Blackheath Conservatoire
The safeguarding of children, young people and adults

February 2018

This policy is designed to promote the safety and well being of (i) children1, (ii) young people2 or (iii) adults at risk who are accessing courses or events at the Blackheath Conservatoire of Music and Arts Limited (the “Conservatoire”), (together the “Vulnerable Learners”).

The Conservatoire is fully committed to promoting the safety and well being of all Vulnerable Learners. Vulnerable Learners have the right to be safe from harm and must be able to learn in an atmosphere free from fear of abuse, neglect and exploitation. Safeguarding is a term that implies a broader remit than ‘child protection’ and relates to the action taken to promote the welfare of Vulnerable Learners and protect them from harm. The Conservatoire must respond to any allegation or concern about abuse and safeguarding. Promoting the welfare and wellbeing of Vulnerable Learners students is paramount.

In common with all charities, the trustees of the Conservatoire (the “Trustees”) have a duty of care towards Vulnerable Learners. An effective safeguarding policy protects not only the Vulnerable Learner but also the Conservatoire and its Trustees, staff, tutors, volunteers, contractors and all others performing duties or services on behalf of the Conservatoire and all agencies working either in partnership or under the auspices of the Conservatoire (the “Conservatoire’s staff”).

The policy is applicable to all of the Conservatoire’s staff. It also covers aspects of work and performance which take place outside of the Conservatoire building.

This Policy must be read and considered alongside the Conservatoire’s Code of Conduct and Complaints Policies, copies of which are circulated to, and signed for, by every member of staff, Tutor, Trustee or volunteer.

  1. People under 18 years as defined by the Children Act 1989 and 2004
  2. People aged 16 or 17 years old
  3. An adult at risk is someone over 18 who may be at risk of abuse by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation. (The Care Act 2014: Department of Health definition of “vulnerable adult”.) [This may include those with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, sensory impairment, mental health needs including dementia, or those who are physically or mentally frail. It is important to remember that some learners might be described as ‘vulnerable’ if they have low self esteem, are socially excluded, belong to minority groups or ethnicity, or have a history of offending or substance mis-use.]

Objectives of the Policy

  •   To explain to the Conservatoire and its staff the responsibilities they have with respect to protecting Vulnerable Learners;

  •   To support the procedures for safe recruiting of employees, volunteers, contractors and others in accordance with the relevant legislation and guidance;

  •   To support the promotion of a safe working environment and a culture of care in which the rights of all Vulnerable Learners are protected and respected

  •  To provide an overview of the legislation surrounding the protection of Vulnerable Learners which sets the context in which people are expected to work

What is a Vulnerable Learner?

  • A child below 18;

  • A young person aged 16 or 17; or

  • An “at-risk” adult

What is safeguarding and promoting the welfare of Vulnerable Learners?

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of Vulnerable Learners is defined as:

  • Protecting Vulnerable Learners from maltreatment

  • Preventing the impairment of Vulnerable Leaners’ health or development

  • Ensuring that Vulnerable Learners are growing up and living in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care

  • Undertaking that role so as to enable Vulnerable Learners to have optimum life chances

All those working with children and young people and vulnerable adults must take reasonable measures to ensure that the risks of harm to children’s welfare are minimised. Where there are concerns about Vulnerable Learners’ welfare, all agencies must take appropriate action to address these concerns.


Safeguarding is the responsibility of everyone working within the Conservatoire.

It is not up to the individual to decide whether a Vulnerable Learner is suffering from harm as a result of neglect or abuse. However, it is the responsibility of anyone working under the auspices of the Conservatoire who suspects that a form of abuse is being perpetrated against a Vulnerable Learner either by someone within the Conservatoire or outside of the Conservatoire, to report these concerns as soon as possible to the Safeguarding Lead.

The Conservatoire’s Safeguarding Lead is Kay Sandford-Beal, the Executive Director. The second nominated person is Mairéad Sheerin, the Artistic Director. 

The Conservatoire’s Staff must be aware of the limitations of their role in cases of suspected abuse and appreciate that although they are seeking to help a Vulnerable Learner they consider to be at risk, their role is only to report their concerns to the persons with responsibility for safeguarding within the institution. It is for the Conservatoire, and, where appropriate, other agencies with statutory powers, to take action beyond the initial referral.

An adult at risk is someone over 18 who may be at risk of abuse by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation. (The Care Act 2014: Department of Health definition of “vulnerable adult”.) [This may include those with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, sensory impairment, mental health needs including dementia, or those who are physically or mentally frail.

