Maintaining a watertight safeguarding system

Written by: Ann Marie Christian | Published:
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Safeguarding is one of the most important responsibilities facing schools. Anne Marie Christian runs through her checklist for ensuring that your approach is watertight

Since September 2015, during Ofsted inspections, schools are now judged more intensively on the effectiveness of safeguarding arrangements and need to demonstrate they are meeting their statutory responsibilities. So, do you know what these are? Be honest.

Over the last year, we have seen examples of schools where safeguarding was deemed inadequate. Failings varied – from staff failing to practise the safeguarding procedures when concerns arose about children to schools failing to keep evidence and records of their safeguarding training.

Safeguarding and child protection should be a golden thread sewn throughout everything we do in our schools. Here are some tips.

The school website

The school child protection policy and school safeguarding statement should be clearly visible on the website. The name and contact details of the designated safeguarding lead (DSL), deputies, safeguarding governor, the chair of governors and the LADO (local authority designated officer) should be on the child protection policy.

I mentioned this in a safeguarding session I delivered in April and one DSL took my advice. I saw him again in July and he told me he’d been contacted via his website by parents with regarding various safeguarding queries – one query eventually resulted in a referral to Prevent because of a pupil’s affiliation to certain groups on social media.

In 2014, the statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) introduced the mandatory induction process for new staff (the 2016 version of this guidance came into effect on September 5, 2016 – see further information). All new staff should read KCSIE part one, read the child protection policy, read the staff behaviour policy (staff handbook\staff conduct) and familiarise themselves with the role of the DSL and deputies before they start their new role. Schools will need to prove they have completed this task. Creating your own checklist template is ideal so both parties can sign and date it and it can be kept on file.

All staff have to read part one of KCSIE on an annual basis and sign that they understand what they have read. Good practice is to get staff to read the staff handbook too to remind them of expected behaviours and conduct. Every effort should be made for the school to keep the handbook updated with relevant key changes. Other key safeguarding documents, all of which are available on the government’s website and should be embedded in the policies and practices of the school (alongside KCSIE), include Working Together to Safeguard Children, What to do if You’re Worried a Child is Being Abused, Information Sharing and The Prevent Duty (all 2015).

Training

The three yearly whole-school safeguarding training has now gone and from September 5, 2016, schools are expected to have regular child protection training, at least annually, with regular updates (emails, bulletins, newsletter, briefings) throughout the year. It is good practice to hold them on the first day back or on INSET days as it reminds staff about the school’s procedures and who the named DSLs and deputies are. DSLs are responsible for arranging and recording evidence of training. All parties that attend should sign in and evidence they attended the training. Contractors, volunteers, governors and all paid staff should have access to the child protection training too.

All school staff (both paid and unpaid) have a responsibility in keeping children safe. This includes supporting the wellbeing of all the children, following the school child protection procedures, policies and protocols. All staff should be taught how to spot signs of abuse, understand the early help process and refer cases to the DSL.

Over the last few years we have been exposed to specific safeguarding issues affecting children in schools and all staff should have an awareness of: children missing education, child sexual exploitation, domestic violence, substance misuse, faith abuse, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, bullying including cyber-bullying, gangs and youth violence, violence against women and girls, hate crime, mental health issues, preventing radicalisation, sexting, trafficking, and relationship abuse.

These are clearly documented in the updated KCSIE (September 2016) and all staff should know what to do if they have concerns about a child, parent or member of staff.

The DSL requires specific training every two years. Specific topics have to be covered including understanding the assessment process for providing early help, child protection and intervention, having a knowledge of how local authorities conduct child protection case and review conferences and being able to contribute to these effectively.

Safer recruitment

All childcare settings should create an open and transparent vigilant culture where they adopt procedures that help deter, reject or identify people who pose a risk to children. We should all have an “it could happen here approach”.

Schools have to keep a Single Central Record (SCR) of all staff and ensure it is in line with statutory guidance. It is important that a member of the leadership team works with the officer in charge of maintaining the SCR so there is clear accountability.

At least one member of every interview panel should have relevant safer recruitment training in line with expectations from the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB). Vetting new staff is crucial. Safeguarding statements should be made in the job advert, your website, the job description, candidates’ personal statements, interview questions, questions to the referee and on their first day induction. Schools must act reasonably when making decisions about the suitability of the prospective employee based on checks and prohibition checks together with references and interview information.

Staff should know the role and contact details of the LADO, and know whom to contact if they have concerns about the head/principal, chair of governors or members of staff.

Governance and leadership

The management of safeguarding is beautifully described in KCSIE 2016 part two. Governing bodies must ensure that they comply with their duties under legislation. They must ensure that the policies, procedures and training in their schools are effective and comply with the law at all times. What does this look like in practice?

Governing bodies should ensure the school has effective safeguarding policies, procedures and protocols in place and all staff are aware of them. The school child protection policy should refer to their LSCB and staff should know their duties within the policy and know how and when to raise a concern about a child to the DSL and raise concerns about adults to the head/principal. The policy should be revised annually and approved by the governing body.

The safeguarding governor and DSL should meet annually at least, or termly if required. The governor should scrutinise, question and challenge the DSL and relevant staff regarding child protection and safeguarding across the school. The following should all be discussed as part of the scrutiny:

  • Safeguarding training records of staff/DSL and LSCB training for the DSL.n The volume of referrals made.
  • Meetings attended at children’s social care or the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).
  • The early help model.
  • Looked-after children and children on child protection plans.
  • Children in need of a child protection plan or a (CAF) common assessment framework.
  • Core group meetings and initial child protection conferences.
  • The child in need meetings they have attended about the vulnerable children in your settings.
  • Personal Education Plans.
  • Whether the DSL has appropriate time allocated for this role.
  • Whether child protection referrals are made swiftly or suffer delays.
  • The cause for concern forms, including when they were last revised, whether they have a section that clearly demonstrates that the referrer was updated on the outcome of the referral, whether the date and time is captured on the form, and whether the DSL has authorised and actioned the forms.
  • The designated teacher for looked-after children – have they had sufficient training in this area? Are they working in partnership with the headteacher of the virtual school?

The school should complete an annual Section 11 (of the Children’s Act 2004) audit tool to support them in measuring the impact of safeguarding and ensuring they are compliant with child protection and safeguarding in their setting (see further information for guidance).

Staff in primary and early years settings have an extra task in ensuring staff complete the relevant forms in line with the Disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006 and keep them updated (see further information).

Conclusion

The voice of the child should be heard, respected and valued in your settings. They should feel safe and know there is a trusted adult they can confide it if they want to share a concern. Staff should be trained appropriately in spotting signs of abuse and know how to report abuse. Safer recruitment is key in ensuring we employee the right staff and continue to deter and reject unpleasant people who pose a risk to children.

Further information

  • Keeping Children Safe in Education, DfE (both previous guidance information and the new official guidance that came into effect on September 5, 2016): http://bit.ly/2bI2Zsm
  • Safeguarding guidance and policy documents from the DfE, including Keeping Children Safe in Education, Working Together to Safeguard Children and What to do if You’re Worried a Child is Being Abused (all March 2015): http://bit.ly/1iVHC91
  • Information on the requirements under the Children’s Act 2004 (via www.workingtogetheronline.co.uk): http://bit.ly/2btHz13
  • Disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006, DfE, June 2016: http://bit.ly/2bXEz2m
  • Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years, Education and Skills from September 2015, Ofsted, June 2015: http://bit.ly/1METk6c


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