Incident reporting in schools – how effective are existing processes?
Incident reporting in schools happens almost daily but when the pandemic hit, schools faced a critical incident they simply weren’t and could never be prepared for. As a parent, I was so proud when as always school staff stepped up to the plate, going above and beyond to do everything being asked of them whilst ensuring our nation’s children continued to receive the education they deserve.
Whilst Covid-19 hasn’t gone away and schools are still under a lot of operational pressures, it is still important to take the time to regularly examine current processes, recognise the flaws, and identify ways to enhance and improve those processes. As statutory guidance, legislation and indeed technology change and evolve, we must adapt and improve our processes to maximise our teaching and learning time in the classroom.
How flawed are traditional methods of “requesting help”?
It is quite common to use runners for incident reporting in schools however there are two very important flaws we should consider.
I can remember being a runner in both my primary and secondary stage of education. I used to happily run down the corridors with a either a colour card or scribbled note to pass to the school office. It didn’t take me long to work out what the colour cards meant and at the age of being able to read I knew why the teacher needed someone to come to their aid.
As adults, it can be difficult to step outside of our comfort zone, but isn’t that what we ask of every child when we give them the responsibility of getting urgent messages to the office? It can be distressing for a child tasked with delivering an urgent message, particularly if they know one of their classmates is hurt or needs medical help. In addition, children can be easily distracted from a task and as such delay your response to the request for help, which if a medical emergency could be life or death situation.
If we take a step back and look objectively at the use of ‘runners’ we see very clearly the risk to staff and students of potential delays in our response to what may be a critical incident as well as the serious risk this method poses to our compliance with the GDPR. Do ‘runners’ understand they mustn’t read those messages or discuss them with others because of data protection law?
Email has long been the most traditional communication method in every organisation and as a result it is a busy communication tool. Even something marked urgent may not be seen in time and even missed completely, the recipient could be away from their desk, in a meeting or working on something else.
Even once the email has been read, the recipient may need to bring in specialist help to deal with the incident, perhaps by sending them an email… the time it takes for the email to be received, read, triaged and the right staff members bought in to respond wastes valuable seconds and minutes, which are crucial if the incident is of an urgent nature.
Again, if we take a step back and evaluate email as a method of reporting incidents it is not a fast or even a data safe way to report incidents.
Are you looking for ways to enhance and improve your incident reporting?
Often used to support both the email and runner solutions, radios have been embedded in the on-call and incident response processes of most schools for many years. There are a few problems with radios – they can be cumbersome, range-limited and have interference from outside your organisation, I spoke to a school who regularly has the local taxi firm on the same channel as them!
There is a more serious problem with radios, they broadcast indiscriminately, there is absolutely no way to ensure data privacy and that impacts how much they can be used in a serious incident. I have lost count how many times I have been sat in reception areas or in meetings and overheard things that I should not have been party to as a visitor to the school. When you’re dealing with an incident involving staff or students, the information you need to gather to triage and respond to the situation should not be public knowledge.
Another issue I see with radios is the lack of evidence they provide. There is a heavy reliance on the staff members responding to the incident to write up the appropriate incident reports later. I recently spoke to a school where a student had broken their leg on the sports pitch, the following day the school had to call the student’s parents to ask which leg was broken! When faced with stressful situations is it fair to ask staff to remember exactly what happened detail by detail as the incident unfolded or minute details that may have greater importance than realised in the heat of the moment?
And whilst we are relying on any or all the above methods, how is the member of staff that needs help coping?
If a staff member in the classroom is dealing with an evolving incident, be it disruptive behaviour that is escalating into violence or a medical emergency in which a student needs immediate specialist support, how, using the above relied upon methods can we respond quickly and effectively enough to ensure the best outcomes for the student involved and reduce the disruption to learning time?
According to the recent Edurio Staff Working Conditions and Wellbeing survey of more than 10,000 staff in schools and Trusts:
24% don’t feel safe in school
48% find it hard to get support with behavioural issues
65% experience regular disruption to learning
We all know that mental health and wellbeing of students and indeed staff is a major issue at present. Providing fast, effective help and support to staff members during incidents can surely help address at least some of the pressures they face and help them feel less isolated in their classroom, wherever that may be.
teamSOS is the most cost-effective on-call incident response and management solution for schools and Trusts. The app is designed to safeguard staff and students during any type of incident, minimising disruption to learning and ensuring the best outcomes for those involved in the incident. The app provides a fast, effective way for staff to request help, safe in the knowledge that they are connected to the right response team, and that help is on its way. teamSOS gathers and preserves evidence, live, as the incident unfolds, including audio logs from push-to-talk, radio style technology, eradicating the time your response teams need to spend writing post-incident reports.
teamSOS will enhance and improve your existing safeguarding provision and create a safer learning environment for both students and staff.