More depth and detail: The new safeguarding guidance

Written by: Suzanne O’Connell | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Local Safeguarding Children Boards may be on their way out but schools will still be on the frontline when it comes to child protection. Suzanne O’Connell outlines the major changes and implications for schools of the new Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance

Local Authorities and LSCBs are facing a major upheaval with the introduction of new partnership arrangements (Headteacher Update, May 2018). However, what will most interest schools is the new, updated safeguarding guidance that refers specifically to them.

Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) is the schools’ handbook that summarises the requirements and the recommendations for how schools should conduct their safeguarding role.

The new guidance, published in May, will not come into effect until September 2018. In the meantime, schools must continue to follow the KCSIE 2016 guidance.

KCSIE is a crucial document for schools to familiarise themselves with, especially as reports of sexual offences against children have increased sharply. Furthermore, the NSPCC reports that 51,000 children were in need of protection in 2017.

Once more, tragic events have led to at least one of the main changes in the guidance. Chadrack Mulo died alone in his home following the sudden death of his mother. As a result schools are now required to keep more than one contact number to use if a child does not attend school. However, the guidance also seeks to be proactive in tackling a number of issues including online safety and peer-on-peer sexual violence and harassment.

Keeping children safe – the school’s handbook

There are two main safeguarding documents that schools need to be familiar with:

  • Working Together to Safeguard Children – a multi-agency document.
  • Keeping Children Safe in Education – specific guidance for schools.

A consultation on the contents of KCSIE ended in February 2018 and now this first revised guidance has been published to enable schools to plan for September 2018.

Much of the content remains the same. However, schools should familiarise themselves with the changes and new material and adapt their policy documents to fit.

The words “must” and “should” are used throughout with the reminder that “must” sets out the legal duties and “should” what it is expected that you do unless you have good reason not to.

The over-riding message is of shared responsibility for safeguarding that sees all staff aware of the process for making a referral and clear that they must communicate any concerns to the designated safeguarding lead or deputy. If neither of them is available then the referral should not wait but be followed up by those who are.

Many of the changes include clarification of responsibilities and a sharpening up of definitions. This is guidance that seeks to find the balance between clarity and comprehensive information.

As awareness of safeguarding issues such as peer-on-peer abuse grows so schools seek advice on what is expected from them.

New information

The updated KCSIE guidance provides more information on:

  • Child criminal exploitation, for example children used to carry drugs or money from urban to rural areas.
  • Homelessness.
  • Domestic abuse.
  • Child sexual exploitation.
  • So-called “honour-based” violence.
  • Keeping children safe online.

However, it is peer-on-peer sexual violence and harassment that is given particular attention. A new “Part 5” has been added to the KCSIE statutory guidance to help schools tackle and respond to peer-on-peer sexual harassment, abuse and violence. Schools should review their child protection policy to ensure that it includes reference to this. School policy must declare a clear rejection of behaviour that has perhaps been tolerated in the past and considered to be “banter”.

Schools should ensure that they have adequate risk assessments in place if any reports of sexual violence or harassment are made and that they have the clear procedures to follow for supporting victims and those accused.

The Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL)

The guidance is clear, everyone has a key role in ensuring the protection of children. This cannot be delegated in the same way as other responsibilities. Having said that, the role of the DSL is also a feature of this guidance. In particular, the equally important status of the deputy DSL who should have the role clearly identified in their job description.

Staff should understand that if neither the DSL nor deputy are available then they must make sure that action is still taken. The DSL should have had training in online safety and SEND and feel confident that they have relevant and up-to-date knowledge.

The vulnerable

The new guidance includes a list of children for whom staff should be particularly alert. Children who were previously looked after but aren’t any longer receive a special mention and the DSL must take responsibility for their attainment with support from the virtual head.

The new guidance pays particular attention to pupils with SEND with reference to their vulnerability and also to the issue of restraint. It points towards the need for additional pastoral as well as academic support for this group of pupils. The school’s behaviour policy should include reference to how the school actively works to support pupils with SEND and minimise the need for restraint to be used.

Where a school uses alternative provision they should check the arrangements for ensuring that there is appropriate safeguarding provided there. The provider must meet the safeguarding needs of the pupils.

Recruitment and the Single Central Record (SCR)

There are a number of amendments to safer recruitment and the vetting of volunteers in the guidance. Those involved in staff recruitment and personnel management should familiarise themselves with the guidance, specifically the wording surrounding the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and the times when a referral needs to be made. There is clarification around whose details should be recorded in the SCR in academies and free schools and that it can either be in paper or electronic form. MATs (multi-academy trusts) are not required to have separate single central records but schools should make sure that the record is easily available to Ofsted.

The next steps

The first priority is for a school’s DSL and deputy to familiarise themselves with the new guidance. All members of staff will need to be given a copy of Part One and it is beneficial if they are helped through it. Schools should ensure that all staff are clear that safeguarding is a whole-school responsibility and that actions must be taken quickly if there are concerns.

With the release of this guidance it is time for every school to review its child protection and/or safeguarding policies and procedures (see pages 14 and 15 for more on safeguarding reviews). There is new information to include and the process of review allows senior leaders to tweak those areas that need it.

Schools might want to take the opportunity to review their SCR. The guidance confirms that this can include other information considered to be relevant. For example schools might choose to record the name of the person who carried out each check. This is not obligatory, however, and the SCR should be tailored according to the needs of the school.

We can still expect more guidance to come. Amendments will need to be made to cover the new safeguarding partner arrangements and we can expect that there will be a replacement document to be published before September 2018. Further changes can also be expected to include reference to the GDPR and the data protection bill.

Whatever their plans for the autumn term schools should make sure that they have built in a safeguarding INSET and time for senior leadership too. This may not be a complete overhaul of child protection, but it is worthy of their complete attention in the new school year.

  • Suzanne O’Connell is a freelance education writer and a former primary school headteacher.

Further information

  • Keeping Children Safe in Education, Department for Education (last updated May 2018 – comes into force September 3): http://bit.ly/2bI2Zsm
  • Consultation Outcome: Keeping Children Safe in Education, Department for Education, May 2018: http://bit.ly/2k9U8oj
  • Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children: Draft for consultation, HM Government, April 2018: http://bit.ly/2vt2Syl
  • Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges: Advice for schools and colleges, Department for Education (last updated May 2018): http://bit.ly/2ASbvks
  • Will the latest safeguarding changes make a difference? Headteacher Update, May 2018: http://bit.ly/2kvr5Mj


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