Key safeguarding policies

The Conservatoire requires all those working with Vulnerable Learners to consider issues of safeguarding as being of paramount importance. All those working within the Conservatoire will be expected to work within the framework of the Policy and Code of Practice and other, related Policies (specifically the Code of Conduct and Complaints Policy). Employment contracts and contracts for services where someone is interacting with a Vulnerable Learner will include the requirement to adhere to the Safeguarding Policy and the Conservatoire Code of Conduct.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

All employees and volunteers who may come into regular contact with Vulnerable Learners will be subject to an Enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check alongside a Children’s Barring List check in order to work at the Conservatoire. Everyone in this category must have a valid DBS check validated within the last three years. Each DBS should be re-checked every three years after this. The Conservatoire will pay for DBS checks for staff, volunteers, teaching assistants and holiday course Tutors. The Programme and Tutor Manager will administer the DBS checks for Tutors, and the Managing Director will administer the DBS checks for members of staff.

All Tutors who teach children will need to have a satisfactory Enhanced DBS check including a Children’s Barring List check. This can be from any organisation but must be less than three years old. This is particularly important for Tutors’ deputies who are not regular contractors of the Conservatoire. Tutors are responsible for ensuring that their deputies have compliant DBS documents that these must be provided to Reception for scanning and storing before deputies can teach.

The DBS document number and date of issue (and date of check if on the Update service) is recorded under the Tutor information section of Paritor. The pdf/scan of the document is saved in the protected folder “Tutor documentation” of the shared J drive. The Conservatoire follows best practice by not retaining physical copies of DBS documents.

The Conservatoire’s agency usually produces DBS checks within one or two days but occasionally DBS checks can take a number of weeks to be completed, which can make it difficult to ensure that this is done before someone starts working. Any contract of employment or for services will be subject to a valid DBS check being completed within three months of starting working with the Conservatoire.

During the time that a DBS check is being completed, the individual concerned and their manager should ensure they do not have any unsupervised one to one contact with any child or Vulnerable Learner.


The Conservatoire is committed to training all of its Staff in safeguarding policy and procedures, and the Code of Conduct, as part of the induction process. All staff, Tutors and volunteers must undertake safeguarding training annually. The Conservatoire makes use of a statutory, online training programme supplied by Lewisham Council and keeps a record to ensure all staff complete the training at the point of employment and annually thereafter by the end of October each year.

Contact with Vulnerable Learners outside the Conservatoire

More detailed guidance is available in the Code of Conduct. However, the key requirements to ensure good safeguarding procedures are adhered to are summarised below.

Other than in exceptional circumstances and only with the full permission of the Executive Director, Tutors or others working within the Conservatoire must not make visits to the home of any Vulnerable Learner. Should such a visit be deemed necessary, it should usually be made with another senior member of the Conservatoire in attendance. Such visits must only be made once the permission of the parent/carer/guardian of the Vulnerable Learner has been received in writing.

Staff and tutors should not give a Vulnerable Learner a lift in a vehicle except in exceptional circumstances with another adult Staff member present.

There should be no contact with learners under the age of 18 via email, text message or social media

No photography of filming should be carried out without parental and Conservatoire permission. It is essential to follow the code of conduct on images of learners.

The Conservatoire has a Safeguarding/Child Protection Register where any disclosures from a vulnerable learner must be recorded.

Child Protection – where a Vulnerable Learner makes a disclosure to a member of staff
If a Vulnerable Learner makes a disclosure to a member of staff or Tutor, the following guidelines must be adhered to:

  • React calmly so as not to frighten or worry the learner

  • Allow the vulnerable learner to make the disclosure at their own pace and in their own way

  • Avoid interruption, except to clarify what the vulnerable learner is saying

  • Do not probe for information that the vulnerable learner does not offer

  • Record the key elements of the disclosure

  • The content of the disclosure must be recorded on the Conservatoire’s Safeguarding/Child Protection Incident form (attached to this document and available from the Safeguarding leads) within 24 hours and sent to the Safeguarding Leads. This is a legal document and will almost certainly be used as evidence if the incident should progress to the courts. It is signed off by the Chair of the Board. Do not interpret what has been said in any way or give your own opinion. Include the facts clearly and without any commentary using the Vulnerable Learner’s own words where possible.

The person receiving the disclosure should not:

  • Panic

  • Allow their shock or distaste to show

  • Probe for more information than is offered

  • Speculate or make assumptions

  • Make negative comments about the alleged abuser

  • Approach the alleged abuser

  • Make promises or agree to keep secrets

No member of staff or Tutor must at any time agree to a Vulnerable Learner’s request to ‘keep a secret’ when a disclosure is made. The Staff member must inform the Vulnerable Learner that they will have to share what they are told with others if the content of the disclosure is putting the Vulnerable Learner at risk or is impacting negatively upon their welfare or wellbeing.

Staff and Tutors need to be reassured that it is better to be ‘safe than sorry’. It is not wrong to be concerned about the wellbeing of a vulnerable learner: the important factor is how responsible adults react and respond.

What to do if you suspect a learner is being abused

Physical abuse

Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm.

Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer feigns the symptoms of, or deliberately causes ill health to, a child whom they are looking after. A person might do this because they enjoy or need the attention they get through having a sick child.

Physical abuse, as well as being a result of an act of commission, can also be caused through the failure to act to protect.

Possible signs of abuse – look for clusters of these signs:

  • Unexplained burns, broken bones, bite marks, cuts, bruises, or welts in the shape of an object

  • Resistance to going home

  • Fear of adults

Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child's injury
  • Describes the child as "evil," or in some other very negative way
  • Uses harsh physical discipline with the child
  • Has a history of abuse as a child

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill treatment of another person such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the person’s emotional development. It may involve making a person feel or believe that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate or valued only in so far as they meet the needs of another person.

Possible signs of abuse – look for clusters of these signs:

  • Apathy, depression

  • Hostility

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Overly compliant or demanding behaviour, extreme passivity, or aggression

  • Extremes in behaviour, such as being either inappropriately adult (parenting other children, for example) or inappropriately infantile (frequently rocking or head-banging, for example)

  • Delayed physical or emotional development

  • Has attempted suicide

  • Reports a lack of attachment to the parent

Consider the possibility of emotional abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Constantly blames, belittles, or berates the child
  • Is unconcerned about the child and refuses to consider offers of help for the child's problems
  • Overtly rejects the child

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse involves forcing a child or vulnerable person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the person is aware of, or consents to, what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative acts such as rape, buggery or oral sex, or non-penetrative acts such as fondling.

Sexual abuse may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material, or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways. Boys and girls can be sexually abused by males and/or females, by adults and by other young people.

Possible signs of abuse – look for clusters of these signs:

  • Inappropriate interest in or knowledge of sexual acts

  • Seductiveness

  • Avoidance of things related to sexuality, or rejection of own genitals or body

  • Either over-compliance or excessive aggression

  • Fear of a particular person or family member

  • Difficulty walking or sitting

  • Suddenly refusing to participate in physical activities

Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Is unduly protective of the vulnerable person or severely limits the person's contact with others in their peer group, especially of the opposite sex
  • Is secretive and isolated
  • Is jealous or controlling with family members


Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a vulnerable person’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of their health and development. It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter or clothing, failing to protect a person from physical harm or danger, or the failure to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a Vulnerable Learner’s basic emotional needs.

Possible signs of abuse – look for clusters of these signs:

  • Clothing unsuited to the weather

  • Child dirty or unbathed

  • Extreme hunger

  • Apparent lack of supervision

  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parent/carer’s attention

  • Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes

  • Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen

  • Lacks parent/carer supervision

  • Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn

  • Comes to activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home

  • In the case of a child, is frequently absent from school

  • Begs or steals food or money

  • Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunisations, or glasses

  • States that there is no one at home to provide care

Consider the possibility of neglect when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • and child rarely touch or look at each other
  • Shows little concern for the vulnerable learner
  • Denies the existence of—or blames the vulnerable learner for—the learner’s problems at the Conservatoire or at home
  • Asks Tutors or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the person misbehaves
  • Sees the vulnerable learner as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensom
  • Demands a level of physical or academic performance that the learner cannot achieve
  • Looks primarily to the vulnerable learner for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs

How to respond to a child or other learner disclosing abuse

Staff are expected to:

  • Treat any allegations extremely seriously and to act at all times towards the Vulnerable Learner as if they believe what they are saying

  • Tell the Vulnerable Learner that they are right to tell you

  • Reassure the Vulnerable Learner that they are not to blame

  • Be honest about your position as a Staff member, who you have to tell and why

  • Esacalate the issue immediately to the Safeguarding Lead

  • Tell the Vulnerable Learner what you are doing and when, and keep them up to date with what is happening

  • Take further action

  • To write down everything that was said and done immediately including:

  • The nature of the allegation

  • A description of any visible bruising or other injuries

  • The learner’s account, if it can be given, of what has happened and how any bruising or other injuries occured

  • Witnesses to incident

  • Any times, dates or other relevant information

  • A clear distinction between what is fact, opinion and hearsay

Staff must NOT:

  • Make promises that they can’t keep to the Vulnerable Learner disclosing

  • Interrogate the Vulnerable Learner. It is the job of the experienced police and/or social services to investigate the situation

  • Cast doubt on what the Vulnerable Learner has told them and not to interrupt or change the subject

  • Say anything that makes the Vulnerable Learner feel responsible for the abuse

Reporting procedure

Staff should know to:

Report suspicions or disclosures of abuse to the Managing Director as Safeguarding Lead or their Deputy. They are aware that it is vitally important that any disclosure made in confidence is recorded factually as soon as possible and that an accurate account should be made of:

  • The date and time of the events

  • The names of people involved

  • What was said or done by whom

  • Any action taken to gather information and refer on

  • Any further action, e.g. suspension of a Tutor or other person

  • Where relevant, reasons why there is no referral to a statutory agency

  • Names of person reporting and to whom reported

  • The Managing Director will then use appropriate reporting systems for the situation. This may include reporting the matter to social services or the police. Report forms can be collected from the Managing Director’s office and completed forms will be kept in a safe locked place to ensure confidentiality

  • If it is thought that returning the learner home would put them in immediate danger, advice will be sought from social services by the Managing Director.

