From September to September: A annual plan for safeguarding development

Written by: Elizabeth Rose | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Taking a strategic approach to safeguarding development will help designated safeguarding leads to meet statutory requirements, develop best practice, and manage workload. What does this look like in practice? Elizabeth Rose explains

There is a big gap from September to September and the annual process of updating policies, reading documents, and delivering training. As such, there is an ever-increasing focus on continuous development in safeguarding and “regularly updating” training for both staff and the designated safeguarding lead (DSL).

The Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) statutory guidance refers explicitly to the need to continually revisit both policy and practice and makes it clear that the policy should be reviewed annually (as a minimum) and updated if needed so that it is kept up-to-date with safeguarding issues as they emerge and evolve, including lessons learnt (DfE, 2021).

As the risks to children (and our understanding of them) develop and change over time and we learn more about how to prevent serious harm, we must adapt our practice accordingly.

This can be a challenge when we are working day-to-day with a plethora of different calls on our time and when the same person (the DSL) is responsible for both strategic and operational safeguarding work.

It can be helpful to spend some time planning what you can in advance as this will mean you can be confident you are both meeting the requirements of statutory guidance and developing best practice across the school. It also helps in establishing which areas can be delegated and in balancing workload to prevent burn-out.

Think about things that happen regularly

It can be helpful to plan an annual calendar in advance to include all of the things that happen throughout the year. This means that you have thought about them in advance so you don’t have a last-minute panic to think about what to include in the parent newsletter, for example, while trying to juggle other things. It also means you can tie things together to maximise effectiveness. Here are some things to consider:

Weekly CPD or briefing slots: Can you include an update on a specific safeguarding topic or issue that links to other things happening this week, either nationally or in school?

Newsletters: Plan topics to be covered in each parent and/or staff newsletter so that you can maximise impact. For example, you could cover road safety as it starts to get dark, domestic abuse helplines before Christmas, and online safety to tie in with work done for Safer Internet Day (February 8, 2022). You know these things will be happening so creating a quick plan saves additional thinking time later. You can also re-use these paragraphs each year, updating as necessary.

Tutor team, year group or phase meetings: These are an excellent opportunity to provide information that can help to promote the educational outcomes of vulnerable children. Think strategically about the role of the heads of year and the links between pastoral care, behaviour and safeguarding. As these meetings are already happening they are a useful structure for upskilling staff around key issues facing your cohort, including contextual issues of course.

Governor meetings: Plan in your training and updates now so you know what you need to do over the course of the year and have ideas about what to report or what to invite governors in to discuss.

Curriculum: Look at the PSHE curriculum for the year and tie in other ideas around it. If children are covering healthy eating or positive relationships in PSHE then put this in the parent newsletter, speak to the kitchen about a focus week or arrange for an external speaker to present in assembly. A holistic approach will help to strengthen your work around one of the key tenets of KCSIE 2021 – that everyone is responsible for safeguarding and that it is an integral part of all areas of school life.

Things that need to happen at certain points in the year

Some things happen annually, or always at the same time throughout the year. Again, prior planning can make these things easier and prevent doubling up on workload. Here are some things to consider:

Recruitment: This is on-going but in education we have key points where staff tend to start in post. Make sure you have your induction packs and training ready to go and plan in dates for induction training now so you are not vying for time at the last minute in an already packed schedule. Where possible, train everyone necessary at the same time to cut down on time running catch-up sessions.

The September to-do list: Policies and training are almost always updated in September. This is the focus for that month so try not to overload in other areas (trips and visits, theme days etc).

PEPs and inter-agency working: Consider when PEPs (personal education plans) are likely to be updated. Schedule this early and give people warning about information that needs to be collected. This is especially important if the PEP process does not align with your assessment cycles.

Your audit schedule

To drive forward practice, we need to know where we are currently and what is working well and where tweaks need to be made. Here are some things to consider:

Your local authority audit: Local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that education functions are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. Many local authorities ask schools to complete an annual (or regular) safeguarding audit, often referred to as a “Section 175/157” audit (referring to Sections 175 and 157 of the Education Act 2002). If you know when this is happening, include this in your overarching audit plan, present it to governors and use it to create the basis of an action plan.

Auditing changes: The major changes this year have been around peer-on-peer abuse, online safety and greater focus on low-level concerns about staff. If these questions are not asked in your local audit, complete additional audit work around these at a suitable point in the year. KCSIE 2021 recommends 360 Degree Safe (see further information) for reviewing online safety and suggests this is done annually. So plan this in now at a time when you are not also updating the policy or writing an extensive report for governors, for example.

Existing audit cycles: Think about existing audit cycles, such as lesson observations, PSHE learning walks or performance management. Can anything be tweaked, or can additional sections or questions be added so other senior leaders are also providing oversight for some aspects of safeguarding?

Drawing it together

This article offers a starting point checklist for work that could, or should, be undertaken over the rest of the academic year.

I would suggest drafting this into a calendar to cover these areas and add in others of your own to further satisfy the requirements under statutory and local guidance.

This resource will then perform multiple roles – ensuring best practice, evidencing safeguarding work and building in structures to strengthen other staff’s roles within safeguarding. It will also assist with workload because the thinking time has been invested early.

With multiple hats and many things to juggle, the DSL role is a challenging one, so anything that can be done to maximise impact while freeing up time to work with children and families is something worth doing.

  • Elizabeth Rose is an independent safeguarding consultant and the director of So Safeguarding. She has worked in education for more than 15 years and is a former secondary designated safeguarding lead and local authority safeguarding in education advisor. Visit or follow her @sosafeguarding. Find her previous articles for Headteacher Update via

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