Safeguarding advice: Keeping our children safe

Written by: Helen Frostick | Published:
Focus on safeguarding: Pupils at St Mary Magdalen’s Primary School in London, which uses NSPCC programmes and resources as part of its safeguarding work with all pupils (Image: St Mary Magdalen’s/Ruth Mulholland Photography)

Safeguarding forms a key focus for inspectors during the new Ofsted Section 8 monitoring visits of schools rated as good. Headteacher Helen Frostick offers a useful overview for schools

One of the two key points for short Section 8 Ofsted monitoring inspections is whether safeguarding children is effective. However, I have heard that many schools are finding themselves on the cusp of failing their Section 8 inspection based on safeguarding issues.

No-one would argue that the health and safety of children and learners is of paramount importance, but it is the case that schools that would have previously been confident about their systems and procedures are being pulled up short. Safeguarding is defined as, protecting children from maltreatment, preventing impairment of children’s health or development and ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care (Working Together to Safeguard Children, Department for Education).

Leaders must demonstrate that systems are effectively keeping children safe. Evidence for this must be robustly triangulated. A common approach must be taken by all stakeholders and this will be put to the test over the course of the inspection. The inspection team will check that safeguarding arrangements are managed to ensure that there is safe recruitment and all pupils are safe including the effective identification of children in need or at risk of significant harm, including:

  • Maintaining the Single Central Record and appropriate arrangements for child protection.
  • The rigour with which absence is followed up.
  • How well safe practices and a culture of safety are promoted through the curriculum.

In order to ensure consistency, it is crucial that the following actions are in place and are documented, ideally in one central place:

  • The Single Central Record is in place and is up-to-date.
  • Suitable staff and governors are trained in safer recruitment.
  • Fire safety records are up-to-date.
  • Health and safety checks and statutory compliance checks are up-to-date.
  • Risk assessments are all in place.
  • All statutory policies are in place and have been signed off by the governing body with dates for review.

The Ofsted document Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years, Education and Skills from September 2015 (which replaced Inspecting Safeguarding in Maintained Schools and Academies) provides an insight into this aspect of the inspection process.

Inspectors will also make a judgement on the effectiveness of leadership and management by evaluating the extent to which leaders, managers and governors actively promote British values. They will make sure, too, that safeguarding arrangements to protect children, young people and learners meet all statutory and other government requirements, promote their welfare and prevent radicalisation and extremism.

In terms of the curriculum, the inspection team will want to know how issues related to female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage are reflected in the content of the programmes of study. Inspectors will always report on whether or not arrangements for safeguarding children and learners are effective.

Safeguarding

The handbook for inspecting schools in England under Section 5 of the Education Act 2005 states: “In judging the effectiveness of leadership and management, inspectors must also judge whether the school’s arrangements for safeguarding pupils are effective, and whether the governing body ensures that these arrangements are effective. There is detailed guidance on evaluating safeguarding arrangements in Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years, Education, Skills Settings.”

From this guidance, inspectors undertaking inspection under the Common Inspection Framework will be ensuring that safeguarding protects children and learners from a range of issues, including:

  • Neglect & physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
  • Bullying (online, prejudice-based, racist, disablist, homophobic or transphobic).
  • Gender-based violence/violence against women and girls.
  • Radicalisation and/or extremist behaviour.
  • Child sexual exploitation and trafficking.
  • The impact of new technologies on sexual behaviour (sexting).
  • Issues specific to a local area/population (gang activity or youth violence).
  • Domestic violence (see page 14 for advice on this), FGM, forced marriage.
  • Poor parenting, particularly in relation to babies and young children.

Safeguarding also relates to broader aspects of care and education including: children’s and learners’ health and safety and wellbeing, the use of reasonable force, meeting the needs of children and learners with medical conditions, providing first aid, educational visits, intimate care and emotional wellbeing, online safety and associated issues, and appropriate arrangements to ensure children’s and leaners’ security, taking into account the local context.

So, the main aspects of the setting’s safeguarding arrangements are:

  1. The extent to which leaders, governors and managers create a positive culture and ethos where safeguarding is an important part of everyday life in the setting, backed up by training at every level.
  2. The application and effectiveness of safeguarding policies and safe recruitment and vetting procedures.
  3. The quality of safeguarding practice, including evidence that staff are aware of signs that children or learners may be at risk of harm either within the setting or in the family or wider community outside the setting.
  4. The timeliness of response to any safeguarding concerns that are raised.
  5. The quality of work to support multi-agency plans around the child or learner.

Key evidence

In settings that have effective safeguarding arrangements, there will be evidence that children and learners are protected and feel safe. This means that those who are able to communicate know how to complain and understand the process for doing so. There is a strong, robust and proactive response from adults working with children and learners that reduces risk of harm or actual harm to them.

Adults know and understand the indicators that may suggest that a child is suffering or is at risk of suffering abuse, neglect or harm and they take the appropriate and necessary action in accordance with local procedures and statutory guidance. Leaders and managers have put in place effective safeguarding and staff behaviour policies that are well understood by everyone in the setting.

Furthermore, staff and other adults working in the setting must be clear about procedures where they are concerned about the safety of a child or learner. There must be a named and designated lead that is enabled to play an effective role in pursuing concerns and protecting children and learners.

When Ofsted makes the phone call to the school regarding a short Section 8 they will ask for a generic list of documentation in relation to safeguarding, which will include safeguarding records with chronology and the number of open child protection cases.

Child protection and safeguarding policies need to be up-to-date and clearly dated with review dates signed off by governors. If safeguarding policies are published on the website then they must be up-to-date, including hyperlinks. There needs to be proof that the headteacher and governors are systematically checking the Single Central Record. This could be reflected in minutes from meetings.

Safeguarding will be a major focus of the inspection with significant and forensic-like rigour. Systems will be checked thoroughly, such as how the school promotes excellent attendance and punctuality. It is essential to check policies to ensure that the most recent legislation is reflected throughout. A new Keeping Children Safe in Education document is due out any time soon after a consultation over proposed changes (see further information).

A final note

At St Mary Magdalen’s we have used the NSPCC’s Speak out, Stay Safe programme, delivered separately to key stage 1 and 2 by an initial, age-appropriate assembly. It seeks to ensure that pupils have an understanding at their level of all forms of abuse, including bullying, and an ability to recognise the signs of abuse. It also ensures that pupils know how to protect themselves and makes them aware of help, including ChildLine. The NSPCC also offers an e-safety talk to years 5 and 6.

Further information

  • Safeguarding guidance and policy documents from the Department for Education (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
  • Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years, Education and Skills from September 2015, Ofsted, June 2015: http://bit.ly/1METk6c
  • The Common Inspection Framework, Ofsted, September 2015: http://bit.ly/1NwzQOF
  • The School Inspection Handbook, Ofsted, June 2015: http://bit.ly/1XFZcMT
  • Proposed updates to Keeping Children Safe in Education: http://bit.ly/1ZekyAC


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