A safeguarding review

Written by: Helen Frostick | Published:
Ready to learn: Safeguarding is high on the agenda at St Mary Magdalen’s Catholic Primary School in south London

Having just led her primary school through a safeguarding audit and review, Helen Frostick discusses her lessons learned and best practice safeguarding approaches

One of the most effective ways to bring safeguarding in line with all recommendations is to commission a review by external providers, such as the local authority. Having an outside pair of eyes is invaluable as schools can miss areas that might present a safeguarding risk simply because the procedures have been in place for years.

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children refers to the process of protecting children from maltreatment, preventing the impairment of health or development, ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care and taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes. Child protection refers to the processes undertaken to protect children who have been identified as suffering or being at risk of suffering significant harm.

Reviews are thorough, as informed by the guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children and Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE), as well as local borough-wide child protection procedures. There is updated KCSIE guidance applicable from September 2018. This – unveiled by the government last month – can be viewed in readiness online. Updates to Working Together to Safeguard Children have also been published (see further information).

A safeguarding review

Prior to a visit the reviewers will look at the following policies on your website: behaviour, complaints, equality, child protection and safeguarding. They will also review the website and the annual safeguarding audit and action plan.

During the review they will usually meet with the inclusion manager/designated safeguarding lead (DSL), the IT lead, a senior administrative officer, the safeguarding governor, a sample of staff and a sample of pupils. They will review documentation on the visit including the Single Central Record (SCR), recording of concerns, training log, Intimate Care Policy, Health and Safety Policy, Medical Needs Policy, Attendance Policy, Anti-Bullying Policy, Physical Intervention Policy, safeguarding information sheet for visitors, EYFS/KS1 Online Safety Agreement Form, KS2 Online Safety Agreement Form, and Parents’ Booklet.

Leadership and management

During a recent review at my school – St Mary Magdalen’s Catholic Primary – the reviewers looked at the way the school manages the safeguarding agenda, including roles, responsibilities and whether they translate across into job descriptions. The safeguarding displays and information sheets within the school were considered a strength, but more was required in terms of information-sharing on the website.

Safeguarding should be a standing item on the agendas of staff and governors’ meetings. Communication between the safeguarding leads and governors should be strong and the annual audit should be a fixed item and a joint undertaking. Action points from the review must be time framed.

The safeguarding governor conducts safeguarding visits and in particular reviews the behaviour log, risk assessments and SCR. However, safeguarding and the SCR should be a standing item on the agenda of the full governing board to ensure effective monitoring. Volunteers, governors and contractors all need to be included in the SCR. Compile and incorporate the audit report into headteacher reports as well.

For our looked after pupils, the virtual school’s training was signposted during our review as a resource to tap into. Outside agencies, such as guest speakers at assemblies or the NSPCC’s resources and guidance, can support the school’s work on safeguarding.

Safer recruitment

At St Mary Magdalen’s, the head and deputy head have attended safer recruitment training, as have two of the governors. The recruitment process involves a clear statement of the school’s commitment to safeguarding within the job advertisement. Questions about safeguarding are included in all interviews and any gaps in employment explored. Two references are gathered for every appointment and historic evidence of this practice is included in the personnel files. However, in terms of the SCR, the following columns need to be fully completed:

  • Prohibition from teaching checks.
  • Date Disclosure and Barring Service checked.
  • Date photographic ID checked.
  • Right to work in the UK and date checked.

If staff need to have overseas checks taken then the date this is done must also be included (there needs to be a column for restriction checks for teachers who have worked in European Economic Area countries).

The checks can be carried out via the Department for Education and Teaching Regulation Agency (which replaced the National College for Teaching and Leadership in April 2018) at the same time as the prohibition from teaching checks. When checks are carried out there needs to be a signature. It should be noted that the usual guidance on DBS checks is to re-do them every three years, although this is not mandatory. Associated risk assessments should be documented and all staff should sign a declaration stating that they will inform the school should any circumstances change with the DBS disclosure. The school must gather any information regarding disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006 (disqualification by association).

Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy

The following details are to be included on the front sheets of all policies:

  • Date of policy/most recent review.
  • Schedule of review.
  • Date of next review and committee responsible for the review.

In the introduction to the policy, best practice is to refer to the school’s mission statement to show that the safeguarding of pupils is a core purpose of the school. When using the word “staff” it is to include all persons on site, including the premises staff, admin staff, contractors, volunteers and governors. The Attendance Policy is an important part of keeping children safe. It needs to include a statement about children missing education and that this could be a possible indicator of neglect, abuse and child sexual exploitation (CSE).

Model safeguarding policies enable schools to keep fully up-to-date but they need tailoring to the individual school setting. Meanwhile, the Complaints Policy must state clearly that should a staff member or volunteer be suspected of behaving in a way that could have harmed a child, then safeguarding procedures should be followed and a referral to the London Designated Safeguarding Officer (Laddo) – or your equivalent – be made. School websites need to have a separate section for safeguarding policies for ease of access.


