COVID-19 Safeguarding in schools, colleges and other providers
It is essential that schools and colleges continue to be safe places for children. New government guidance COVID-19 Safeguarding in schools, colleges and other providers was published on 27 March 2020 to support governors and proprietors in response to Covid-19. The headline message is that while school life is no longer ‘business as usual’, schools must continue to comply with the existing guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education (September 2019). Key points are summarised below:
Children’s best interests come first…
- Continue to act immediately on safeguarding concerns
- It remains essential that unsuitable people are not allowed to enter the workforce or gain access to children
- Children should continue to be protected online
Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL)
The new policy allows for sharing trained DSLs locally. DSLS should be contactable while working from home and schools should have access to at least one trained DSL on any given day.
There is an expectation that children with a social worker will continue to attend school or college unless it is agreed that it is not in the child’s best interests. In addition, senior leaders will know who the most vulnerable children are and they have the flexibility to offer a school place to those children on the edges of receiving social care support.
There is a daily online attendance form to keep a record of attendance for critical workers and vulnerable children attending school.
Schools are now unable to provide actual up-to-date data to the Department for Education and the number of children taking up places.
Staff moving between schools
Existing school and college workforce can now move between schools and colleges in response to Covid-19. The receiving school is to judge on a day by day basis the level of safeguarding induction required for staff.
Children moving between schools
The receiving school should be provided with any relevant child protection information. As a minimum the receiving school should have the child’s Education Health and Care Plan, child in need plan, child protection plan or personal education plan (where appropriate) and know who the child’s social worker is.
Data protection and GDPR do not prevent the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. Schools should seek legal advice if in any doubt.
Ensuring mental health support
Negative experiences and distressing life events can affect the mental health and behaviour of pupils and parents alike. Schools should ensure appropriate mental health support is in place.
Online safety at school
Schools should ensure that appropriate filters and monitoring systems are in place on their IT system. School leaders should consider which IT staff are available, albeit remotely, and any contingency arrangements that should be put in place.
Online safety away from school
Staff who interact with children remotely, including online, should continue to look out for signs that a child may be at risk. Any concern should be dealt with as per the school’s child protection policy.
The Department for Education is to give separate guidance about providing education to pupils remotely, so watch this space!
The new reality
Schools should consider if their existing policies reflect the new reality. An annex or addendum for Covid-19 may be effective, rather than reinventing the wheel. The same applies to staff behaviour policies and codes of conduct to ensure effectiveness in the current climate.
While we all wait for the new guidance on remote learning, it is sensible for schools to ensure that:
- All online learning tools are used with privacy and data protection guidelines in mind. Schools should seek legal advice on data protection concerns where necessary
- Children who are asked to work online have clear reporting routes back to the school
- Parents wanting to supplement their child’s schoolwork are reminded to only use reputable online support organisations and/or individuals who have been checked. Consider providing information and support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online.
The guidance can be read in full here.
The education team at Doyle Clayton will be happy to answer your questions on safeguarding in schools in the current Covid-19 climate.
The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.