Keeping Children Safe in Education: what you need to do to comply with the new Safeguarding Guidance
Changes to the statutory guidance on ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ will come into effect on 5 September 2016. In this article we explain what this means for schools and colleges.
The statutory guidance ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ (referred to throughout this article as the guidance) published by the Department for Education sets out what schools and colleges must do to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people under the age of 18. The guidance should be read and followed by governing bodies of maintained schools and colleges, proprietors of independent schools and management committees of pupil referral units (PRNs).
Following the Government’s consultation on proposed changes to the guidance in December 2015, an updated version, which revises and replaces the 2015 version, will come into force on 5 September 2016. All schools and colleges must follow the updated version from this date.
According to the Government’s response to the consultation, the changes aim to strengthen the guidance so that staff are clear on their responsibilities in safeguarding children and know how to respond if they have any concerns about a child’s welfare.
This article sets out the key changes to the guidance and identifies what schools and colleges will need to do in order to implement this updated version.
What are the key changes?
Whilst some of the changes are minor and will have little practical impact on schools and colleges, the key changes to be aware of are set out below:
• All staff should read and understand Part 1 of the Guidance – the updated version of Part 1 makes clear that all staff have a role to play in safeguarding children and in considering what is in the best interests of the child at all times. As such, governing bodies, proprietors of independent schools and management committees of PRUs should ensure that all staff in their school or college read and understand at least Part 1 of the guidance. There should be mechanisms in place to assist staff in understanding and discharging their role and responsibilities.
• Early help – Part 1 of the updated guidance confirms that all school and college staff should be aware of the early help process. They need to understand their role in identifying children who may benefit from support as soon as a problem emerges, in liaising with the designated safeguarding lead and in sharing information with other professionals to support early identification and assessment. In particular, staff should understand the difference between a safeguarding concern and a child protection issue (where a child is in immediate danger or at significant risk of harm).
• Staff training – the updated Part 1 provides that all staff must receive appropriate safeguarding and child protection training which should be regularly updated. In addition, staff should receive updates at least annually via email, e-bulletins or meetings to provide them with the necessary skills and knowledge to safeguard children effectively.
• Whistleblowing helpline – the updated guidance provides details of the NSPCC whistleblowing helpline for staff who feel unable to raise concerns about safeguarding practices within their school/college issues internally.
• Designated Safeguarding Leads – Part 2 of the new guidance confirms that the member of the senior leadership team who is appointed as designated safeguarding lead (DSL) must have a job description that includes their DSL duties. It also confirms that, in addition to the bi-annual formal training they are required to undertake, the DSL (and any deputy, if there is one) must update their knowledge and skills and keep up to date with any relevant developments at least annually. These annual updates can be through e-bulletins, meeting other DSLs or taking time to read and digest developments. The updated guidance also confirms that cover must be in place for times when the DSL (and any deputy) is absent and emphasises that although appropriately-trained deputy DSL’s are permitted, the responsibility for safeguarding and child protection still rests solely with the DSL.
• Online safety – the updated guidance emphasises the importance of not only having online filtering mechanisms in place but also having a pro-active monitoring regime to identify children who are trying to access harmful or inappropriate online content. At the same time, though, schools and colleges need to ensure that “over blocking” does not unreasonably restrict what children can be taught.
• Teaching safeguarding – under the updated Part 2, governing bodies and proprietors have a duty to ensure that children are taught about safeguarding as part of a broad and balanced curriculum. This is different to the previous version of the guidance which said that schools and colleges only needed to consider how children could be taught this.
• Safer recruitment – there are a number of updates in Part 3 in relation to safer recruitment. Prohibition from teaching checks must be completed for all staff who carry out teaching work. In addition, checks should be carried out for any teacher sanction or restriction imposed by a European Economic Area professional regulating authority for teachers who are from the EEA, using the NCTL Teacher Services’ system. Both checks should be recorded on the Single Central Record. Independent schools (including academies and free schools) must check that those applying for management roles are not prohibited from doing so and all governors now need an enhanced DBS check. The new guidance confirms that any concerns about the proprietors of an independent school must be raised with the local authority designated officer.
What do schools and colleges need to do?
The updated guidance confirms that schools and colleges must comply with it unless exceptional circumstances arise. There are a number of actions which you should consider taking to ensure compliance:
• Ensure understanding of Part 1 – governors/proprietors will need to put mechanisms in place to be satisfied that staff not only read but understand Part 1. This could include using case studies, online testing or Q&A sessions, as well as asking staff to sign that they have read and understood Part 1 and are comfortable with the role they play in safeguarding. Schools and colleges also need to identify who works directly with children and ensure that they read Annex A which covers “Specific Safeguarding issues”.
• Review and update your safeguarding and child protection policy – in light of the above changes, you need to update your safeguarding policy to ensure it covers the following points:
- The role of the DSL.
- Confirmation that, as well as training on induction, all staff will receive safeguarding and child protection updates at least annually and that the DSL will have formal training bi-annually and updates at least annually.
- A description of early help and what this means in your school or college, including the difference between a safeguarding concern and immediate danger or risk of harm
- The NSPCC whistleblowing helpline number.
- A description of peer-on-peer abuse and the signs of such abuse, as well as what the school/college will do to minimise the risk of this.
- Details regarding the responsibilities of the Virtual School headteacher.
- A statement that children with SEN and disabilities are more likely to be abused or neglected, as well as how to identify and keep these young people safe.
- Information about so-called honour-based violence (HBV) including what HBV encompasses, the potential indicators that a child may be at risk of HBV and actions to take if staff have a concern regarding a child that might be at risk of HBV.
- In proprietor-led independent schools, confirmation that concerns about the proprietor should be raised with the local authority designated officer (and provide contact details).
• Review training programmes – ensure that all staff, including the DSL, receive safeguarding and child protection updates on at least an annual basis. Potential topics referred to in the updated guidance include peer-on-peer abuse, so-called honour-based violence and the additional safeguarding vulnerabilities of learners with SEN and disabilities.
• Review IT systems – schools and colleges must ensure these effectively filter online content without “over-blocking”, as well as pro-actively monitor online usage.
• Review your pre-employment checks – you need to ensure that the correct checks are undertaken for governors, everyone in teaching work and those from the EEA.
• DSL cover – ensure that cover arrangements for your DSL are clear and consider whether you need to appoint and train a deputy DSL if your school or college does not have one in place.
How we can help
Our specialist team of education lawyers can provide your school or college with the support you need on all aspects of safeguarding to help you ensure you are on top of your safeguarding duties.
Our team has developed a safeguarding product which will update your safeguarding policy, provide training and carry out audits to help prepare you for inspection. We also provide urgent advice if you are ever faced with a safeguarding issue.
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.