More than 90% of teachers say that safeguarding referrals have risen

Our survey of more than 8,000 UK teachers shows the essential role that schools play in keeping children safe.


New survey data released today highlights the worrying scale of abuse and neglect faced by children, and the vital role that teachers and schools play in helping to keep them safe.

That’s why we’re putting schools at the heart of our annual Childhood Day on 9 June by launching the Childhood Day Mile.

And while schools play a vital role, everyone can help raise funds to help keep more children safe. You can take on the mile, donate, or volunteer to collect in your community.

Survey suggests rise in safeguarding referrals

We worked jointly with the teaching union NASUWT, surveying 8,329 teachers and senior leaders across the UK.

Key findings were1

    • 93% of teachers said that, over the last year, the number of safeguarding referrals made within their school had increased2.
    • 87% of teachers reported an increase in the number of neglect referrals.

The survey, conducted between 20 March and 3 April this year, also revealed the types of referrals that teachers have seen an increase in over the past year:

  • 87% of teachers have seen an increase in neglect referrals
  • 84% have seen an increase in emotional abuse referrals
  • 67% have seen an increase in physical abuse referrals
  • 50% have seen an increase in sexual abuse referrals.

Our survey results echo government data, that shows that between 2020-21 and 2021-22, schools in England saw a 59% increase in the number of safeguarding referrals and re-referrals made to children's services.3

Helping children to recognise abuse and stay safe

The NSPCC has worked with educators for years, including visiting primary schools with its Speak out Stay safe assembly and workshop.

Programme volunteer Rob Pugal helps children learn that they have a right to a happy childhood and that abuse is never their fault. Rob, who experienced sexual abuse as a child, also helps children and young people learn the signs of abuse and neglect.

Rob says: “I was once stuck with my perpetrator in Somerset. I realised on the first day that I was expected to sleep in the same bed as him, and I felt so trapped. The fact that children now have Speak out Stay safe, and that they can contact Childline for free, is wonderful.

“We do this work because we care about children’s safety. But we can't do it without funding. If I could share one message, it would be: by donating, you can help children learn to speak out.”

Sir Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said:


“The vital role that teachers play in keeping children and young people safe cannot be underestimated.

"They are in a prime position to spot concerns, and, in many cases, they are the trusted adults that children turn to when something worrying, or upsetting, has happened to them.

“We know that the pandemic left many children at an increased risk of abuse and neglect and since children returned to school, teachers have been key in raising their hand and reporting concerns to ensure they can get the support they need.

“While we recognise that teachers are an essential part of the jigsaw in protecting children, at the NSPCC, we believe everyone can play their part.

“Strong communities are vital in helping to keep children safe, and that’s why we are encouraging people to do their bit in their community and get behind Childhood Day 2023 by taking on the Childhood Day Mile.

“Everyone can get involved from schools, work colleagues and families and by taking part, you’ll be helping the NSPCC ensure child protection is a top priority.”

Everyone can play their part

Half a million children in the UK experience abuse every year – the equivalent of 7 children in a classroom experiencing abuse before they turn 18 4. We believe that this can’t go on, and that we all need to work together to protect children.

That means schools, the police, and health providers in communities, working together to identify problems before they escalate, effectively sharing information, and putting in place holistic support.

And while teachers play a vital role in safeguarding children, we believe that we can all play our part to keep children safe.

By supporting Childhood Day, on 9 June, you can help raise vital funds. You could:

Anything you raise can make a difference:

  • £10 will help the NSPCC Helpline answer more contacts about children at risk
  • £24 could pay for the NSPCC Speak out Stay safe programme to reach one primary school child, teaching them how to recognise abuse.


  1. 1) All data reported on this page excludes ‘not sure’ answers.

  2. 2) Unless stated otherwise, all reported findings include ‘increased significantly’ and ‘increased slightly’.

  3. 4) 7 children in a classroom experience abuse before they turn 18. Based on 25.3% of 18-24 yr-olds who reported severe maltreatment before the age of 18 (Radford, 2011), and a class size of 26.