New GEMS initiative for parents covers UAE child safeguarding law, online safety, and how to decipher emojis and text speak

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GEMS Education has launched a new initiative aimed at helping parents better understand child safeguarding in the UAE. The SAFEGuardian awareness programme was born out of parental demand for clear and accessible information on safeguarding and child protection laws, and for an open forum for parents of all backgrounds to learn, share, and ask questions on this vitally important yet also sensitive topic.

SAFEGuardian has been carefully designed to share the values, priorities, and responsibilities around child safeguarding. The initiative was successfully piloted at GEMS Wellington International School (WIS).

During the pilot, the school’s Safeguarding team led a session outlining what safeguarding is, the important role it plays in school life, and how the inter-connected units of family and school support each other to keep children safe. Parents also took part in exercises and scenarios to help them identify and respond to potential concerns.

Claire Scowen, Corporate Head of Safeguarding and Child Protection at GEMS Education, said: “Cultivating a safe and supportive environment for our children is paramount, and with the launch of our SAFEGuardian training programme for parents, we’re taking proactive steps towards that goal.

“Empowering parents with knowledge and tools to recognise, respond to, and prevent potential risks is not just a priority, but a responsibility we all share. Through this initiative, we aim to foster a collaborative partnership between parents, schools, and wider communities, ensuring our children thrive in environments where their safety and wellbeing are put first.”

Sarah Wright, Senior Vice Principal at GEMS Wellington International School, said: “Thanks to our passionate and committed team, there is an outstanding culture of safeguarding at WIS. Yet as a school, we want to further develop the education around safeguarding with our parent community, highlighting our collaborative role in keeping children safe in different contexts.

“SAFEGuardian is designed to empower parents so they understand and contribute to a safeguarding culture, supporting their children’s growth and development. In collaboration, we can ensure every child feels safe, believed, and valued.

“We are a diverse school community with families from every corner of the world, and by having this important conversation, we provide a safe space for parents to share their concerns, challenges, and queries as they raise their children in the UAE.

“We look forward to the next chapter of SAFEGuardian, which will see parents have the chance to complete GEMS Level 1 Safeguarding Training.”

The launch event and pilot session were open to all WIS parents. The plan now is to make the SAFEGuardian course available to more GEMS schools.

Topics in the SAFEGuardian parent course include:

  • How we keep children safe in school and at home
  • An overview of UAE child protection laws, legislation, and policy
  • The safeguarding roles and responsibilities in schools

Ondene Dippenaar, a parent at WIS who took part in the pilot, said: “Attending the SAFEGuardian session at WIS was eye-opening and reassuring as a parent. It provided valuable insights into the school’s proactive measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our children. It was comforting to see the school’s commitment to our children’s security in this modern world with all its complexities.”

Parents who go on to complete GEMS Level 1 Safeguarding Training delve into critical topics such as the details of Federal Law No.3 of 2016, known as Wadeema’s Law. The programme also highlights the categories of abuse and online safety.

According to a 2021 Mott Poll report, 39% of parents don’t have time to monitor their children’s social media use, while 32% of children find ways to circumvent parental controls. The GEMS training course covers the potential risks and concerns involving online safety and teaches parents the hidden meaning behind the emojis and acronyms commonly used in text speak by young people today.

GEMS is committed to educating students and parents on how to stay safe online and securely navigate the ever-evolving, inter-connected digital world. Students in all GEMS schools already learn about online safety, and this will be further elevated next academic year as GEMS introduces its formal curriculum on online safety for students aged 4-18, covering conduct, content, commerce, and contact.

GEMS takes a holistic multi-agency approach to safeguarding, maintaining that the safety and wellbeing of children is everybody’s responsibility. This is further underpinned by the GEMS Family First initiative launched at the start of the year to promote the importance of the family unit.

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