Lorraine and I attended the Operation Encompass training. It is a very simple idea which means that as a registered school we are contacted by the police before 9 a.m. if they have been called to a domestic violence incident that one of our pupils may have witnessed or is in some way involved with. This is done so that as a staff we are prepared for that child and any changes in their demeanor in order to make their time in school as supportive as possible. This can be at a simple level such as, if a child has not got their PE kit of lunch money, we will know to work with this and not ask questions that the child may find challenging. On a more complex level it might be that the child may be uncharacteristically withdrawn or aggressive and having been informed we will have an understanding of why this might be the case. We will understand how to approach the parents. It is a non judgemental process and it may save parents the anguish of feeling that they need to explain; we hope that it will assist parents because they will understand without having to say anything, that they can trust us to help the child through the day.
It was a very sobering morning, and what was shocking to Lorraine and I is that the statistics around domestic violence have not improved over the years that we have been involved in education. What we learned was that how pupils are received by schools following such incidents has a lasting impact on their ability to access education. Naturally as school leaders we believe that all our children have a positive experience of being welcomed into school, no matter what their circumstances, but any information that can help our understanding of what a child has experienced will help us with our responses.