An investigation has been held by senior staff and further safeguarding measures put in place at Upton Junior School following concerns raised by parents over PE changing conditions for their children.
Around six parents complained to the school in Broadstairs and/or to the Kent County Council safeguarding children board about their children feeling uncomfortable with a male staff member coming into the room while they were getting changed.
One mum, who asked not to be named, said she was told the teacher came into the room on a number of occasions to hurry the children up but her child had only been wearing her knickers and had felt “embarrassed and upset.”
There is no suggestion of untoward behaviour but parents say they want ‘appropriate’ measures put in place.
The mother added: “The girls are nine and ten and so some are developing more quickly than others. Some girls have not reached that stage and so would not bat an eyelid but others have and were uncomfortable with the teacher coming in and the door being left open so boys could see in.
“I felt it wasn’t acceptable. The school needs to have a policy in place and to be aware of what is and what isn’t acceptable.”
The mum says she is pleased Upton is taking action and said simple solutions, such as calling out or knocking before entering the room or asking a female teaching assistant to go in, would satisfy safeguarding needs.
Children’s charity the NSPCC says there is no current legislation around safe PE changing practices in primary schools but best practice would involve steps such as an adult entering the room alerting pupils first by announcing it to give themthe opportunity to cover up if they want to and, where possible, female staff supervising girls and male staff supervising boys.
‘Best interests of pupils and staff’
Upton school said parents’ concerns are taken seriously and measures will be taken immediately to “act effectively in the best interests of our pupils and staff.”
In a statement the school said: “A full investigation has been held by senior members of Upton Junior School following concerns raised at the end of the school day.
“Our rigorous safeguarding procedures are at the core of our investigation to address parents’ concerns, which we take seriously.
“It is usual practice for any member of staff- male or female- to be involved in some form of supervision of the children when getting changed for PE.
“We have already discussed measures to further safeguard the issue of changing for PE above and beyond our required policy and this will be put into effect immediately. We are very keen to listen to our parents’ concerns and to act effectively in the best interests of our pupils and staff.
“Our Safeguarding Lead who headed the investigation has already contacted the parents involved to advise them of our immediate response – the parents will be informed following the outcome.
“All members of staff are trained in safeguarding and have DBS checks. These are regularly updated.
“The Viking Academy Trust, of which Upton is a partner member, has a rigorous and regularly reviewed policy about changing for PE.
“It is written and implemented following guidance from the DfE: specifically, Keeping Children Safe in Education.”