Safeguarding: Are you covering all bases?

Written by: Helen Frostick | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Creating and maintaining a culture of safety is a priority for all primary schools. National Leader of Education and headteacher Helen Frostick advises on preparing and embedding effective practices and satisfying Ofsted requirements

What is safeguarding? It is protecting children from maltreatment. It is preventing impairment of children’s health or development. It is ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care. It is taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.

Designating areas of responsibility to ensure that safeguarding practices in schools are understood and followed indicates to Ofsted that keeping children safe in and out of school is a top priority of the school.

The role of safeguarding leads and heads

Communication: In order to create a culture of safety in schools everybody must buy in to the desire to keep every child safe. Everybody is accountable. How this message is communicated is vitally important. Displays in key places focus attention. In the main school entrance display photographs of the named safeguarding team. In the staffroom display key policies and procedures alongside the photographs of the team. In the medical room display photographs of pupils with medical needs including allergies, with the timetable of first aiders. On classroom notice boards display the photographs of the pupils in the class who have medical needs.

Training: There must be clarity as to which staff and governors need which training. The safeguarding team need to be trained to Level 3 with the rest of the staff team to Level 2. It is not a requirement for the lead governor to be Level 3 trained but the governors responsible for appointing staff must have safer recruitment training. Training in Prevent is essential for all staff but it is acceptable for training to be cascaded down to ensure that all staff are clear as to what to do in any event. Online training, on a one-to-one basis, is highly recommended to avoid a blunderbuss approach as all staff will be at different levels of understanding.

Designate responsibilities: The area of safeguarding is vast. A shared approach is necessary to ensure that every aspect is done well. The admin team oversees the personnel files and Single Central Record. The governors hold the school to account to carry out the Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy. The lead governor for safeguarding checks and signs off behaviour logs, risk assessments, personnel files and ensures that safeguarding is a feature of every governing body meeting agenda.

Policy and procedure: Ensure that the Safeguarding Policy is robust in terms of links and includes the newest areas of concern (for example, child trafficking and peer-to-peer abuse are the latest areas under focus). The policy must be dated and reviewed annually. Schools do not have to publish their policy on their website but there must be clear signposting as to where it can be accessed. Behind the policy sits many procedures to ensure that the policy is a working document. All staff must be able to describe school procedures for keeping children safe. Ofsted will carry out triangulated questioning to ensure that all staff are proficient in how to keep children safe and know who the safeguarding team are.

Filing: Personnel files are reviewed as part of the Ofsted framework but also as part of a Financial Audit. Use a covering prompt checklist sheet to ensure that all files are complete. Dates can show vigilance in checking procedures. If these are signed too by a governor it is good proof that governors are holding the school to account. Behind the Single Central Record it is good practice to keep a file of evidence for the checks that have been carried out, for example, the actual emails that clear staff under the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Recruitment, selection, pre-employment vetting

Culture: Create a culture of safe recruitment by systematically following protocol and robust procedures. Induct new staff as to the school’s safeguarding practices from the outset once appointments have been made. Pages 22 to 39 of the Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance (Department for Education, September 2016) provide useful advice. Remember to seek two references prior to interview. This helps to facilitate a “Miss Marple” like approach to recruitment. If there are any employment gaps unaccounted for the questions can be asked at interview. Has the last employer been asked to write a reference? If not why not? The face-to-face interview provides the best opportunity to have any anomalies in the paperwork checked out.

Vetting: Pre-employment vetting includes the DBS and Barred list checks. An online DBS check must be made and original documents must be produced. Also the right to work in the UK – does your employee have the necessary documentation to work in the UK? Have you taken a copy of all of the documentation? The admin checking passport details can also verify proof of identity. Remember to check qualifications. Medical clearance must be completed through a confidential health check.

References: Is the reference on headed paper? From the person you requested it from? From the last two employers? Signed by the author and is it an original signature?

Volunteers: Don’t overlook volunteers in terms of checks. Although they are not subject to formal recruitment procedures they do need to be at least risk-assessed if carrying out regulated activities with the pupils.

Effective use of Parent View

Websites: Parent View is the latest requirement for websites in order to be Ofsted ready. A direct link to Parent View must be accessible. Ofsted provides a Parent View Toolkit for schools. This is highly recommended. This toolkit explains important facts about Parent View and contains materials that can be adapted and used by schools to raise awareness of Parent View among parents.

Inspection: Inspectors review the evidence from Parent View throughout the inspection to make sure that online responses taken during the inspection are taken into account. Under the heading of welfare and behaviour and overall effectiveness inspectors will consider and weigh parents’ views against the full range of other first-hand evidence they gather. Schools often find that when they have actively promoted the survey with parents, their results are positive.

The role of governors

Oversight: All governors should be able to answer the big question: How safe are our pupils both in and out of school? And how do we know? Governors must also monitor the effectiveness of safeguarding and the school’s work to raise awareness and keep pupils safe from the dangers of abuse, sexual exploitation, radicalisation and extremism. They must know what the school does when it suspects that pupils are vulnerable to these issues. Governors must be able to demonstrate:

  • Compliance and understanding of all aspects of safeguarding.
  • How the school responds swiftly and incisively to safeguarding incidents.
  • Evidence of how they contribute to creating a safe school environment.
  • That high-quality and regular training is taking place.

Safeguarding link governor: The role of the safeguarding link governor involves two key areas:

  • To promote the importance of safeguarding within the governing body while observing the confidentiality/sensitivity of specific cases.
  • To liaise with the Designated Safeguarding Lead and report to the governing body as to any staff/governor training undertaken/required and any significant issues that are affecting the school in relation to safeguarding.

Final thought

Audit: It is extremely useful to invite a “new pair of eyes” in to school to point out key areas that need to be addressed. For example, our school reception area now has a double door instead of visitors walking straight into school off the street. Safeguarding audits can be used to highlight key areas of development and offer those new eyes.

Further information

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