Whistle-blowing procedure

It is difficult to expect Vulnerable Learners to raise concerns in an environment where staff fail to do so. Therefore, all staff, Tutors, volunteers and others working for the Conservatoire should be aware of their duty to raise concerns about the attitude or actions of a colleague. If necessary they should speak to the nominated Safeguarding Lead or Second Designated Person within the Conservatoire.

All incidents of whistle-blowing will be treated as confidential. However, if, upon investigation, it is found that allegations made via this route are malicious, the Conservatoire reserves the right to take action against the person making a malicious or mischievous allegation.

Our guiding principles are as follows. Further information can be found in the Code of Conduct.

  • Staff are able to share in confidence concerns they may have about another member of staff or a volunteer. Staff, who in good faith report their concerns that a colleague may be or is abusing a child or other Vulnerable Learner, will be fully supported

  • Any allegations of abuse will be fully recorded and reported appropriately and every effort will be made to maintain confidentiality for all concerned. Appropriate support will be offered to the learner, and where appropriate, the parents and members of staff involved

Safeguarding – reporting concern

Within the Conservatoire the persons with responsibility for safeguarding are:

Safeguarding Lead and Designated Child Protection Officer

Name: Kay Sandford-Beal

Deputy Safeguarding Lead and Deputy Designated Child Protection Officer

Name: Mairéad Sheerin

It is not up to the individual to decide whether a Vulnerable Learner is suffering from harm as a result of neglect or abuse, but it is up the individual (responsible adult) to report any concerns as soon as possible to the Safeguarding Lead or their Deputy.

Allegations against staff, Tutors, volunteers or others working within the Conservatoire

All those working within the Conservatoire should take care not to place themselves in a vulnerable position with a Vulnerable Learner.

The Conservatoire understands that a Vulnerable Learner may make an allegation against a member of staff, volunteer or other. If such an allegation is made to the Conservatoire, the member of staff receiving the allegation shall immediately inform the Safeguarding Lead or their Deputy. The person against whom the allegation is made will be informed immediately by the Executive Director.

Any investigation will be dealt with under the terms of the Complaints Policy, which includes provision for allegations which are considered a safeguarding concern.

Following any allegation, the Executive Director, in consultation with the Chair of Trustees, shall decide whether it is appropriate to suspend the member of staff, Tutor, volunteer or other, from all work and any contact with students and staff at the Conservatoire whilst the allegation is being investigated. The investigation will be carried out by the Safeguarding Lead or a person nominated by them. The Investigating Officer will then undertake an investigation within the terms of the Complaints Policy. The Safeguarding Lead will inform the Trustees of the outcome of the investigation and, where the allegations are found to be partially or wholly substantiated, the Executive Director, in consultation with the Chair of the Trustees, shall decide what further actions should be taken against the individual concerned. If appropriate, this would include informing the police. The person making the allegation and any appropriate parent/carer/guardian will be informed of the outcome of the investigation.

Any member of staff, Tutor or volunteer being convicted of a criminal offence of a nature which impacts on the appropriateness of them working with Vulnerable Learners has a legal obligation to immediately notify the Executive Director who, after consultation with the Chair of the Trustees, will consider whether the said employee, contractor or volunteer should continue their involvement with the organisation. The Conservatoire reserves the right to withdraw offers of employment with immediate effect if matters of concern are identified through the recruitment procedure.

If any of the following incidents should occur, you should report them immediately to another colleague and make a written note of the event. Parents should also be informed of the incident:

  • if you accidentally hurt a Vulnerable Learner

  • if he/she seems distressed in any manner

  • if a Vulnerable Learner appears to be sexually aroused by your actions

  • if a Vulnerable Learner misunderstands or misinterprets something you have done.

Code of Practice for staff, tutors and others working within The Conservatoire

Aside from specific advice and guidance in the foregoing, the Conservatoire’s Code of Conduct outlines in detail the expectations the organisation has in terms of personal and professional behaviour. These standards apply to all those who have interactions with the Conservatoire, whether Tutors, core staff, Trustees, volunteers, or others. All those who have a relationship of this sort with the Conservatoire receive, sign for, and are obliged to abide by, the Code of Conduct. Failure to do so may lead to action including disciplinary action up to and including dismissal from any paid or voluntary role within the Conservatoire.