All schools will be fully aware of the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance (KCSIE) published by the Department for Education (DfE), most recently updated in September 2021. KCSIE sets out the legal duties which schools and colleges must comply with, and the steps which they should take to keep children safe. When carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, schools and college must have regard to KCSIE.
The DfE has recently launched a consultation seeking views on a series of proposed amendments to the current KCSIE statutory guidance. The proposed updated guidance is expected to be implemented in September 2022.
The key proposed changes to KCSIE include:
- Additional guidance to raise awareness of children who may not feel comfortable talking about their abuse, or may not recognise it
- Additional information regarding the Human Rights Act 1998, the Equality Act 2010, and the Public Sector Equality Duty
- A requirement for online searches of shortlisted candidates
- Withdrawing the standalone ‘sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges’ guidance
The proposed changes
Part one of KCSIE sets out what all staff in your school or college should know. This includes their safeguarding responsibilities, the various forms that abuse and neglect can take, and what they should do if they have concerns about the safeguarding or wellbeing of a child.
Recognising that not all children may be ready to discuss their abuse with an adult or may not even recognise that they are being abused, the consultation provides additional guidance for all school and college staff. It aims to raise awareness of children who may feel uncomfortable telling someone about their abuse, exploitation, or neglect, or may not recognise their experiences as harmful.
Part two of KCSIE confirms the arrangements for the management of safeguarding, including the responsibilities of governing bodies and proprietors of schools and colleges to safeguard and promote welfare of children. It also clarifies the role of designated safeguarding leads and the safeguarding policies and procedures that should be in place in schools and colleges.
It is proposed that the 2022 updates to KCSIE will provide additional information to remind schools of their legal duties. These will be with regards to the Human Rights Act 1998, the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty for publicly funded organisations (the last does not apply to independent schools).
This consultation also proposes to clarify that all governors and trustees are to receive safeguarding and children protection training as part of their induction.
Part three of KCSIE sets out the safer recruitment arrangements schools should adopt. It describes in detail the checks that are required for individuals working in or visiting a school. The consultation seeks to understand whether the restructure of this section in 2021, so that it aligns more closely with the recruitment journey compared to the previous layout, . It also includes a new paragraph which suggests that as part of their due diligence, schools and colleges should consider carrying out an online search of shortlisted candidates, including social media, to explore anything which may be helpful to test during interview.
Part five of KCSIE concerns managing reports of child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment. It sets out what governing bodies and proprietors should be doing to ensure reports of this nature are managed appropriately.
The consultation hopes to strengthen this section by withdrawing the standalone ‘Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment between Children in Schools and Colleges’ guidance, and incorporating it throughout KCSIE, paying particular attention to part two (management of safeguarding) and part five (management of reports).
Definitions of ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’ have moved into the summary section, and schools’ legal duties and safeguarding responsibilities have moved into part two. The intention of these changes is to give the issue the prominence it deserves and remove duplication.
The aims of the amendments are to streamline and give further clarity to KCSIE. Therefore, it is unsurprising that there are proposed changes to include online searches of candidates are carried out during the recruitment process, particularly given the popularity of social media.
Any changes will be effective in September in line with previous revisions. At this stage, schools simply need to be aware of the consultation and schedule in time later this year to amend any policies and procedures in due course.
Schools may of course contribute to the consultation. Responses to the consultation are set to close on 11 March 2022. The full consultation can be found here.