HCR Law Events

17 October 2023

Hire agreements and safeguarding – an update for schools

The Department for Education recently updated its non-statutory guidance ‘After-school clubs, community activities, and tuition: safeguarding guidance for providers’, which provides guidance in respect of keeping children safe in out-of-school settings where individuals or organisations provide, for example, community activities, tuition, or after-school clubs.

The updated guidance should be considered by schools with a view to updating their hire agreement with hirers to ensure that the safeguarding expectations of the Department are reflected and achieved.

Prior to its update, the guidance included safeguarding requirements relating to the staff of hirers. For example, to ensure that staff underwent basic safeguarding training. The updated guidance takes expectations of hirer staff further, and it is now recommended that all staff present or in a position of responsibility when using the school premises have completed basic health and safety training, relevant to children.

Further, the hirer should conduct regular performance reviews of staff and volunteers to check their suitability and training requirements. We anticipate that most employers will already be conducting regular appraisals of staff performance, but schools should be clear that their expectation is that such reviews will include a specific focus on the suitability of staff to participate in activities in out of school settings, and that the training which is provided is adequate.

In addition, requirements in respect of the hirer conducting a risk assessment have been strengthened. The hirer should be expected to not only conduct a risk assessment which is appropriate to the activity, but to review and update its risk assessments annually – or earlier if the circumstances or public health advice changes – and put in place active arrangements to monitor whether the controls for managing risks are effective and working as planned. In addition, the hirer should have in place a fire safety and evacuation plan, as well as an emergency plan to respond effectively to an emergency on the school premises.

There are a number of policies which schools should expect hirers to have in place prior to hiring out their school premises. The core policy which schools should request a copy of is the hirer’s child protection and safeguarding policy, but pursuant to the updated guidance we recommend that schools also seek confirmation that the hirer has in place a complaints procedure that includes provision for children, young people, and families to raise a safeguarding concern, together with a whistleblowing policy so that staff can raise concerns about the maltreatment of any children, and a staff behaviour policy.

The updated guidance also sets out expectations placed on hirers where the activity which they are running involves children under 5 years of age. In these circumstances, schools should expect the hirer to have given their staff paediatric first aid training, unless there is an exemption from registration with Ofsted. Further, the hirer should have in place a GDPR-compliant registration form for children in its care, including essential contact information and medical details, where it has five or more members of staff.

Practical steps

We recommend that all schools review and update their hire agreement to ensure that it reflects all of the recent updates made by the Department for Education not only in the non-statutory guidance, but in Keeping Children Safe in Education.

We have updated our template Hire Agreement, together with the supplemental safeguarding checklist and letter of undertaking, which are available in the ISBA reference library, to incorporate the updated guidance. If you require further legal support, please do make contact with us.

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About the Author
Emma Swann, Partner, Head of Academies

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