CHILD PROTECTION PROTOCOL TRAINING IN SPAIN: TEACHER´S RECOGNITION AND REPORTING OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT
While reporting of child abuse and neglect has become mandatory for all school staff in Spain, training for professionals working in educational settings is still inexistent or conducted on a voluntary and personally driven basis. This work describes the process followed by an international school located in Spain, to design and implement a child protection protocol. It also examines the educational program on child protection procedures, conducted as an initial effort to make this type of knowledge accessible for all people working with children in the school. The aim of the training was to introduce the recently created protocol in order to improve teacher´s awareness, recognition skills, personal confidence and practical knowledge on how to report suspected cases of abuse or neglect. Since the vast majority of Spanish teachers had never received any prior education on child protection, some challenges in shaping the best possible type of course are shared here. On the other hand, most foreign staff -despite being more familiar with these issues- was completely unaware of the local institutions and also of national regulations by which our school had to abide. It was important to communicate the specifics of the reporting steps that had to be followed by all staff, in any procedure regarding reporting a breach in children´s safety. After careful planning and consideration, the training was designed and delivered by the guidance counsellor´s team, during a professional development day for all teaching, support and assistant staff. The session was structured as an intensive four hours’ workshop, divided into: instructional conference, practical work in multidisciplinary groups and case studies presentation by the local social services authorities. Data from a survey conducted with all participants is used here to explore teachers perceived changes as a result of the professional development day. In conclusion, shortly following completion of training, most participants expressed an improvement in the knowledge of: both the local region and national legislation on child protection, the different types of abuse and neglect, indicators for different types of abuse and neglect, how to talk to students upon disclosure and steps to follow when there is a suspected case of abuse or neglect. In the future, the Spanish regulation for teaching and support staff in schools, should evolve to resemble more that of countries such as the USA, where periodical child abuse recognition and reporting training is a requirement to be accredited and allowed to work with children in any educational environment. In the process of designing and implementing a child protection protocol, school provided training can be a useful mean to support all staff in fulfilling their role and responsibility in safeguarding the children´s safety and well-being.