Child Protection Policy

Dramarama is dedicated to developing the potential of children in an environment of safety and security.
Child abuse is an all-encompassing term that encapsulates many ways that a child’s health or development can be damaged by other people. Anything that prevents a child achieving his or her full potential or contradicts the dignity and rights of a child is abusive behaviour.  
In addition to government requirements, our concerns about having an 'Aware Culture’ has always been at the top of our agenda.  The training we offer our staff, the structures we have in place to recruit and monitor teaching staff and the creation of an environment where children can safely express themselves and find their true potential has always been our goal. We have a duty of care to our students, and their parents need to feel confident that as an organisation, we have the safety of their children as our primary concern. 
The purpose of this document is to give a clear picture of the expectations that Dramarama has with regard to Child Protection. There are expectations in terms of how team members should behave with pupils in their care and expectations and duties upon them as adults working in the field of education. 
This document is therefore split into sections, one relating to the standards of professional behaviour that we expect from all of those working at Dramarama, information about types of abuse and instruction on what to do if a particular incident or concern occurs with regard to child protection.
All existing staff and new staff have been given a copy of this policy to read. The Director must ensure that all team members read the policy and sign to confirm that they have read it, and are bound by it.  All teachers must sign one copy of this Child Protection Policy, and a copy must be on file for parents to see if they require it.

Section 1: Recruitment of Teachers
Section 2: Standards of Professional Behaviour
Section 3: Abuse
Appendices

Section 1: Recruitment of Teachers

When thinking about the safe recruitment of teachers the main elements of the process include the following:
1. Ensuring the job description makes reference to the responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.
2. Ensuring that the person specification includes specific reference to suitability to work with children.
3. Obtaining and scrutinising comprehensive information from the required application form, and taking up and satisfactorily resolving any discrepancies or anomalies in cv’s.
4. Obtaining independent professional and character references that answer specific questions to help assess an applicant’s suitability to work with children and following up any concerns.
5. A face-to-face interview that explores the candidate’s suitability to work with children as well as his or her suitability for the post.
6. Verifying the successful applicant’s identity.
7. Verifying that the successful applicant has any academic or vocational qualifications claimed.
8. Checking his or her previous employment history and experience and discussing most recent  employment.
9. Verifying that s/he has the health and physical capacity for the job

Garda Vetting

When thinking about the safe recruitment of teachers the main elements of the process include the following:
1. Ensuring the job description makes reference to the responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.
2. Ensuring that the person specification includes specific reference to suitability to work with children.
3. Obtaining and scrutinising comprehensive information from the required application form, and taking up and satisfactorily resolving any discrepancies or anomalies in cv’s.
4. Obtaining independent professional and character references that answer specific questions to help assess an applicant’s suitability to work with children and following up any concerns.
5. A face-to-face interview that explores the candidate’s suitability to work with children as well as his or her suitability for the post.
6. Verifying the successful applicant’s identity.
7. Verifying that the successful applicant has any academic or vocational qualifications claimed.
8. Checking his or her previous employment history and experience and discussing most recent  employment.
9. Verifying that s/he has the health and physical capacity for the job

Section 2: Standards of Professional Behaviour

If we are to ensure the safety of pupils in our care then it is important that we have a sense of professional standards that complement the development of a safe environment. Everyone working with Dramarama needs to demonstrate safe behaviour in order to protect the pupils in their care and also to protect themselves from allegations of misconduct. Pupils will see teachers as role models. The following are common sense examples of how to create a positive culture and climate.

