The Department for Education recently published the amended statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSiE), which will come into force on 5 September 2016. All schools will be required to comply with the updated guidance as of this date. Schools should therefore take steps now to familiarise themselves with the guidance and ensure existing policies and procedures are updated in readiness for September 2016.
Schools will be relieved to hear that the government consultation on the proposed changes to KCSiE have largely been taken into account, with the majority of the changes to the guidance giving greater emphasis and clarity to matters that are already provided for in the existing version. There are however a few additions and these, together with the updates and clarifications, we have set out below.
• All staff should read Part One – the guidance makes clear that Part One is the starting point for all staff in school and that it is for the school proprietor (this will usually be the governors) to ensure that all staff have read Part One and that there are mechanisms in place to assist staff understanding so they can ‘discharge their role and responsibilities’. This should not create an additional burden for schools who are likely to already provide staff with key updates through, for example, online training, bulletins, staff newsletters, emails and briefings throughout the academic year.
• Annex A – Annex A is a new addition designed to elicit key information for those staff who work directly with children and who need more detailed safeguarding guidance i.e. in addition to that provided in Part One. Annex A need therefore only be provided to those staff members who directly engage with pupils, such as teaching staff, staff working in the boarding house and those with specific safeguarding responsibilities such as the DSL, Head and governor responsible for safeguarding. (Schools should note that Annex A will be updated in September 2016 following changes to the definition of child sexual exploitation and sharing of information where a child goes missing from education.)
• Early Help – Part One reinforces the importance of taking action as soon as a problem arises with staff being able to identify when pupils need support and how this fits into a school’s wider safeguarding systems i.e. that any early help concerns should be discussed with the school’s Designated Safeguarding Lead (‘DSL’). Ensuring staff can spot when a child may need help will be key in meeting this requirement.
• Training – the position regarding formal training for the DSL remains the same; the DSL should undertake formal safeguarding training at two-yearly intervals. However the updated guidance has introduced a new requirement that the DSL receives, in addition to the formal two-yearly training, updates at least yearly. The updates are to keep the DSL up to date with any developments relevant to their role. The position regarding formal training for staff also remains the same; staff will be required to receive regular formal safeguarding training at intervals to be agreed with a school’s Local Children Safeguarding Board (‘LCSB’). The updated guidance has also introduced a new requirement that staff receive, in addition to their formal training, safeguarding updates at least annually. As with the annual updates for the DSL, the annual updates for staff are different to formal training and are intended to provide staff with the relevant skills and knowledge to keep children safe.
The updates for the DSL and staff should not be an additional burden for schools as regular updates are likely to be common practice in any event. Ongoing communication and liaison with a school’s LCSB will be key to ensuring that training and annual updates cover the necessary topics. Schools will need to ensure that such training includes consideration of peer on peer abuse, so called ‘honour-based’ violence and an understanding of how those children with SEND will have additional vulnerabilities.
• Peer on Peer Abuse – this has been given particular prominence in the updated guidance, with the requirement that a school’s child protection policy includes procedures to minimise risk of peer on peer abuse and set out how allegations of such abuse will be investigated and dealt with by the school. School policy should ‘reflect the different forms that peer-on-peer abuse can take’, such as sexting, sexual abuse, initiation behaviours and make clear that peer on peer abuse is never be tolerated or passed off as “banter”. School policies relating to pupil behaviour should also be reviewed alongside a school’s Child Protection Policy to ensure peer on peer abuse is recognised and effectively managed throughout the school.
• SEND – the updated guidance has greater emphasis on recognising the particularly vulnerabilities of those pupils with SEND and the additional barriers that can exist when recognising abuse and neglect in this group of children. School policies on SEN/Learning Support Needs and Disability should also be revised alongside a school’s Child Protection Policy to ensure any indicators of possible abuse are identified early and not assumed to be related to a child’s SEND. Staff training in this area will be key.
• Online Safety – this is a new section in Part One which focuses on the importance of schools having filtering and monitoring systems in place as appropriate to the size of the school, pupil body, any budgetary constraints and any risks identified following an appropriate risk assessment. The new guidance does however recognise that any IT systems put in place should not ‘overblock’ access to educational materials which in turn can place ‘unreasonable restrictions on what children can be taught’. Consultation with a school’s IT Department and carrying out a risk assessment will help inform schools as to what appropriate monitoring and filtering systems should be in place for the start of the next academic year. (KCSiE refers to the UK Safer Internet Centre and National Education Network-NEN guidance which may also provide some useful information for schools).
• Safer Recruitment – Part Three has been tweaked to give greater clarity to certain aspects of safer recruitment. It now makes clear that any concerns about independent school proprietors should go straight to the local authority designated officer (commonly referred to as the LADO); all governors are required to have an enhanced DBS check; and all those engaged in teaching work (whether or not they are a qualified teacher) are to have a prohibition from teaching check completed. All such checks must be recorded on the Single Central Register.
Schools must also ensure that agency staff (including supply staff) are checked on arrival at school i.e. to confirm that they are the same person that the agency has provided the vetting checks for. Part Three also refers to the NCTL’s Teacher Services system (previously the Employer Access Service) which provides restriction information about teachers who have lived and worked in the European Economic Area (EEA). Again, these should be recorded on the Single Central Register.
