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The case for face-to-face: There should be no shortcuts to safeguarding training

The safety and wellbeing of children who engage in sport and physical activity should be every coach’s number one priority.

Sports Coach UK recognises that safeguarding training is an essential precursor for any coach.

We have 21 years’ experience of equipping coaches with the knowledge to identify potential tell-tale signs of abuse and instilling in them the confidence to respond to any issues that should arise sensitively, appropriately and effectively.

And we strongly believe that, when it comes to initial safeguarding and protecting children (SPC) training for coaches, attending a face-to-face workshop is a necessity.

An average of 30,000 coaches from a wide range of sports and activities complete our specialist safeguarding workshops each year, the content of which is regularly updated to take into account the latest developments in legislation and national guidance.

That adds up to nearly half a million people trained in how to help children feel safe and unencumbered in mind, body and spirit so they are free to have fun and enjoy their sport.

Our flagship Safeguarding and Protecting Children workshop, run in partnership with the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU), has just been updated again to reflect the challenges children in modern Britain face:

  • Vulnerable children and adults

We have worked with the CPSU to develop some new scenarios that take into account additional vulnerabilities these groups may encounter and how we can ensure their voice is always heard in sport.

  • Anti-radicalisation

We have worked with the Police Prevent team to help develop new guidance and scenarios that will help coaches understand the warning signs that a young person may be being radicalised. We have also included information on how anyone with concerns can contact the NSPCC anti-radicalisation hotline.

All-round protection

The workshop doesn’t just help to protect children and vulnerable adults, it protects coaches and organisations too.

By being recognised globally as an example of good practice, it means the certificate your coaches receive after completing the three-hour face-to-face course will itself serve as reassurance to parents and young people that a coach, club or organisation takes their safeguarding responsibilities seriously.

The recent revelations around historical abuse in football have reminded us that children and young people are vulnerable to abuse from those in positions of responsibility. Abusers are often very good at hiding their abuse and silencing their victims, so it is essential that coaches are able to recognise and respond to any concerns they may have about a child’s welfare.

More and more organisations require their coaches – and that includes activators, instructors, leaders, teachers, trainers and volunteers – to attend an SPC workshop before they commence coaching.

Many employers have also adopted our Core Minimum Standards for Active Coaches, which states every coach working with children must have a DBS check or Home Country equivalent. This is implemented via Governing Bodies and employers.

The rising popularity of digital technology has sparked a proliferation of e-learning courses and, while we offer the option of an online refresher course for those who have attended the initial SPC workshop, we believe the point-of-entry course should be delivered via direct contact with a qualified tutor.

Coaches have a duty of care towards their participants and there can be no shortcuts or half measures with the process of acquiring this indispensable knowledge. A point echoed by sports coach UK’s Development Lead Officer for Children, Schools and Safeguarding David Turner.

"Face-to-face training allows coaches an opportunity to ask questions that they may not otherwise have been able to ask. They can ask these questions to a trained expert in the area who can give them the advice they need in a safe, inclusive and non-judgemental environment," he says.

"Not only does this help should a child ever be in danger and a coach needs to respond, but also this helps coaches to understand good practice, which in reality is what this workshop is all about. If children have an enjoyable and safe experience under the supervision of a SPC- trained coach then children are not only much more likely to enjoy their coaching, they are more likely to keep coming back. Often we hear that one poor experience is enough to put a child off sport for life.

"Being on a face-to-face course allows coaches to discuss matters that may be approached in different ways with different sports. For example, when is it okay to tell a participant they need to lose weight to make a team? For hockey this approach may be very different to judo. Having an opportunity to discuss a range of views and share learning makes for better rounded and experienced coaches.

"Perhaps even more importantly, we know that on occasions disclosures of abuse have been made to our tutors on SPC workshops, as during the workshop a coach realises they may themselves have been abused in the past. Having a trained expert on hand is a crucial benefit of our workshop offer."

A big hit with martial arts

Two million sports sector workers come into contact with more than 10 million children every week in the UK.

And nowhere is the influx of children into sport and physical activity more pronounced than in martial arts.

Martial arts classes are a great lifestyle choice for children as they can offer a prime blend of fitness and fun with building discipline and respect – developing both sporting skills and life skills.

Their popularity is helped by the fact there are so many styles and so many clubs to pick from.

With such high numbers of children participating, it is critical that martial arts leaders are seen to be diligent when it comes to addressing safeguarding matters.

Using content largely based on the existing SPC workshop, Sports Coach UK and the CPSU joined forces with NEST Management Ltd – who look after the interests of a large number of martial arts clients – to run a training course specific to martial arts industry.

The Safeguarding and Protecting Children in Martial Arts workshop has been a massive success.

James and Vicki Barker are instructors at Claygate and Great Bookham Kuk Sool Won Club – a Korean martial arts system.

They have given the workshop a ringing endorsement.

"It was really useful to take part in a course that was held at our centre. We were able to discuss sensitive issues relevant to martial arts practice and it certainly helped our instructors to think carefully about their role of responsibility with regard to safeguarding. It was useful to be able to discuss examples relevant to our business."

NEST Management Ltd will continue to hold workshops over the next year for their clients to attend, and Marketing Manager Leanne McGill echoed David’s view that a face-to-face course is the most effective approach for new instructors.

"Face-to-face and interactive workshops in my opinion are great for people to learn and ask questions in an environment where attendees are willing to share their own experiences."

Thanks a million!

Sports Coach UK is flexible in its approach to helping you deliver Safeguarding and Protecting Children to your coaches, with two options available. You can find out more about them here.

Be aware that we also offer an age-appropriate workshop designed especially for those under-16, who are themselves children in the eyes of the law.

More information on the Keeping Safe in Sport: Safeguarding for Young Volunteers (13+) workshop can be found here.

You should also know that, by organising one of our workshops, you will be helping children in more ways than one, as our partnership with the NSPCC raises valuable funds for the charity.

Royalties paid on the workshops have so far totalled over £1 million.