knowledge and expertise, the scale of MATs can pose significant challenges when it comes to the practicalities of safeguarding.
Given that Multi-Academy Trusts will span multiple school sites, often encompassing thousands of pupils and a sizeable staff force, this can give rise to inconsistencies in the safeguarding processes taken by each school. Achieving an approach that promotes the highest standards of protection for children in every academy within the MAT requires consistency and collaboration.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the greatest safeguarding issues that MATs face, and the tools that can help to support with their unique needs.
What are the key safeguarding challenges facing MATs?
While there are many positives to operating MATs, due to the complex nature of an institution with lots of working parts, they can face a wide range of difficulties when it comes to safeguarding. Some of the most significant of these challenges include:
- Coordination across member schools
Coordinating safeguarding efforts across an entire MAT can be a daunting experience. The scale of the challenge involved is massive, particularly when you factor in the diverse nature of member schools, each with their own unique needs and circumstances. Disparate safeguarding teams can become disconnected and unaware of the activities and processes in each academy, while standardised approaches may not be suitable for the unique needs of individual schools.
- Continuity and consistency between systems
Across newly formed MATs or following any changes in MIS systems for example, there can be a wide range of different tech platforms and IT policies in place. The inconsistencies between these crucial systems can put students at risk, as when systems don’t link up, critical information for safeguarding can fall through the gaps.
- Communication between and within schools
Effective communication is essential for safeguarding, but when operating multiple schools that may have their own preferred approaches and comms styles, problems can inevitably arise. Fostering collaboration, cooperation and the speedy transmission of data is an ongoing challenge even in a single school setting, and this made increasingly difficult when coordinating multiple academies.
- Securing channels for sharing information
MATs must grapple with sharing sensitive information securely and balancing compliance with relevant data protection requirements. Many have inherited legacy systems that may not be designed or suitable for the quality of information that safeguarding mandates. MATs are faced with challenges to invest in secure digital platforms designed for safeguarding that suit the needs of all their settings, such as encryption, access controls and audit trails to ensure data privacy, confidentiality and integrity.
- Access to data and identifying trends
MATs often become overwhelmed with the sheer volume of safeguarding data. Some of it may be handwritten, or some is on one digital platform and the rest on another. Struggling to access this data can cause issues, particularly when it comes to identifying trends in at-risk students.
How safeguarding solutions can help MATs
MATs are unique in nature and face many complex challenges in their day to day operations. This also means that they stand to benefit greatly from effective safeguarding solutions that can be tailored to meet these unique needs. For example, Ascent Academies’ Trust required support with their ability to categorise specific areas of safeguarding concern in order to comply with KCSIE requirements. With CPOMS software, they were able to achieve this and more, stating: “CPOMS has transformed the way we report, record and monitor Safeguarding across our Trust. It enables a 360 degree perspective of the child or young person and ensures that every contact, incident and concern forms part of the wider case chronology.”
Digital safeguarding platforms like CPOMS are able to record data from across each and every one of a MAT’s member schools, allowing you to more readily capture, monitor and address concerns before they become significant risks for children. CPOMS Safeguarding software provides a clear, effective and secure approach to record-keeping and the shared nature of the platform promotes better collaboration while streamlining safeguarding processes. This makes it much easier to identify behavioural patterns, trends in at-risk students and highlight any areas that need addressing.
At CPOMS we work extensively with MATs to help them address challenges with the consistency and efficacy of safeguarding systems and processes. With CPOMS Engage software MATs are empowered with the ability to securely share sensitive information between academies and central safeguarding teams, allowing them to identify key concerns across settings and maintain a collaborative approach to pupil wellbeing.