• Designated Safeguarding Leads – the role of the DSL (and any DSL appointed) has been helpfully clarified (see Annex B). Schools must ensure that the DSL and any Deputy DSL have a job description appropriate to their role and responsibilities and that there is availability for staff to discuss safeguarding concerns during school hours. Schools should also ensure that there are adequate and appropriate cover arrangements in place for any out of hours/out of term activities which are known to all staff. It will be for individual schools to assess what is ‘adequate’ and ‘appropriate’ taking into consideration, for example, the particular activity, the age of the pupils concerned and any vulnerabilities a pupil may have. The guidance also makes clear that the DSL should be drawn from a school’s senior leadership team (presumably someone with sufficient seniority who has the time and resources to carry out their role and responsibility as the DSL) and that the responsibilities of the DSL cannot be delegated to others such as the Deputy DSL, even though they will be trained to the same standard as the DSL.
In light of the changes and updates to the guidance, schools should take the steps referred to above and the measures outlined below to prepare themselves for the updated guidance coming into effect on 5 September 2016:
1. Update safeguarding documentation. This will include the safeguarding and child protection and safer recruitment policies, whistleblowing policy and staff behaviour policy/code of conduct. The staff behaviour policy must now include guidance on acceptable use of technologies in addition to staff/pupil relationships and the use of social media. The whistleblowing policy should point staff to a member of the senior leadership team (such as the bursar or a deputy head) with whom they can raise concerns about poor or unsafe school practices and safeguarding regimes and also include reference to the NSPCC whistleblowing helpline for staff who do not feel able to raise concerns internally. As referred to above, related policies and procedures such as those relating to SEND, pupil behaviour and staff induction should also be reviewed to ensure they reflect the requirements of the new guidance.
The new guidance states that staff should be involved in shaping safeguarding policies. Schools should therefore consider how staff (such as those working directly with pupils) can feed into the process of review i.e. via online surveys.
However, schools should note that existing policies (which should comply with current guidance in force until 5 September) remain in place until 5 September; after which updated policies will need to replace existing policies to ensure compliance with the new guidance. Any update to the Child Protection Policy must be approved by the school proprietor.
2. Review Safer Recruitment procedures and the Single Central Register.Schools should ensure that a prohibition check for everyone in ‘teaching work’, not just QTS-qualified staff, has been carried out and if not, that this is now completed. Teaching work for this purpose has a broad meaning. Furthermore, that checks for information about a teacher sanction or restriction that an EEA professional regulating authority has imposed take place through the NCTL Teacher Services System. Remember also to check and record that any agency worker (which includes supply staff) arriving on school site is the same person as was expected.
3. Distribute Part One to all staff. This should ideally take place in good time for existing staff to read and digest the contents of Part One ahead of the new academic year. New staff will also need to be given Part One on induction. Schools will need to give consideration as to what systems to put in place to assist staff to understand and discharge their role and responsibilities as set out in Part One e.g. to ensure that staff understand the difference between a safeguarding concern and a child in immediate danger or at significant risk of harm. This may include, for example, having a lead point of contact to address any queries or concerns. The DSL and Deputy DSL would seem the most appropriate point of contact.
4. Arrange staff training, including for the DSL. Schools should liaise with their LCSB to ensure the frequency of staff update training is agreed and that appropriate training days are in place for existing staff at the start of the next academic year. In addition to the DSL’s formal training, schools must ensure that their knowledge and skills are updated at least annually to ensure they are kept up to date with any developments relevant to their role; this can be achieved through a number of means, such as meeting with other DSLs and via e-bulletins.
Schools must ensure that their whistleblowing procedures are suitably reflected in staff training (and in turn, in the school’s behaviour policy/staff code of conduct) and all staff understand the importance of maintaining an appropriate level of confidentiality; fears of sharing information should never stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare and protect the safety of children.
5. Review the role of the DSL. The DSL and Deputy DSL (if in place) job descriptions should be reviewed and updated in line with Annex B of the updated guidance and make clear that the responsibilities of the DSL cannot be delegated. Careful consideration should also be had as to appropriate cover arrangements for out of hours/term time which can be referenced in the job description or elsewhere, as appropriate. Schools should ensure that cover arrangements are understood by all staff so they know who to contact in the event of a safeguarding allegation or concern. All staff (including new staff) therefore will need to know the identity and contact details of the DSL and Deputy DSL and their role in safeguarding.
6. Review IT Systems. Annex C of the updated guidance should be discussed with the school’s IT department. IT systems should be reviewed to ensure they effectively filter the internet without ‘over-blocking’ and there are arrangements in place to pro-actively monitor online usage. Any related IT policies such as E-Safety, Use of Technologies and Acceptable Use should also be revised to ensure online safety is prevalent.
7. Ensure safeguarding is on the proprietors/governors agenda. KCSiE should be a top agenda item for governors, who should understand their role in assisting staff in taking responsibility for safeguarding and child protection. The importance of teaching children to stay safe (including online); that staff receive appropriate training; and the school’s child protection policy recognises the range of types of abuse (such as gender related abuse, sexting and peer on peer abuse) are all governor responsibilities. Appointing a safeguarding lead from amongst the governors will be key in ensuring a whole school approach to safeguarding and help demonstrate on inspection that the school takes its safeguarding obligations seriously.