Safeguarding: Keeping Children Safe in Education

Written by: Ann Marie Christian | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The latest updates to the statutory Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance were published in September. Ann Marie Christian looks at the main implications for our safeguarding work

This is the sixth edition since the original Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) document published in March 2014.

It is updated according to new government requirements, hence the six editions. This is statutory guidance from the Department for Education issued under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002, the Education (Independent School Standard) Regulations 2014 and the Non Maintained Special Schools (England) Regulations 2015.

The latest edition was published on September 5, 2016, and is available on the government’s website (see further information). Schools that had their INSET day before this date and had staff that read Part 1 of the previous July 2015 edition of KCSIE, would be expected to get their staff to read, sign and fully understand Part 1 of the latest version.

They are very different documents with new additional information in the latest version. Part 1 is available on the government website separately with Annex A attached and has 21 pages. This version is the section that should be given to staff.

The latest edition expects staff to fully understand Part 1. How can this be tested and evidenced? Case studies are good as staff can demonstrate the procedures and what they would do if they were concerned about a child or adult’s behaviour.

Creating a quiz or multiple-choice questionnaire is also a decent way to demonstrate your staff’s understanding of Part 1. Questions would have to be designed to cover every aspect of Part 1 including, information for staff, what school staff should know and do, types of abuse and neglect, specific issues, and Annex A further information.

We have to remember the mixture of staff we have in our schools inclusive of the cleaners, contractors, teaching assistants, after-school club staff, midday supervisors, grounds staff, and volunteers (and their understanding of the English language and the subject of child abuse and child protection) and ensure we consider this when planning the session regarding Part 1.

The updated guidance has four parts:

  • Part 1: Safeguarding information for all staff.
  • Part 2: The management of safeguarding.
  • Part 3: Safer recruitment.
  • Part 4: Allegations of abuse made against teachers and other staff.
  • Annex’s A to H are at the back of the guidance expanding on topics covered in the guidance.

What does this guidance mean in practice? Part 1

Staff are an important part of the wider safeguarding system and need to fully understand their role in spotting the signs and reporting concerns about abuse to the designated safeguarding lead (DSL).

They all need to have an “it could happen here approach” and know how to report suspicions of child abuse to the DSL. They need to appreciate that any child or colleague including them could be part of a current, future or historical serious case review. This would mean that their decision-making, recordings and behaviours would be scrutinised. Transparency in all the above is so important.

Elsewhere, the guidance now includes a mandatory reporting duty for female genital mutilation (FGM). It states that: "Teachers must personally report to the police cases where they discover that an act of FGM appears to have been carried out."

Meanwhile, if a member of staff has concerns about the conduct of a colleague, then these must be reported to the head or principal. The guidance reminds school leaders that: "There is a legal requirement for employers to make a referral to the DBS where they think that an individual has engaged in conduct that harmed (or is likely to harm) a child; or if a person otherwise poses a risk of harm to a child."

All staff need to be aware of the “early help” process provided by the local authority, and be prepared to identify children who may benefit from it. For the first time, this guidance recognises the difference between a “concern”, “risk of harm” and “immediate danger” relating to children. This is great news. Low-level concerns escalate and result in child protection concerns if families don’t engage with the process and put their child’s needs first. The welfare of the child is paramount (The Children Act 1989). This is at the heart of all we do. KCSIE is very child-focused and supports the welfare of the child.

Discussion, decisions and concerns have to be recorded in writing. Schools that use electronic systems to record and file have to consider how they print off copies at regular intervals, and store them in secure paper files. I have known of a few schools in the last six months that have had power cuts or IT failures and could not access those records for a few days.

One of them was attending an Initial Child Protection Conference and had to rely on their memory regarding detailed accounts of the school’s concerns and involvement.

The NSPCC whistleblowing helpline is made explicit in the guidance and recognises that staff may need an independent person not associated to the setting to talk to about concerns regarding a member of staff or senior leadership, hence they encourage staff to contact the number provided.

Peer-on-peer abuse has been introduced for the first time and staff need to understand how it appears in a school setting including across and between genders.

There’s been various serious case reviews of children abusing peers and staff treating the incidents as “child’s play” or “exploration”. We are expected to have more knowledge and this should be reflected in the school child protection policy.

High-profile child sexual exploitation cases across the country have been discovered over the last 10 years and we need to look at the lessons learnt and appreciate that children can harm their peers as well as introduce them to other children or adults that could harm them too.

What does this guidance mean in practice? Part 2

The governing body, proprietors and management committees have clear responsibilities to ensure that safeguarding systems, polices and practice are in place and are all effective. All procedures and systems should be in-line with the Local Safeguarding Children Board. They should all access relevant safeguarding training to empower them when they scrutinise the school and be up-to-date with the wider specific safeguarding listed in Part 1 and Annex A.

DSLs and their deputies should be trained to the same level relevant to their specialist role. They are responsible for ensuring staff are trained at least annually and receive regular updates on safeguarding and child protection research findings, serious case reviews, studies etc. The school’s safeguarding training should be in line with the Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures and themes.

Children have to be taught about how to keep themselves safe online, at home and in the community. Partnership work with parents, carers, statutory agencies and the voluntary sector should be encouraged. Resources should be carefully sought that share a strong message to empower children and their families about the reality of how abuse takes place and the reporting procedures.

Looked-after children (LAC) have to be supported by key staff including the local virtual school and the named LAC teacher should have the details of the virtual head. They should also be named in the child protection policy.

For children with SEN and disabilities, disclosures may be more complex based on lack of communication and verbal skills

and staff should be trained to recognise these signs.
What does this guidance mean in practice? Part 3


Recruitment, selection, pre-employment vetting, DRB checks, references and oversea checks have to be carried out thoroughly and demonstrated in the relevant human resources files. Adults who pose a risk to children should be prevented from working in settings with children. Maintained, independent, academy and free schools, as of September 8, 2016, need to do a “section 128 direction” check on the Teacher Services System to ensure that the applicant has not been prohibited from participating in management, including as a governor, trustee or senior leader.

Conclusion

I welcome the updated KCSIE guidance and feel it puts us on the right track in understanding the complexity of child abuse, safer recruitment and thresholds of child protection. School staff spend a lot of time with children, sometimes more than the actual parent or carers, and are well placed in spotting signs of abuse. 

Further information

  • Keeping Children Safe in Education, DfE (including the new 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


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