Five priorities for your safeguarding checklist

Written by: Hannah Glossop | Published:
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It is the start of an intense year for everyone working in schools, especially designated safeguarding leads. Hannah Glossop details her priorities to help DSLs be fully prepared for the months ahead

We are all hoping that this year will be a return to something approaching normal service.

But for designated safeguarding leads (DSLs) the next few months are unlikely to be business as usual. The fall-out from the disruption of the past 18 months, with its protracted lockdowns and summer term “pingdemic” will resonate for some time to come. It will be a high-stakes year.

Safeguarding practice has never been more important and DSLs will be on alert for the signs of students who may be a safeguarding concern.

As well as continued vigilance, DSLs will have a range of developments that they will need to be aware of and act upon. These are as follows:

Priority 1: Keeping Children Safe in Education

Schools will be communicating to staff the updated statutory guidance for Keeping Children Safe in Education (DfE, 2021). This is updated annually and there is a raft of new updates in KCSIE 2021 which came into force on September 1.

There are 15 key changes, including the need for a school’s child protection policy to now include procedures for dealing with peer-on-peer abuse, more information on record-keeping for child protection files, and further detail on the information required in the child protection policy, including the whole school approach to peer-on-peer abuse.

Make sure you familiarise yourselves with those changes and how they should be embedded in your school. The changes at a glance are:

  • The child protection policy should include procedures for dealing with peer-on-peer abuse (for more advice on the Ofsted review, see later and also see further reading).
  • Paragraph 71 outlines additional information on record keeping for child protection files.
  • Paragraph 85 gives more detail on the information required in the child protection policy, including the whole school approach to peer-on-peer abuse.
  • Online safety content has mostly been moved from Annex C to Part Two, including more focus on online safety training for staff.
  • Paragraphs 155 and 156 give new information regarding safeguarding when school premises are hired or rented out.
  • Paragraphs 165 to 168 give new information on elective home education, including a professionals meeting where possible when a parent has expressed their intention to remove a child from school.
  • Big changes to the structure of Part Three, now split into four sections. Paragraph 213 highlights the importance of identity checking: “Best practice is checking the name on their birth certificate, where this is available.”
  • Paragraph 262 gives important clarification about overseas checks and what these could include.
  • Big changes to the structure of Part Four, which is now split into two sections – concerns about adults that do meet the threshold and concerns that do not (i.e. low-level concerns).
  • Outline and examples of low-level concerns, including how these concerns should be recorded. A “low-level concerns policy” should be included in code of conduct and safeguarding policies.
  • Extra information added to Part Five, including the need for staff to be vigilant and have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and violence.
  • Annex A is now a shortened version of Part One. Governors may provide this to staff who do not directly work with children.
  • Annex B now includes information on “child abduction and community safety incidents”, “modern slavery and the National Referral Mechanism”, and cyber-crime.
  • Annex C gives more information about academic support for children who have or have had a social worker.
  • The time limit for transfer of CP files: “Within five days for an in-year transfer or within the first five days of the start of a new term.”

Priority 2: The updated Ofsted inspection handbook

Read the updated Ofsted inspector’s handbook (Ofsted, 2021a). The inspectorate now requires schools to review their approaches to identifying sexual abuse and how they encourage students to come forward.

Inspectors will expect schools to “assume that sexual harassment, online sexual abuse and sexual violence are happening in and around the school, even when there are no specific reports, and put in place a whole-school approach to address them” and “be confident about what to do if a child reports that they have been sexually abused by another child”.


Priority 3: The Ofsted review

You will have read it, but take another look at the recent Ofsted Review into sexual abuse in schools and colleges (Ofsted, 2021b) and refresh yourself.

The review highlights that many students are not reporting these incidents because they felt a sense of shame and that nothing would be done anyway – so there is a lot for schools to do to ensure that they are acting upon the report’s recommendations.

Your response will include developing a carefully sequenced RSHE curriculum, high-quality training for teachers delivering RSHE and routine record-keeping and analysis of sexual harassment and sexual violence, including online (see further reading).

Elsewhere, the Childline and the Internet Watch foundation have launched a new Report Remove Tool to enable under-18s to report a nude image or video of themselves that has been shared online, so that it can be removed from the internet. Make students aware of this resource.

Priority 4: Student voice

DSLs need to get out there and speak to students, perhaps by holding focus groups or student voice sessions to discuss these issues and issuing questionnaires. Ask students what would make a difference to them. This will inform how you tweak and refine your response to the new Ofsted handbook requirements, too.

Priority 5: Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel

Familiarise yourselves with the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel 2020 annual report (see further reading). The report details six key practice themes that can make a difference in reducing serious harm and preventing child deaths caused by abuse or neglect. These are:

  • Understanding what the child’s daily life is like.
  • Working with families where their engagement is reluctant and sporadic.
  • Critical thinking and challenge.
  • Responding to changing risk and need.
  • Sharing information in a timely and appropriate way.
  • Organisational leadership and culture for good outcomes.


By reading up on these developments and thinking carefully how they will impact upon the school, DSLs can be well prepared for the challenges of the coming months.

And while it is important for DSLs to be “on point” this academic year, it is worth urging colleagues to also look out for their DSLs and make sure that they have the space and support they need as they continue to deal with the impact the pandemic has had on our children and young people.

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