Buckinghamshire County Council

An inspiring approach to Safeguarding Techniques

Steps has been working collaboratively with Buckinghamshire County Council for a number of years, designing and delivering an innovative programme to address Safeguarding.


All organisations need to conduct interviews as part of their recruitment process. However 'getting the right person for the job' is especially important for schools. Following legislation and inquiries - such as the Bichard Inquiry after the murders of two children in Soham - the government has created a Safeguarding Agenda, which provides recommendations aimed at protecting the safety and welfare of children.

Buckinghamshire County Council has responded positively, by working with Steps and other partners to create a training workshop for head teachers and governors of primary and secondary schools throughout the county. The programme focuses on building awareness, with Steps highlighting the practical skills needed to interview and recruit new teachers and volunteers in line with the Safeguarding Agenda.

Inspiring approach

The workshop highlights a best practice approach to recruitment in schools and gives the delegates an opportunity to practise their interview skills in live role plays, with professional actors posing as job candidates.

"Schools need rigorous and robust recruitment methods, to verify as far as they can that people are fit to work with children," said Jenny O'Neill, Senior HR Officer at Buckinghamshire County Council. "We developed the content for this workshop and Steps helped us to package it in an interesting and fun way, to make it attractive to the target audience."

Called Safe Recruitment and Selection in Schools, the workshop has run a number of times, with around 20 head teachers and governors attending each session. It emphasises the importance of the Safeguarding Agenda and it highlights all aspects of the recruitment process, including planning and conducting interviews, shortlisting and taking up references.

"This complements other national online training initiatives but the real value of our course is that it helps to practice skills in a realistic setting" said Jenny O'Neill. "It gives people the opportunity and the confidence to look candidates in the eye and to ask sensitive questions such as whether they've ever had an allegation made against them."

In the workshop, the Steps team run a 30-minute interactive drama, emphasising the value of having a structured approach to interviews, with clear criteria for success, and illustrating the need for interviewers to ask open questions and 'drill down' into any area of a person's application that they don't feel comfortable with, challenging where appropriate.

"The Steps team get the audience to contribute ideas and suggestions," said Jenny O'Neill. "They draw out lessons and best practice, using the experience of the audience members. This is a much more effective learning experience than having someone stand at the front and give a lecture."

Live action

Steps then run a live simulation to enable the delegates to put the learning into practice. The delegates are split into four groups and they review applications from three candidates who are applying for a job as a primary school teacher. The delegates then conduct a 15-minute panel interview with each of the candidates.

"The Steps actors are very well-briefed and they create realistic candidates, each of whom has pluses and minuses," said Jenny O'Neill. "The aim is to allow the delegates to practise asking non-technical questions on issues such as team working, planning, their motivations for wanting to work with children and attitudes towards child protection. The delegates have to use their interview skills to get the whole story from each character."

At the end of the simulation, the delegates give each other feedback and they also receive feedback from the members of the Steps team who play the candidates.


Feeback has been overwhelmingly positive and the Council now hopes to apply this training approach to help meet other recruitment needs.

"This style of training could be just as relevant to help those who interview and recruit workers who look after the welfare of vulnerable adults," said Jenny O'Neill. "I'm sure that other councils and public organisations that interview for people who work with children or vulnerable adults would benefit from this approach."

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Quote Mark The Steps actor-facilitators are very well-briefed and they create realistic candidates. They get the audience to contribute ideas and suggestions and draw out lessons and best practice. This is a much more effective learning experience than having someone give a lecture." Quote Mark Jenny O'Neill, Senior HR Officer, Buckinghamshire County Council