Reporting Signs of Abuse

Teachers and youth workers are often the first professionals to notice signs of potential child abuse, or to hear a disclosure of abuse from a child or young person. A consistent relationship of trust, such as the relationship between a teacher and child, can encourage youth to share their concerns and worries, and seek help and advice.

Educators and youth professionals have a key role to play in ensuring children are protected from harm. A school or organisation’s child protection policy should be updated and shared regularly, with training on the policy for new members of staff. This will help to ensure every member of the school or organisation understands the various forms of child abuse, potential signs and indicators, how to manage a disclosure of abuse, and report concerns or disclosures to the relevant authorities, ensuring appropriate follow up.

There are four forms of child abuse:

  • Physical Abuse – including hitting, kicking, throwing, or burning a child.
  • Emotional Abuse – damaging the child emotionally, including communicating to the child their unworthiness, imposing unrealistic expectations, belittling or silencing the child, etc.
  • Sexual Abuse – forcing or inciting sexual activity with a child. This may or may not involve physical contact.
  • Neglect – failing to meet a child’s basic needs, including clothing, shelter and adequate food, and failing to protect a child from harm.

Teachers and professionals should be vigilant for signs of abuse in children and young people of all ages, and should be aware that abuse can occur in the virtual world as well as in the ‘real world’, such as a young person being victim to sexual abuse through contact with a person online.

A member of staff with concerns about a child, or to whom a disclosure has been made should immediately follow the steps outlined in their school or organisation’s child protection policy.

Additional Support

  • Report online child sexual abuse to the Internet Watch Foundation.
  • Report online abuse, harassment or cyber bullying to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
  • For advice and support, contact the Children’s Services Department of your local council, contact a social worker via your local Intake and Assessment department, or in an emergency contact the police by dialling 999.
  • If you are worried about a child you can contact the NSPCC’s free, 24/7 child protection phone line for advice or support on 0808 800 5000.