Education Quandary: One of my pupils seems to have signs of abuse. She comes from a good family where this would be unbelievable

Hilary's advice

You have written in asking what to do, but you know what to do. All teachers know what to do under these circumstances. The procedures in relation to suspected child abuse are precisely and clearly set out.

What you are asking for is permission to believe what your eyes are telling you. But leave the question of the pupil's family aside, and think about it. You say the girl has some signs of physical abuse. You don't say what these are, but they must be more than the occasional bumped knee to have attracted your attention. You also say she is vague about how she got these marks and bruises, and that she is sometimes "dreamy" in class. Something is clearly not right, and you know it. It may be that someone is doing something nasty to her at home and the dreaminess is her way of protectively disassociating herself from it. Or there may be some other problem she is dealing with. There could even be an innocent explanation for it all.

But despite your reluctance to start pointing a finger at a family that sounds like the model of civic propriety, you must raise your concerns with your school's designated child protection officer immediately. Plenty of horrible things happen behind respectable front doors. Not all cases of child abuse occur in fractured and chaotic families, and your job is to protect your pupil, not the reputation of her parents, however high their standing might be in the community.

Readers' advice

Please don't hesitate to invoke the child protection staff at your school. The child could be feigning not being unhappy, and seeming dreamy could be a sign of zoning out, to cope with her unhappiness, particularly as her parents are seen as pillars of the community. So she may have a belief that she will not be believed. This query made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Act now. "Respectable" parents abuse their children too.

Ruth Muirhead, Newport

You must refer the child to your school's designated child protection officer without delay. He or she will be aware of the statutory advice on what constitutes suspicious injuries and can also advise you about how you question a child, as it is important not to "lead" pupils – this could seriously weaken a disclosure of abuse. If in doubt, report your concerns. Any decision about further action will thankfully be taken by experts.

Karen Shaw, West Sussex

You should follow your child protection policy which will state that concerns should be reported to your named child protection officer. You then leave the matter up to them. It is not for you to decide whether a family is likely or not to have abused their child. I would also suggest that you ask for staff training on child protection so that all staff are aware of why and how they should react.

Laura Dagnall, Poole

Next Week's Quandary

Our son graduates this summer with a degree in history and English. He doesn't know what he wants to do so is thinking about taking a Masters in business or media and communications. He says it will improve his CV. We think it will increase his debts, not his job chances.

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at www.hilarywilce.com where they can be searched by topic.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
News
Justin Bieber performing in Paris earlier this year
people
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Foundation / Year 1 Teacher - Long Term - Salford

£90 - £130 per day + competitive rates, pension scheme: Randstad Education Man...

Long Term Primary Teacher - Oldham - Start September 2014

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Manchester Primary: Key Stage 1 Teache...

SEN Teacher

£120 - £140 per day + ?DOE: Randstad Education Maidstone: SEN Teacher Kent

Year 5 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil