Identifying and Responding to Child Neglect within Schools: Differing Perspectives and the Implications for Inter-Agency Practice

Victoria Sharley - Child Indicators Research


Child neglect is the most common reason for a child to be placed on the child protection register in Wales. Due to their central position within the community, schools provide opportunities for staff to observe children’s interactions with peers and family members, five days a week, over an extended period of time and development. Although literature acknowledges schools as pivotal sites for the identification of child maltreatment, little is known about the manner in which school staff recognise and respond to child neglect in their roles. This paper brings new understanding about the way in which child neglect is identified by school staff in Wales. The mixed method research design comprises two phases: quantitative social work case file analysis, qualitative semi-structured interviews and non-participant observation. This paper presents two key findings from the thirty interviews with staff in mainstream schools undertaken within the second phase of the study. Findings emphasise the presence of differing professional perspectives between school staff and social services: firstly the identification of child neglect within the boundaries of the school, and secondly the interprofessional challenges which exist for school staff when responding to child neglect. Findings have important implications for future policy and practice in the delivery of school-based service provision, and broader messages for the development of effective inter-professional relationships between staff in all universal services and statutory services when supporting and protecting children who are suspected of living with neglect.

This article is part of the special issue of the Child Indicators Research journal, focused on child neglect.