ProtectED Conversations Blog: Coventry 30/01/20


Leadership Culture and Communication

Last week we had the pleasure of holding our latest ProtectED Conversations event at Coventry University – the third in our series of events, where higher education professionals, associated businesses and ProtectED Member institutions meet to discuss issues impacting student safety and wellbeing.

The focus and main aim of this ProtectED Conversations event was to explore how we collectively improve the safety of both students and staff in the HEI sector. We had the honour of hearing fantastic Keynote Speakers from two of our ProtectED Founder Members and a thought-provoking interactive session from Intersol Global that really got everyone thinking.

Kay Littlehales– ProtectED Development Manager – hosted the event and set the tone of the day giving an overview of how ProtectED encourages universities to do what is right and not what is easy: how we need to work collaboratively within the HEI sector, updating our focus constantly, and thinking of the process as a horse shoe, not a circle, so there is always space to add new thinking. Kay concluded that we can’t challenge the norms on our own, but need to change as a collective, to ensure that students and staff are safe and well on and off campus.

Hearing from Founder Members

Coventry University were fantastic hosts, and we want to give a special thank you to Alistair Logan - Head of International Student Support at Coventry, for his help in organising such a great event. Coventry University are one of ProtectED’s first Founder Members and we are delighted to be working with such a forward-thinking team of Student Services professionals and academics.

We were delighted to be joined by Lisa Bayliss Pratt - Chief Nurse at Health Education England (HEE), and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Coventry University as our first speaker, who shared her strategic aims with her presentation entitled ‘The Coventry Way to Health and Wellbeing’.

Lisa is new to this role but already has a staggering insight into what needs to change in the HEI sector. She spoke of how more compassion is needed and it is very apparent that both student and staff welfare are at the heart of everything she is working towards.

Lisa discussed how we tend to put lots of support measures in place for students in some cases too much, but how we don’t do the same for staff, when they can be dealing with similar problems and pressures as the students. She gave a great analogy, likening people to elastic bands that all need oiling, or we will snap and how this applies to everyone staff and students.

Lisa continued by explaining the importance of fostering a sense of belonging. This is why she is championing ‘The Coventry Way’ which is cultivating a health and wellbeing culture, where everyone should belong: “everyone should be thriving not just surviving.”

Lisa is a great advocate of how we shouldn’t just have policies and schemes, trying to make things better, should be in everything we do. How we should challenge and start a social movement, we should all be comfortable enough to say: “I feel crap today” “I’m not enjoying it at the moment”. There is growing evidence showing a link between health and wellbeing and performance, we all know people who are passionate and healthy will work harder.

Lisa then focused on crucial action points to help bring about change and the importance of enabling leadership capability development – how getting those higher up in an organisation to try a wellbeing tool first, will show the strategic importance of what changes this can make to people’s lives.

She stressed the importance of being able to identify the relevant data, how we all need to look at what data is available, and if data isn’t available how can we get it, as this can be used to drive the right outcomes through driving the right behaviours.

Lisa then went on to say what they what the will and won’t be doing over the next 12 months and emphasised what they won’t be doing is just as important as what they will. They will focus on the Leadership, Culture and Communication, Prevention, Support, Partnerships and live data sets, but they won’t, pay lip service, attempt to deliver NHS services, provide an uncoordinated approach, let people carry on working in isolation, or undertake activities that aren’t measurable.

Lisa’s approach and hard work should position Coventry University as a sector-leader in ensuring that Health and Wellbeing is a key strategic point, helping create a well-balanced culture.

The audience feedback and questions for Lisa at the event, were a great insight into how her thinking and strategy will have a large impact on Coventry University and hopefully the HEI sector.

Transformational Change

Claire Humble - Head of Security at Teesside University backed up the sentiments of Lisa Bayliss Pratt - Chief Nurse at Health Education England (HEE), and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Coventry University, with her presentation ‘The ‘Business’ of Security within the HE Sector – the new definition of Security in Education’ showcasing the importance of cultural change and how we need to evolve to remain relevant and fit for future purpose.

Claire said: “On behalf of Teesside University I was delighted to be part of the ProtectED Conversations Event, working towards creating a ‘Social Movement’ within the sector with a view to challenging the norms, sharing good practice and delivering measurable results.”

Claire discussed how she rebuilt the Safety and Security Culture at Teesside University, she discussed her background working for the Police force in the UK and New Zealand, and how she has applied all that she learnt to her role at Teesside University, with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

Claire described how the four P’s Partnership, People, Products and Property are related to the importance to having a purpose, instilling values such as respect and empathy into the team, Teesside use the slogan ‘Be Safe, Feel Safe’ to demonstrate this.

Focusing on People for this session, she then went on to describe how the team she manages when she first started had problems and were demotivated but very experienced. So, she wanted build on the advantages and transform the culture within the team. Claire explained how she went about this using a multifaceted approach including, expectation setting, holding staff to account, introducing rewards and recognition, providing professional development opportunities, and, significantly introducing a values based customer service approach and discussing and recognising the importance of growing diversity and inclusion within the team.

The theme of diversity runs through a lot of the transformational changes that Claire has put in place.

She pointed out that although a large proportion of students on campus are female, they currently only have two female security officers out of a team of 18. In certain sensitive situations, it can help female students immensely to have a woman to talk to. Making the job inclusive is also one of Claire’s ambitions, and she is currently undertaking an overhaul of the current security officer recruitment process with a view to attracting applications from a more diverse group.

Echoing Lisa’s sentiments that we need to look after staff as well as students, Claire emphasised the importance of mental health and wellbeing within the security family, focusing on everything from counselling services, and team building to exploring the introduction of an annual fitness test, as she pointed out she doesn’t expect her team to be fitness experts but she does have an expectation that her team are fit for purpose.

Claire also really brought home the point of how important student safety is when a student is choosing a University. Only five years ago it was ranked 17 out of 19 in importance factors and it now ranks number five! Which gives a lot of universities food for thought in terms of how they might realign their priorities.

Claire left us with the thought, “As the Higher Education Sector is adapting to becoming a Business, the ‘Business’ of Security within these Institutions must adapt and evolve to remain relevant and fit for future purpose.”

Crucial Investigation Steps

After a very productive networking lunch we visited the world of investigation with Intersol Global, CEO, Ian Hynes, and COO and senior investigation case manager, Mick Confrey. They emphasised that if you have the right training in place the crucial first steps of an investigation can stop an investigation from unravelling.

Intersol Global have many years combined experience in the HEI sector and have conducted and managed numerous cases in support of many HEIs as well as training and qualifying staff to conduct low-risk investigations internally. COO and senior investigation case manager, Mick, led the room through a series of exercises using redacted statements and scenarios from real case studies.

The room was split into three groups, making sure all the security delegates were not all in one team, as we didn’t want to give anyone an advantage. The groups were then led through several exercises. Mick first went through the initial report and asked for the group’s observations. Next, he covered key points at this stage of the investigation and what should be focused on, emphasising that all support and guidance that is available should be made clear. The timing of a complaint from being made to being picked up is a significant factor, as a complaint could be made on a Saturday night, and if no one picks it up until the Monday the evidence and CCTV could have gone.

This advice continued when Mick discussed securing evidence, including mobile phones and identifying the area the alleged actions took place. This was really thought provoking to the group as they chatted about what security and responses were like on their campuses.

In the next stage of the investigation Mick really set peoples thoughts racing when he said you had to treat both parties the same and offer them the same support and to avoid bias, as you don’t know what the outcome of the case will be.

He then went on to the second exercise which looked at choosing an investigator; some of the factors you need to take into consideration were really interesting and we had some great feedback from the groups. Mick went through the advice Intersol Global gives including looking into whether the investigator has a conflict of interest – do they know one of the people involved – as this will cause bias to one of the people involved. He also said that they may have someone suitable, but they also need to look at timings, do they have the capacity to take on an investigation, time is definitely a factor as this could stall the investigation.

Mick reiterated that fairness is key in an investigation and gave advice on how you must be able to demonstrate that the investigator was not influenced in coming to their conclusions, which goes back to showing no bias.

He then went on to demonstrate how you also need to manage expectations of the witnesses and the alleged victim through the next exercise looking at anonymity what is the universities policy on this can a witness be anonymous? and the differences between a Police: criminal law investigation and a University: civil law investigation. The whole exercise was very thorough and thought provoking for everyone, and really demonstrated the depth of Intersol Global training and investigations.

Mick emphasised throughout the session that if the questioning of all parities was done correctly at the first instance then no further questioning should be needed as everything was gathered in the first interview, reducing any stress and further uncomfortable questions for the students involved.

This engaging session demonstrated what a difference training makes and how thorough and in-depth an investigation carried out by Intersol Global is.

We have had some great feedback from the day, and it was fantastic to bring together like-minded individuals from across the sector to discuss key safety and wellbeing issues for students and staff face, and how to develop preventative approaches to help address these problems.

We will soon be announcing the topic for our fourth ProtectED Conversation event. As usual, updates will be via our blog, social media channels, and the ProtectED Newsletter. ProtectED Member institutions, those working or studying within the HEI sector, and anyone with an interest in furthering the conversation on supporting student safety, security and wellbeing, are very welcome to attend – please contact l.ravenscroft@Protect-ED.org for more information.

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