Good Practice

Always work in an open environment (e.g. avoiding private or unobserved situations and encouraging open communication with no secrets). Never allow yourself to be left alone with a pupil. There may be rare occasions when a confidential interview or a one-to-one meeting is necessary and in such circumstances, the interview should be conducted in a room with an open door or one with visual access. Where this is not possible, the teacher should ensure that there is another adult nearby, and this is particularly important with regard to LAMDA training, which in some cases can be on a one-to-one nature. For the LAMDA training parents need also to be aware that this is done on a one-to-one basis.
It is unrealistic and inappropriate for Dramarama to prohibit physical contact between the teachers and pupils. Touch is very much part of what we do and it is an essential part of the creative interpretation of roles as well as a means of directing movement, encouraging performance and providing comfort and re-assurance. Where physical contact is necessary the teacher should explain the reason. However teachers must bear in mind that even innocent actions can be misconstrued. It is important for them to be sensitive to a pupil’s reaction to physical contact and to act appropriately. No pupil should ever be touched on a part of his/her body or in a way that is indecent. The areas covered by bra and pants in an adult should never be touched except in case of emergency. If there is a reason why you have had to touch a child in these areas then you should record what you have done and contact Dramarama's director to discuss. Touch must always be related to the needs of the pupil rather than to those of the member of the team.
Treat all pupils equally, and with respect and dignity. Dramarama will take positive action to eliminate discrimination against any person or group of people. Teachers should ensure that pupils are protected from discrimination on any grounds, including ability, and challenge discriminating comments and behaviour. Activities should be designed to include all pupils and to promote positive attitudes towards difference.
Maintaining a safe and appropriate adult distance with pupils (e.g. it is not appropriate for any teacher to have an intimate relationship with a pupil or to share a room with them during any overnight school trips).
Conducting yourself in a manner that sets a good example to the pupils. Be an excellent role model – this includes not drinking alcohol in the company of/whilst responsible for pupils.
Giving enthusiastic and constructive feedback rather than negative criticism. 
Securing parental consent in writing if the need arises to administer emergency first aid and/or other medical treatment. First aid given should be recorded in writing and reported to the Director who should then inform the parent or carer.
Keeping a written record of any injury that occurs, along with the details of any treatment given.
Requesting parental consent in advance if staff are required to transport pupils in their cars, or if a pupil expects to leave Dramarama without a parent, i.e. to catch a bus.
Always refer any child protection concerns to the Director of the Dramarama. 
Question any unknown adult who enters the premises and/or who attempts to engage with the pupils. 

Bad Practice

Practices never to be sanctioned: These sorts of behaviours give rise to serious concerns about a teacher, are deemed as gross misconduct, and should be reported. 
Using physical force against a pupil, unless it constitutes reasonable restraint to protect him/her or another person or to protect property. The incident should be recorded in writing, with a witness statement (where possible), immediately afterwards.
Engaging in rough, physical or sexually provocative games, including horseplay. 
Sharing a room with a pupil. 
Using physical punishment. 
Engaging in any form of inappropriate touching. 
Tolerating a pupil’s inappropriate use of language and/or behaviour. This should always be challenged.
Sexually suggestive comments to a pupil, even in fun. 
Sarcasm and bad language.
Reducing a pupil to tears as a form of control. 
Allowing allegations made by a pupil to go unrecorded or not acted upon.
Doing things of a personal nature for pupils that they can do for themselves (e.g. apply sunscreen).
Allowing pupils access to your personal Facebook account or any other ‘Social Networking sites’ or accessing their sites  (for further information please see Appendix 2 ‘The Internet and Social Networking sites’).
Exchanging personal mobile phone numbers with pupils.
Inviting, or allowing, pupils to stay with you at your home, or arranging meetings with them away from the school.

A Safe Environment 

Of particular importance is the control of who comes onto the premises and whether doors can be locked to ensure that unidentified people cannot enter, and that pupils cannot leave without us being aware of it. In doing this we are creating a safe zone. 
Have clear instructions to the pupils that we are teaching as to toilets and rules around their use. It is not realistic to escort children to the toilet on all occasions, and if the toilets are within the safe zone then there is no need to do this. If the toilets are elsewhere then we have to make judgments about escorting pupils to and from them. We need to be aware that the ‘potential’ for abuse comes not only from outside but also from older more capable pupils.
Creating and ensuring that a safe environment is maintained is probably the most important aspect of keeping pupils safe. This involves being thoughtful about potential risk, and planning how risk can be minimised.
Whilst our priority is keeping our pupils safe, we must also recognise teachers or team members can be subject to intimidation and bullying, and we must be aware of any concerns.  These policies are outlined in the Staff Manual.

Section 2: Abuse

What is abuse? Abuse is a form of mistreatment of a child; somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm or by failing to prevent harm. It can take many forms but is usually divided into up to five categories.

Sexual Abuse

This refers to the involvement or enticement of a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative and nonpenetrative acts. Sexual activities may also include noncontact activities, e.g. involving children in looking at, or in production of abusive images, watching sexual activities or encouraging them to behave in sexually inappropriate ways. This may include use of photographs, films, pictures, cartoons, literature or sound recordings e.g. the internet, books, magazines, audio cassettes, tapes, CD’s.
Ultimately it is a corruption of relationship that leaves children damaged and potentially unable to function.
As you are engaged in a professional role with children and young people under 18 years of age you need to be clear that they cannot provide lawful consent to any sexual activity with an adult who is their teacher.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, scalding, drowning, giving children alcohol and/or inappropriate drugs, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer encourages symptoms that are not genuine, or deliberately causes ill health to a child whom they are looking after.
Neglect
Is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in serious impairment of health and development. Neglect is by far the most common form of abuse and may involve a parent or carer failing to:
Provide adequate food, shelter and clothing (including exclusion from home or abandonment). Protect a child from physical harm or danger. Meet or respond to a child’s basic emotional needs. Ensure adequate supervision including use of adequate caretakers. Ensure adequate access to appropriate medical care or treatment. Ensure that educational needs are met. 

