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What Is Professional Curiosity?


Kelly Ofasi

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This blog post was originally published on The Safeguarding Company website >> https://www.thesafeguardingcompany.com/resources/blog/what-is-professional-curiosity/

WHAT IS PROFESSIONAL CURIOSITY?

The 2022 Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) guidance uses the term ‘professional curiosity’ when it comes to safeguarding. In this blog, we examine what professional curiosity is and why it is important for the safeguarding culture within your organisation.

You can read the full Keeping Children Safe in Education Guidance here

WHAT KCSIE SAYS  

In KCSIE Part one: Safeguarding information for all staff, the term professional curiosity is used in paragraph 19. The guidance states:

All staff should be aware that children may not feel ready or know how to tell someone that they are being abused, exploited, or neglected, and/or they may not recognise their experiences as harmful.  

There are many reasons why children or young people may not disclose if they are being abused, exploited, or neglected. They could feel embarrassed or humiliated, for example, if they have a disability, are vulnerable, their sexual orientation is being used against them, or if they have language barriers that prevent them from disclosing. The child or young person also may be being threatened into silence by the perpetrator/s. 

This should not prevent staff within your organisation from having professional curiosity and speaking to their safeguarding lead if they have any concerns about a child or young person.  

KCSIE mentioned professional curiosity again in paragraph 21 when discussing early help. The guidance states:

All staff should be aware of indicators of abuse and neglect, understanding that children can be at risk of harm inside and outside of the school/college, inside and outside of home and online.  

The use of professional curiosity as well as knowing the signs to look for is vital for the early identification of abuse and neglect. This will allow staff to identify children and young people who may be in need of help, protection or additional support.   

HOW PROFESSIONAL CURIOSITY HELPS WITH SAFEGUARDING  

All staff within the school need to understand that safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people is everyone’s responsibility.  Staff in schools are in a particularly important position as they can identify concerns early on, provide help and prevent concerns from escalating.  

Professional curiosity plays into this culture of safeguarding by showing that the staff within your organisation are proactively looking for any safeguarding concerns in and outside of the establishment. It is important for staff to not take things at face value, but instead to be curious and seek clarity around a situation if needs be. 

Here are some considerations suggested by Leeds Gov when seeking to be professionally curious:  

  • Staff should not presume to know what is happening in the family home and should ask questions to seek clarity if they are not certain 
  • Safeguarding leads should ask questions in an open way, not to judge or criticise, so the family know you are simply asking to ensure the child or young person in question is safe 
  • Communicate with your safeguarding lead if you are unsure and require support 
  • Be open to having your own views and interpretations challenged 
  • Consider what you see as well as what you have been told about a situation 
  • Use supervision as an opportunity to explore cases and exercise professional curiosity  

POTENTIAL BARRIERS 

There are also barriers to having professional curiosity that is important to note such as: 

  • Being over-optimistic about a situation 
  • Making assumptions without evidence or clarity 
  • Lacking the confidence to ask potentially sensitive questions 
  • Having unconscious bias, such as seen in the Child Q case practice review  

It is important that all members of staff play a part in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action so that all children receive the right help at the right time to address risks and prevent issues from escalating.   

Ultimately professional curiosity shows that an individual is going above and beyond to safeguard the children and young people within their care, creating a proactive safeguarding culture within the establishment.

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