Operation Encompass: Important Update for Independent Schools

9th July 2024

A pupil of an independent school

Operation Encompass is a police and education early information safeguarding partnership enabling schools to offer immediate support to children experiencing domestic abuse. It is a charitable organisation created in 2010, which has enabled effective interventions to many thousands of children who’ve experienced domestic abuse. In a nutshell, Operation Encompass ensures that there is a simple telephone call or notification to a school’s Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) prior to the start of the next school day after an incident of police attended domestic abuse where there are children related to either of the adult parties involved.

This sharing of information enables appropriate support to be given, dependent upon the needs and wishes of the child.

This unfortunately did not always take place where a child attended an independent school. HCR has discussed this potential loophole with the Independent Schools Council (ISC) in an attempt to address this.

On 24 May 2024 Royal Assent was granted to The Victims and Prisoners Act; the new Act places Operation Encompass into law and puts a statutory obligation on police forces to share Operation Encompass notifications with schools.

In the House of Lords, Earl Howe stated: “By enshrining the scheme in law, we can ensure that it is consistently applied across all forces. This will help improve early intervention and enable the most vulnerable children to be safeguarded from the harms of domestic abuse.”

However, it remained unclear as to whether the intention was for this law to apply to independent schools. HCR sought clarification on 14 May 2024 from the Ministry of Justice on this point. Specifically, we brought to their attention that there has historically been a gap where reporting by police to a school has not been carried out where the child attends an independent school. This has caused a concern for independent schools around safeguarding of children. We sought clarification to ensure this gap is closed and that independent schools will be included as part of an amendment.

We emphasised that we would need to ensure that local authorities (who are responsible for pupil admissions and therefore location) are in the loop to ensure a joined-up approach.

On 2 July 2024, HCR received a reply from the Home Office. This confirms that following implementation, independent schools are covered by the amendment under the Act and that it will be mandatory for a police force to notify any educational establishment where a child is a victim of domestic abuse. Specifically, that independent schools are within the Act’s definition. The letter confirms that the Independent Schools Council (ISC) will be updated when the Act is implemented by the new Government.

Next steps

This is an important Act and helpful to receive clarification that independent schools are included alongside all other schools. Even though the implementation date is not yet confirmed by the new Government, schools and DSL’s in schools should be confident in seeking confirmation from their local relevant police force that where there is a domestic incident where there is a child present or they are a victim, that the child’s school (of whatever type) will be notified. This is another step along the journey of ensuring children are safe.

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