Key updates to statutory safeguarding guidance

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
On alert: Updated safeguarding guidance puts all school staff on alert for evidence of domestic abuse and warns that it can encompass a wide range of behaviours and may be a single incident or a pattern of incidents (image: Adobe Stock)

Updated statutory safeguarding guidance, including new information on domestic abuse, online safety, and child-on-child (not peer-on-peer) sexual violence and harassment, has been published ahead of implementation in September.

The latest version of the Keeping children safe in education guidance for schools in England is now available following consultation over a number of proposed updates (DfE, 2022).

Domestic abuse

Notable updates to the guidance include a new paragraph on domestic abuse which has been added to the list of safeguarding issues all staff should be aware of (paragraph 43).

The update advises all school staff that “domestic abuse can encompass a wide range of behaviours and may be a single incident or a pattern of incidents”.

It continues: “That abuse can be, but is not limited to, psychological, physical, sexual, financial, or emotional. Children can be victims of domestic abuse. They may see, hear, or experience the effects of abuse at home and/or suffer domestic abuse in their own intimate relationships (teenage relationship abuse). All of which can have a detrimental and long-term impact on their health, wellbeing, development, and ability to learn.”

Child-on-child abuse

Another update in the new guidance is the change in terminology to the use of “child-on-child abuse” instead of “peer-on-peer abuse”.

Writing in Headteacher Update’s recent Best Practice Focus, which outlined 10 safeguarding priorities for schools in the coming months, expert Elizabeth Rose said that this is an important change (Headteacher Update, 2022 – see below).

She explained: “At the most basic level we will need to update policies and training slides, but on a more fundamental level we need to ensure that all staff understand what ‘child-on-child abuse’ is, how it can manifest from the earliest stages in a child’s life through to leaving education, and how we can actively minimise opportunities for it to happen.”

She added: “There is likely to be a shift in deepening understanding following the upskilling process that has been expected since Ofsted published its review (in 2021) into sexual abuse in schools. This has mainly focused on ensuring schools understand the issue, have clear policies on how to minimise, respond and support children, and how this issue might be addressed in the curriculum.”

Top 10 safeguarding priorities for schools in 2022/23

This in-depth, evidence-based article (pdf format) offers 10 safeguarding priorities for the coming months to help your school plan your safeguarding work from September onwards and ensure a culture of safeguarding. Our resident safeguarding expert Elizabeth Rose describes each of her 10 priorities in detail – ranging from the curriculum, governors, and student voice to attendance, child-on-child abuse, and radicalisation – and offers a checklist of things to consider for each point. Download the free pdf here:

Ms Rose advised schools to consider how easy it is for students to report child-on-child abuse as well as how the curriculum and wider provision in-school ensure the “active promotion of equality and anti-discriminatory practice towards women and girls across the school and in the wider world”.

She also advises schools to consider abuse faced by children in extra-familial contexts other than school or online: “This year there has been a real focus for schools to consider what is happening on their own sites, but this issue is also affecting children within their local areas and social spaces. It is important to consider the role of child-on-child abuse within sexual or criminal exploitation, for example, and consider how we can educate children, parents and staff on this issue.”

Back in the updated statutory guidance, there are further updates to the section on child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment (part five), including an extended paragraph (468) highlighting the importance of ensuring that children understand the law on child-on-child abuse is there to protect them rather than criminalise them.

It states: “It is important to explain that the law is in place to protect children and young people rather than criminalise them, and this should be explained in such a way that avoids alarming or distressing them (victims).”

There is also an addition to the list of things to consider following a report of sexual violence and/or sexual harassment (paragraph 482) emphasising the importance of “understanding intra-familial harms and any necessary support for siblings following incidents”.

Online safety at home

Elsewhere in the updated guidance, there is new information on the importance of schools talking to parents about children’s access to online sites when away from school (paragraph 139).

The update states: “Those communications should be used to reinforce the importance of children being safe online and parents and carers are likely to find it helpful to understand what systems schools and collges use to filter and monitor online use.

“It will be especially important for parents and carers to be aware of what their children are being asked to do online, including the sites they will asked to access and be clear who from the school or college (if anyone) their child is going to be interacting with online.”

Further updates

Other updates include added information to provide clarity on the process for sharing low-level concerns about school staff or others working with children (paragraphs 432-435).

Annex F of the of the new guidance sets out a list of all the substantive changes made.

  • DfE: Statutory guidance: Keeping children safe in education (current version and updated version for September 2022), last updated May 2022:
  • Headteacher Update: Top 10 safeguarding priorities for schools, May 2022:

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