Emotional Abuse

Is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child that would adversely affect the child’s emotional development. It may involve:
Conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. This may be verbally or via electronic or written communication.
Imposing age or developmentally inappropriate expectations, for example overprotection or limitation of exploration and learning.
Causing children to feel frightened or in danger for example witnessing domestic abuse, seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another.
Exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill treatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

Bullying

Physical, e.g. hitting, kicking, theft. 
Emotional, e.g. Name-calling, constant teasing, sarcasm, racist or homophobic taunts, threats, graffiti, gestures, ridiculing, humiliating, ignoring 
Sexual, e.g. unwanted physical contact, abusive comments 
The damage inflicted by bullying is often underestimated. It can cause considerable distress to children, to the extent that it affects their health and development or, at the extreme, causes them significant harm (including self harm and suicide). 
Teachers need to be aware that cyber bullying, involving the use of mobile phones and the Internet, is increasingly being used.

Signs of Abuse

It is important to remember that a child may suffer or be at risk of suffering from one or more types of abuse and that abuse may take place on a single occasion or may occur repeatedly over time. There is no absolute criterion on which to rely when judging what constitutes significant harm. The following indicators are signs and symptoms that teachers might notice, that may be consistent with abuse; but children may exhibit them for other reasons too. For this reason any concerns about a child must be raised with the Director at the earliest opportunity.
Sexual abuse :
Frequent unexplained abdominal pains discomfort when walking/sitting
Inappropriate sexual behaviour or knowledge for the child’s age
Promiscuity
Sudden changes in behaviour, including emotional withdrawal or aggression 
Inappropriate sexually explicit stories or performances
Overeating or anorexia 
Substance/drug misuse 
Reports of assault
Physical abuse Frequent or unexplained bruising, marks or injury
Bruises that reflect hand marks or shapes of articles e.g. belts
Cigarette burns 
Bite marks 
Flinching when approached or touched
Unexplained broken or fractured bones 
Scalds
Fear of parent being contacted 
Reports of injury caused by parents
Neglect
Poor hygiene 
Weight loss/underweight 
Inappropriate dress 
Unattended physical problems or medical needs
Constantly tired/listless 
Poor relationship with parent or carer
Behavioural extremes – aggressive/angry outbursts/ withdrawn or violent behaviour
Fear of going home 
Emotional abuse
Delays in physical development or progress 
Sudden speech disorders 
Failure to thrive
Impairment of intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development
Bullying
Stomach aches headaches 
Reduced concentration becoming withdrawn clingy, depressed
Tearful, erratic mood swings 
A drop in performance at school or standard of play

Action: What To Do If You Observe Bad Practice

f you have concerns about a teacher working for Dramarama who shows signs of bad practice in line with the examples given above, then talk this through with the Director. The safe thing is to report concerns and allow others to make a decision about which of these it is.
Even for those experienced in working with child abuse, it is not always easy to recognize a situation where abuse may occur, or has already taken place. Whilst it is accepted that teachers are not experts at such recognition, they do have a responsibility to act if they have any concerns about the behaviour of someone (an adult or a child) towards a pupil. All team members have a duty to discuss any concerns they may have about the welfare of a pupil immediately with the Director.
If a pupil tells you something
When a pupil tells you something or you observe any of the behaviour detailed above, it is important that our actions do not abuse the pupil further or prejudice further enquiries, for example:
Listen to the pupil if they are telling you something. If you are shocked by what is being said try not to show it. It is OK to observe bruises but not to ask a pupil to remove or adjust their clothing to observe them.
If a disclosure is made the pace should be dictated by the pupil.
It is our role to listen not to investigate. Use open questions such as “is there anything else you want to tell me?” or “yes?” or “and?” Try not to press the student or introduce your own hypotheses about what you are being told. 
Accept what the pupil says.  Be careful not to burden them with guilt by asking questions such as “why didn’t you tell me before?”
Do acknowledge how hard it was for them to tell you this.
Don’t criticise the alleged perpetrator, this may be someone they love.
Don’t promise confidentiality, reassure the pupil that they have done the right thing, explain that you will have to tell the Director and inform the relevant body.  It is important that you don’t make promises that you cannot keep such as “I’ll stay with you all the time” or “it will be alright now”.
If you see something of concern
Looking through the list of signs of abuse as set out above can lead people to be hypersensitive to the possibility of abuse, but it is important that if you notice something, particularly any changes in line with the signs of abuse, that you take action. 
After talking with the pupil or noting any concerns this must then be discussed with the Director as soon as possible and no later than the end of the teaching session. If the Director is not available and a child is known to be in imminent danger then you must phone the gardai immediately.
Recording the information
Make some brief notes at the time or immediately afterwards; record the date, time, place and context of the disclosure or concern, recording facts and not assumption and interpretation.

