This February, Diane Riley was awarded the inaugural SACPA Safeguarding award, which recognizes individuals or organizations that have made a positive contribution to safeguarding and child protection in international settings. The judges stated that Di modeled a positive contribution to global safeguarding, sharing best practice, and embedding progressive models whilst navigating cultural norms, sensitivities, and resilience.
Search Associates (SEARCH) has been privileged to invite Di as a guest speaker on the topic of Child Protective Recruitment at our job fairs in London, Bangkok, Toronto, and San Francisco. She loves sharing insights with internationally-minded teachers and administrators based on her own experience of living and working in international schools in Europe, Australia, Asia and America. Di can’t wait for the next in-person hiring fair, and we can’t wait to see her again! She says,
Child protection starts with the hiring process; the impact of recruiting and retaining the right candidates for the school makes for a cohesive staff and faculty, ready and able to support, not just the academic journey of students but also their well-being and safety.
Born and raised in the southwest of England, Di considers herself a global citizen. Many years of living and teaching overseas have instilled in her a sensitivity to cultural differences, which includes varying attitudes towards education. Both of Di’s daughters were educated internationally, so she is keenly aware that all stakeholders in a school community must partner to ensure that students thrive.
Di’s first experience with teaching began in the summers of her teen years at an outdoor swimming pool in Somerset, England. As a swim instructor, Di had to focus on keeping children safe while showing them personal survival skills and ways to help others in difficulty through life saving. This perspective laid the groundwork for her life's work in international schools.
Since qualifying as a high school teacher, Di has worked a great deal in residential schools, specializing in the care of students living on campus. Child protection is woven into everything Di and her colleagues do with their boarders; the importance of its practices cannot be understated. She says,
The reason I am so passionate about focusing on child protection is that when it is done right, it has ripple effects that that create the best environment for students to flourish.
Over the years, Di’s mission has been to ensure the safety of children and young people, whatever her overseas teaching position may be at a school. She knows that sometimes the most important foundations of a school’s duty of care can get lost in the complexity of school life. She has learned that, in everything we do as educators, we must all continually work to shine a light on this most central of principles. On the SACPA website Director Aileen Kane says:
Safeguarding is a process of continuous improvement; something which needs to keep evolving and be constantly fine-tuned to become as effective as it can possibly be. By organising these awards, we wanted to showcase some of the best examples of outstanding safeguarding practice to help all organisations to continue to drive up standards.
Di’s superpower is grounded in a humble philosophy: There is always something new to learn, and we can learn from anyone, everyone, and all our experiences.” She says that she and her colleagues have gained expertise by being “proactive, constantly reevaluating on the assumption that we can improve.” While she admits “it can be daunting, when done methodically, it is the finest way to serve one’s school community.” Though educational best practice has changed and developed a great deal since she first became a teacher in 1977, Di emphasizes what should never change:
We must be vigilant and work to make transparency and speaking out the norm regarding safeguarding everyone in our school communities. Remembering that we are on the same team and are working towards the same goals helps us to learn from each other and support whole school safeguarding efforts.