11. Physical AbuseLet's start with the definition. It isn't in fact all that bad. It misses a couple of categories, but it does catch the main ones. This is the equivalent definition from the London Child Protection Procedures.
This can include, for example, non-accidental cuts, bruises, wounds, burns, fractures, bites, deliberate poisoning, attempted drowning, attempted smothering and fabricated or induced illness.
Possible signs of Physical Abuse
- Unexplained injury or refusal to explain or discuss them
- Cigarette burns
- Long bruises (possibly made by a belt)
- Teeth marks
- Fingertip/nail/slap marks or bruises
- History of bruises/injuries with inconsistent explanations
- Bilateral black eyes
- Self destructive comments, possibly repeated, or tendencies
- Aggression towards others
- Untreated injuries
- Fear of medical treatment
- Unexplained or unaccounted for patterns of absence (to avoid exposure of injury)
Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child.They missed shaking and throwing, but the gist is there. Physical abuse is fairly easy to define, so I would expect this to be pretty good.
Physical harm may also be caused when a parent fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces, illness in a child; see section 5.12. Fabricated or induced illness.
Let's now go on to the signs of physical abuse. The first thing that springs out at me is this “possibly made by a belt”.
This is attempting a diagnosis of the cause of a physical injury which no teacher (including the designated teacher) is competent to make. The wording of the items on this list should not explicitly or implicitly encourage the making of such diagnoses. In the event of an indication of physical abuse, the responsibility should be to pass the concern on, not attempt to diagnose it directly.
Again, the London Child Protection Procedures has a rather more detailed set of indicators, under various subheadings (indicators for concern, bruising, bite marks, burns and scalds, fractures, scars). Not all of them are relevant to school-age children, some of the indicators refer to pre-crawling babies. But it would be better to simply to take the London Child Protection Procedures wording whole both for the definition (section 4.2.1) and the indicators (sections 4.3.6 to 4.3.15) deleting any indicators that are only applicable to children younger than those who attend the school. There is really no need to go in for wheel re-invention here. Use the wording that has been assembled by the experts. It can be copied and pasted from the individual chapters which are available as Word documents on the London SCB website.
Of course, the wording of the policy ought to be supplemented by the Ealing SCB Level C training undertaken by the designated teacher and his/her deputies, so that they are able accurately to recognise signs for concern which should be passed on.