Bullying

Dramarama recognises that pupils who are abused or who witness violence may find it difficult to develop a sense of self worth and to view the world in a positive way.  Being at Dramarama may be the only stable, secure and predictable element in the lives of children at risk. For this reason we would encourage teachers to allow pupils who have made disclosures to ‘feel normal’ whilst they are at Dramarama
Parents play an important role in protecting their children from abuse. We are required to consider the safety of the pupil and should a concern arise the Director’s advice must be sought prior to contacting parents. The reason for this, at this stage, is that it may be that we need to be clear that they are not involved in any potential abuse. We will work with parents to support the needs of their child.
We aim to help parents understand that Dramarama, like other schools, has a responsibility for the welfare of all pupils and has a duty to refer appropriate cases to the gardai and/or Social Services in the interest of the pupil.
Confidentiality
Teachers have the professional responsibility to share relevant information about the protection of children with other professionals, particularly investigating agencies. If a pupil confides in a teacher and requests that the information is kept secret, it is important that the teacher tells the pupil sensitively that he/she has a responsibility to speak to the Director for the pupil’s own sake.  Within that context, the pupil should however be reassured that the matter will be disclosed only to the people who need to know about it. Teachers who receive the information about children and families in the course of their work should have the information only within professional context.

Appendix 1: The Internet and Social Media/Networking Sites

Personal Accounts

Personal Facebook and other Social Networking Sites as they appear and develop must never be used by teachers, teaching assistants or helpers to communicate with pupils. Social Networking Sites are precisely that, ‘Social’. It is essential that you maintain appropriate boundaries to keep those in your care safe.
Pupils and parents of students who come to Dramarama will at times ask if they can be a friend of yours on Facebook or other social networking systems and these requests must be politely declined. It might be helpful to remind both parents and students of this at the beginning of each term.
Some might think that this is an over reaction but the reasons for this rule are clear and are as follows:


1. Social Networking Sites are used by children and young people to maintain contact with friends in the same way as they might phone one another, meet and discuss their lives etc; these are quite rightly things that we as adults do not play a part in. Pupils that you teach are not people that you should be relying on as friends; that would fundamentally change the relationship, and leave pupils and you unsafe. 

2. Even if your motives are pure and you think you are acting appropriately, you leave pupils with the view that it is ‘okay’ to make contact with teachers and other professionals outside the usual school environment. There are some adults who will use the fact that you have breached a boundary with pupils as a way of making their own behaviour seem acceptable, and thereby grooming pupils with a view to abusing them. By not sticking with the rule you are potentially contributing to pupils being abused. As soon as you start to communicate with pupils outside the school environment you begin a process that makes them unsafe.

There is then a clear expectation upon you as a teacher that you should not use your own personal email account or Social Networking Sites to communicate with pupils in our care. Teachers should also consider what material they have on their social networking sites that is accessible to all, and not include material that might cause offence or undermine them in their professional role.

Appendix 2: The Use of Cameras, Mobile Phones, and Digital Recording Equipment

Increasingly, technology is making it easier for video pictures and images to be used inappropriately as printed material or on the web.  Equally inappropriate images and texts can all to easily be shared on mobiles.
It is important that we should take practical steps to ensure that pictures and images of pupils taken, not only by members of the Dramarama staff but also by parents and carers, are done so in a way that reflects the protective ethos of the school.
There should be a commonsense approach to the use of cameras and other recording equipment. We are clear that there will be occasions where teachers, parents and carers will wish to take photographs or make video recordings of their child/children taking part in a performance. 

Staff Should:

1. Tell parents that they have permission to take photographs and videos of their child/children while involved in performances. This information should be given prior to a performance, in writing, to allow for any parents who might object to make their views known to you. In informing them in writing be clear that the Principal and staff have the protection of children as a priority and that you reserve the right to challenge anyone who you think is misusing the opportunity. Explain in line with our Terms and Conditions videos and photographs can be used for marketing purposes.

2. Ensure that photography /video recording only takes place in designated areas.  For example, in the main area where the performance is taking place and not in ‘backstage’ areas. 

3. If you intend photographing or videoing performances on behalf of the school, then have a designated camera or video recorder for staff to use. Give information to parents as to the use of any images, for example a DVD for parents to purchase if they wish, prior to the performances. 

4. Have in mind that there may be those who would want to misuse the opportunity to take photographs and film pupils in your care. If all filming and photography is confined to the performance then you minimise any risk.

Dramarama Cork,

Mount Oval, 
Rochestown, 
Cork, 
​Ireland

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087 975 5764