The Bright World team were introduced to the term 'Professional Curiosity' this year in our annual safeguarding training update. Although It is new to us as an expression, we have in fact been using the principles for many years.
The term is now being adopted and used in the 2022 Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance (KCSIE). As guardians, we reference this guidance and realise the need to delve deeper into situations with a questioning mind in order to ensure that our students are listened to and any of their concerns are dealt with thoroughly.
We wanted to learn more about how to be professionally curious so we invited Adam Lubbock, our Safeguarding Trainer from Kings River Education to tell us more.
Professional curiosity is a skill that all those who work with children are encouraged to develop. I was particularly pleased to see it included in KCSIE 2022 for the first time. In my experience, some people have curiosity running through their veins whilst others need more guidance through training and support. A key feature of professional curiosity is to not make assumptions or to accept things at face value. Professional curiosity can require you to think ‘outside the box’ and to think wider and more contextually.
For guardians and host families, professional curiosity is key to safeguarding children. When caring for the children they are supporting, adults should fully explore any concerns they have or disclosures that children make to them rather than make assumptions. We all need to be mindful of our own values that could affect our judgement and perhaps lead us to assume that all is OK when it is not.
For Local Coordinators or guardianship staff, being professionally curious will involve them engaging with the children and host families through visits, conversations, observations and asking relevant questions to gather historical and current information. It is part of the ongoing vigilance that is key within safeguarding.
For host families and Local Coordinators, taking opportunities to see, feel and recognise where any risks could be or are presenting themselves and enquiring deeper is a great start. Being open minded and curious will help to make an informed decision about the child’s lived experiences or what is happening for the host family.
When there are concerns it is important that the child’s voice is truly listened to and that the “lived experience” is clearly visible. At times this will require us to be brave by asking difficult questions and having difficult conversations. The open ended questions using TED – Tell, Explain, Describe are ideal in these situations where a child needs support with their disclosures.
Training and support help support a culture where a golden thread of professional curiosity can be developed. By nurturing professional curiosity and working together to keep children, young people and adults safe, guardianship organisations can play an important part.
Professional curiosity can further be supported by understanding what life looks like for the child on a day to day basis – their routines, thoughts, feelings and relationships with family members or at school. We should:
1. Be open to the unexpected and willing to change our opinions
2. Not make presumptions about what is happening
3. Ask questions in an open (TED) and relaxed manner – explain that the intention is not to interrogate but to understand
4. Beware of inconsistent explanations, vague or retracted disclosures
5. Not discount concerns just because they are unproven – concerns may be both valid and impossible to substantiate
6. Make sure home visits include seeing the whole home, especially where the child sleeps
7. Check who else has an important role in the child’s life? Are they also vulnerable?
8. Be aware of unconscious bias related to your own background, culture and beliefs and whether these could impact on the way you interpret a situation
9. Seek a second opinion – talk any doubts through with your designated safeguarding lead, or via the Local Authority Safeguarding Arrangements (MASH consultation line).
Therefore, by being open minded, having an inquiring and curious mind-set, we can actively encourage and support professional curiosity.