Daniel Pelka murder: how much power do teachers have in getting concerns for a child’s welfare followed up by the authorities?

When four-year-old Daniel Pelka died he looked like a concentration camp victim and weighed less than two stone. Teachers from his school, Little Heath Primary in Coventry, spoke of his stealing food from other children and scavenging in bins. This is from the BBC…

Teaching assistant Beatrice O’Brien told Birmingham Crown Court: “We watched him walk up to the bin, look to see if anyone was looking and pick out either the core of an apple or a pear and he started to eat it.”

She said she found him “trying to get the last bit of yoghurt out” of an empty tube in another bin.

“I was very concerned. He did not look at all well and he had lost a lot of weight,” she said.

The school raised concerns about his weight and the deputy head teacher rang Daniel’s GP, who examined him and put him on a course of nutritional tablets.

An education welfare officer and the school nurse also visited his mother, Magdelena Luczak, 27.

She has been jailed, along with her partner Mariusz Krezolek, 34, after a jury at Birmingham Crown Court decided they first starved and then murdered Daniel.

But how much power do teachers have in getting concerns for a child’s welfare followed up by the authorities?

David Tucker, head of policy at the NSPCC, said: “The worrying thing about this case is that there were teachers who were aware of the problems, they seemed to have taken some sort of action, but that course of action wasn’t effective.

“There’s a serious case review looking into that, so I wouldn’t want to criticise anybody unfairly, but we need to understand what was happening between the school and children’s social care.”

The Coventry Safeguarding Children Board said it would publish a serious case review into Daniel’s death in September.

The teaching union the NASUWT said it felt there was a “growing disconnect” between schools and social services because of government cuts.

General secretary Chris Keates said she believed the response schools got after making referrals often depended on the resources of the local authority, rather than how serious their concerns were.

“[Teachers] want timely action taken to investigate their concerns and reassurances that the child is safe while that is taking place,” she said.

“There’s a big gap that’s been created by cuts and changes to government legislation, and that is not always happening.”

…The government announced new child protection guidelines for teachers in March, which it has just finished a consultation on.

It plans to reduce its original 120-page Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education document, originally published in 2007, to about 30 pages.

The NASUWT said this reduction in guidelines would leave schools and teachers “extremely exposed”.

Ms Keates said: “Since 2010, when the government reduced red tape in the child protection system, a number of things have hit the floor that were there to protect not only children but teachers as well.

“Detailed guidance is being replaced with lines like ‘You should make sure people are appropriately trained’ without giving any detail about what that training should be.

“If something goes wrong the government can say ‘We told you people should be appropriately trained’ but they’ve taken away all the detail of what ‘appropriate’ is.”

A spokesman for the Department of Education said teachers needed “to use their professional judgment to make commonsense decisions to protect children”.

He said: “We have consulted on revised guidance which will allow schools and further education colleges to exercise their own judgement on how to respond to safeguarding issues based on their assessment of individual situations.

“We are analysing the responses and will publish the guidance in due course.”

More at:  Daniel Pelka murder: Teachers had concerns for starved boy

Would you feel sufficiently empowered if confronted with a situation like this? If you raised concerns about a pupil’s welfare, do you think there would be an appropriate response? How could the situation be improved? Please share in the comments or on twitter…  

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Categories: Safeguarding.


  1. ballater6

    SchoolsImprove weakness in my opinion schools are willing to share info other agencies are reluctant for fear of recriminations

  2. lucyktol

    SchoolsImprove why do teachers need a bit of paper telling to get doctor,social services, police on a conference call to discuss a child?

  3. LaCatholicState

    Teachers should have called the POLICE….not fool social services.  There was clear evidence of physical abuse…..yet they didn’t act with common sense or compassion.  Too much box-ticking….not enough kindness of common sense.  Call the Police….always!

    • Jackie H

      LaCatholicState I totally agree. When there is evidence of abuse just contact the police. There cannot be any recriminations when you report such incidents in good faith. The child comes first.

  4. JulieTh23756112

    If the school felt that their local social services were not taking their referrals seriously, there was nothing to stop then implementing their ‘whistle-blowing’ procedures – any individual member of staff at a school can do this and their job should be protected.  Alerting social services to a problem is not enough – if no action is taken, it is everyone’s responsibility to take further action.  Those are basic safeguarding procedures, it’s not rocket science.

    • LaCatholicState

      Forget social services.  We call the Police for adults…..we must do it for children.  Not to do so is sheer stupid….and worse, evil!

  5. Kipleedssouth

    SchoolsImprove There simply has to come a time when the teacher takes a risk, drives the child to social care and ends up saving a life

  6. Sezzer64

    SchoolsImprove There is too much emphasis in training on how to protect oneself from accusation and nothing about protecting a child.

  7. JulieTh23756112

    Yes, they should of called the police, but if there was still no action taken there are procedures they can follow  – it’s called ‘whistle blowing’ and you do it until someone listens to you and takes action.  What kind of child protection/safeguarding training are these teachers getting?  All staff, including dinner ladies etc., should have child protection training so they know what to do. We need to stop this ‘culture’ within some schools and agencies where making a referral to social services is enough and more often than not, not even followed up.  Child protection is EVERYONE’S responsibility!!

  8. BehaviourA

    Reporting is easy – taking action without proof of abuse/ neglect more difficult. Dare I say some settings have become a bit inactive about reporting as their experience is. “they don’t do anything anyway” always report, even if mainly to cover yourselves.
    Hard to believe no one really talked to Daniel  and tragic that so many support services who did listen to children have been cut.

  9. Jackie H

    JulieTh23756112 I agree totally Julie. You would have to be blind not to recognise that something is wrong when a child looks like he has just left Belsen. If in doubt contact the child safeguarding team. They should inform you when they have followed up your concerns. If they don’t CALL THE POLICE! I cannot believe the naivety of everyone in contact with this little boy. And WHY had no-one spoken to Daniel himself?

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