Safeguarding students: Listen with the ear of your heart | Dean of Students, Mr Damien Cuddihy
Listen with the ear of your heart. Safeguarding our children is multi-faceted and the role that schools play in keeping children safe is varied and diverse. At the recent EREA National Safeguarding Conference, Robert Fitzgerald, Commissioner of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse said that the greatest learning from the Royal Commission was “What if we had listened to children?.” It sounds logical, but schools, like the wider community, have often felt that a child’s voice is less valued or respected than an adult voice. Fitzgerald also suggests that the greatest challenge in developing a safe culture for our children is our “ability to listen to them.”
From the Royal Commission, eleven safeguarding standards were developed to make institutions safe for children - places where every child is valued and where their rights to safety and wellbeing are respected and upheld. Of particular importance is Standard 2: Children participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously. An environment needs to be created where children feel that they can express their views and are provided opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their lives.
At Terrace, students move through a vertical pastoral care system that aims to provide the opportunity for positive longitudinal relationships to form between students in different year levels and staff. However, the presence of trusted adults in our community goes well beyond the House system and exists both inside and outside of the classroom. In recent years, the College has introduced a Student Voice program, which involves students from all year levels gathering throughout the year to provide feedback on events and decisions that impact them at the College. The feedback from these meetings is then distributed to staff involved in the leadership of those particular focus areas. The insight provided through this process has been invaluable in the evolution of our programs, allowing students to have a greater sense of agency at the College.
Whilst pastoral care structures and guest speaker programs promote a safe school environment, it’s important that as a community we understand the responsibility for safeguarding children lies with everyone. A safe culture at Terrace needs to reflect an environment where the student's voice is valued, and right relationships are nurtured. As trusted adults within the Terrace community, we need to listen with the ear of our hearts to ensure the boys feel that they safely belong to a safe school community.