There is a constant need for training. Training specific to the safeguarding agenda includes:

  • Multi-Agency Safeguarding Level 3 (Designated Safeguarding Officer Team).
  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
  • Signs of Safety.
  • Managing Allegations Against Staff or Volunteers (DSL).
  • Safeguarding Awareness Level 2 (all staff).
  • Prevent Duty (all staff).
  • Safeguarding: The Governing Body’s Role (Appointed Safeguarding Governor).

Parents’ Information Booklets should outline safeguarding guidelines. All volunteers, including parents, should meet with the DSL to ensure that they have safeguarding information and knowledge of school procedures.

Safeguarding noticeboards in a central place, such as the staffroom, can provide a reference point for staff and visitors and signpost them to critical telephone numbers, information and policies – for example the Whistleblowing Policy and photographs of the safeguarding team.

Recording systems

At St Mary Magdalen’s, we use lilac-coloured forms for recording safeguarding concerns so that they stand out. The files are organised into sections containing those considered to be at risk with a chronology included at the outset beginning from when the first concern became apparent. The file is stored securely in the headteacher’s locked, fireproof filing cabinet, with appropriately limited access. The school’s E-Safety Policy has been updated recently and the pupils and parents are required to sign an Online Safety Agreement Form. Staff need to sign an Acceptable Use Agreement Form.

School site safety

If schools have a CCTV system, a policy for its use must be in place. Schools must conform to the Data Protection Act as well as the General Data Protection Regulation and the Information Commissioner’s Office CCTV Code of Practice (http://bit.ly/2LvaSmj). All visitors are required to sign in and visitors’ stickers, which could easily be lost, have now been replaced by colour-coded lanyards – green for those visitors DBS checked, red for those not. It is recommended that staff wear identification badges. Posters and information sheets provide useful information regarding safety on site at regular points throughout the school.

Health and safety

The headteacher has overall responsibility for health and safety and the admin officers and premises manager manage the day-to-day health and safety aspects of the school. Health and safety information, in St Mary Magdalen’s case, is obtained from the Royal Borough of Kingston (RBK). They hold termly briefing meetings, which the senior admin officer attends. RBK conducted a Health and Safety Audit of the school in July 2016 and a Fire Safety Audit in September of the same year.

Daily visual checks are carried out by the premises manager. It is recommended that these checks be dated for monitoring purposes. Junior Pupil Safety Officers carry out a health and safety tour around the school termly and feed their concerns of potential hazards through to the premises manager and premises governors.

There is a fleet of first aid-trained staff with a timetable clearly visible for who is on duty when. The school has a Medial Needs Policy, there is a Critical Incident Policy and a recently formulated Lockdown Procedure.

Drills are carried out systematically but is advised that these are scenario-based. For example, a member of staff does not line up with their class – or a pupil is missing at registration in the playground.

As fires are most likely to start at lunchtime, it is useful to have a fire drill in the lunch hour. In addition, certain staircases could be blocked off so drills should include such a scenario.

Risk assessments are completed for off-site activities and staff are required to conduct a preview visit. There needs to be clarity for staff that risk assessments are signed off by the headteacher. If schools were to appoint an educational visits co-ordinator, they could attend the relevant training.

Schools need a Physical Intervention or Manual Handling Policy to include recording such occurrences.

Teaching and Learning

We have a Code of Conduct clearly displayed throughout the school. It states: We are good learners and do our best, We listen carefully, We are kind, caring, co-operative and helpful, We move quietly around the school, We settle our disagreements peacefully by talking about them, We look after the school and its equipment, We look after other people’s property.

Class rules complement the Code of Conduct and are more tailored to the specific age group. The Behaviour Policy is well known by staff, parents and children. It is a working document, which emphasises the positive but effectively deals with the negative with a restorative approach.

We use themes from the SEAL programme in the PSHE curriculum. Topics covered in the PSHE include managing feelings, anxiety, and problem-solving, anti-bullying, appropriate relationships, e-safety, and many more. The NSPCC Underwear Rule (PANTS) has been taught to all pupils in the school and there is a wall display, which includes the number for Childline.

The child’s voice

Children here feel comfortable talking to an adult about any concerns. There are also Worry Boxes in the classrooms that are checked regularly. Interventions and Social Skills Groups are run to focus on self-esteem and confidence building. Lego therapy is also offered. The playground has friendship Stop and a special Friendship Bench.

The children take on responsibilities in the school such as play leaders, head gardeners, staircase monitors, “buddies”, playground friends, house captains, wet play monitors and head boy and head girl. Exit questionnaires for year 6 pupils include questions about safety. Parent surveys are also carried out annually. It was suggested that the surveys could be presented in a child friendly way so the whole school can take part in them.

  • Helen Frostick is a National Leader of Education and headteacher of St Mary Magdalen’s Catholic Primary School in south London. To read her previous articles for Headteacher Update, visit http://bit.ly/2ILS0Od

Further information

  • Keeping Children Safe in Education, Department for Education (last updated May 2018 – new updated regulations come into force on September 3, 2018): http://bit.ly/2bI2Zsm
  • 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

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