Following the recent Keeping Children Safe in Education consultation the Department for Education (DfE) has now published its response and new guidance.
The new guidance will come into effect on 5 September 2016 and the government’s response document makes it clear that we can anticipate more changes at a later stage. It’s very important that schools keep up to date with the changes and act on them as soon as possible.
The new statutory guidance included in the Keeping Children Safe in Education consultation will replace the existing version from July 2015 and is now divided into four parts.
While the document can seem daunting at first the key section to look at is part one. As this is targeted at everyone who works in schools / colleges and must be read by all staff.
This section includes the information for staff about what they should know, what they should look out for and what they should do if they have a safeguarding concern about a child, a staff member or safeguarding practices.
It clearly states that all staff should be familiar with:
- the child protection policy;
- the staff behavior policy or code of conduct;
- the role of the Designated Safeguarding Lead.
Which members of staff need to be aware of the new guidance?
When it comes to schools following this guidance, it is most important that all staff are familiar with at least part one of the guidance and that senior leadership feel confident that staff understand what their roles and responsibilities are. We would recommend that schools should schedule some training on the new guidance into their plans for the beginning of the academic year. This is no ‘tick-box activity’, as the DfE points out.
The key theme is that safeguarding is the responsibility of every member of staff in the school and not just the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) but every member of staff in the school. As such, everyone must not only be familiar with part one but understand it also. This does not just refer to teaching staff but the advice to schools is to “err on the side of caution” when they decide who receives safeguarding training.
The DfE is keen to ensure that safeguarding is kept in the forefront of whole school discussions. With this in mind, it is now expected that staff should be updated on safeguarding and child protection at least annually. This could take place through email and staff meetings. It is likely that the majority of schools already comply with this.
There is no formal requirement for schools to increase the frequency of training, it is instead left to the discretion of schools themselves. However, it remains that all staff should have training at induction with futher training being given as required.
How can schools review their policies to reflect the new Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance?
This is a good time to review your safeguarding policy. The DfE’s response to the consultation accepts that many schools may have a “child protection policy” rather than a “safeguarding policy”. If this is the case there is no need to duplicate. Whatever the title of the policy, staff should be able to contribute and review it regularly.
When reviewing the policy it is important that the wording reflects the fact that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. Whilst also outlining the roles of the DSL and other senior leadership roles in the school, including governors.
It’s key to make sure that your policy refers to staff alerting the DSL to any concerns sooner rather than later. Everyone has a responsibility to act if there seems to be a lack of action from other responsible people.
Anyone can make a referral at any time and not just the DSL. It is insufficient to sit back and say that you have told someone about it. Your policy should provide clear information about what actions staff should take if they have a concern and what they should do if a child in is immediate danger. The school, as the employer, must check understanding regularly.
What new items do you need to include in your school’s policy?
Check your policy for information about confidentiality. This section is now in part two rather than part one. Indicating the importance of staff being aware of what their responsibilities are.
Whistleblowing should have a prominent section. All staff should understand what this means and why it is necessary. The new guidance refers to a new NSPCC whistleblowing helpline. This might be a useful number to include in your safeguarding policy.
There is a now new section covering online safety. Schools and colleges must have the appropriate monitoring and filtering systems in place. It is important to check with the IT coordinator, and any other individual who has responsibility, that the school’s practice is in line with this. For schools who are anxious about what systems to use, the DfE cross reference to the UK Safer Internet Centre. They suggest that when making decisions “measures taken are proportionate to the risks.”
Make sure that there is information in your policy about the duty to report Female Genital Mutilation to the police. The statutory guidance makes it clear that it is the teacher who must make the report.
Whose responsibility is keeping children safe in education?
Although the new guidance is clear in the responsibilities that everyone holds, the DSL still remains a key individual. They are responsible for co-ordinating safeguarding responsibilities and providing advice. The new guidance highlights the importance of having a deputy in place who is available in their absence. The new guidance also reviews cover arrangements and you should check this against your own arrangements.
There must be someone available at all times to receive concerns and staff should know who this is. At this stage it’s worth reviewing the DSL’s job description against the guidance to ensure that training is up-to-date.
For more information on the Keeping Children Safe in Education consultation or advice on reviewing your school’s policy, contact our Education team on 0161 475 7676.
You can view the Keeping Children Safe in Education consultation and new guidance on the government’s website.