Reviewing your safeguarding practice

Written by: Sam Preston | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

A big focus for schools this term will be ensuring proper implementation of the updated statutory safeguarding guidance. Sam Preston considers the new requirements and offers some practical advice

Every school is unique – from the staff, students and parents, to the building and community setting. We know this, as we take on the all-important differentiation challenge every year, articulating to parents and students alike, how we are living up to our educational mission. You would never drop your institution’s logo onto another school’s curriculum strategy – and it should be the same for your safeguarding provision.

The Department for Education’s revised Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) and Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance have already come into force and schools will have worked hard to incorporate the revisions into their policies and practices.

We are all unique

The revisions place far greater emphasis on ensuring your safeguarding policy, procedures and practices consider the bespoke setting and needs of your school.

For academies, simply adopting a trust-wide policy falls short of expectations. While such a policy may outline the overarching expectations, each academy must, like maintained schools, develop a policy that reflects the bespoke needs of their pupils, staff and community.

This should encompass examples and learnings from any prior safeguarding issues experienced, crime levels in your area, and even parental engagement levels. For example, there is no point developing a policy heavily reliant on parent input if engagement is currently poor.

Tip: Reading your policy documents and consider at each point whether they really reflect your unique safeguarding needs and practice elements.

Peer-on-peer abuse

As we have become more aware of the prevalence of children abusing other children, now clearly identified as peer-on-peer abuse, under KCSIE, your safeguarding policy must state:

  • The steps you are taking to prevent this, e.g. curriculum content, staff awareness/vigilance.
  • How incidents will be managed and investigated, e.g. what are the immediate steps to be taken, how on-going management will be handled, and how you are going to define evaluation, review steps and timescales.
  • Acknowledgement that a child abusing another child may have been abused themselves and emphasising the need to support the alleged perpetrator.
  • How victims and perpetrators will be supported, e.g. negative consequences, restorative practice and peer support.

The steep rise in peer-on-peer abuse indicates a need to refocus our best practice models, ensuring all staff in schools are equipped to recognise and support potential and actual victims of this type of abuse as well as ensuring appropriate action for the perpetrators.

This should explicitly include content relating to sexual violence and harassment, as the previously published Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Between Children in Schools and Colleges guidance is also included in the revised KCSIE (Part 5), giving this previously advisory guidance statutory status.

Tip: Your safeguarding policy should include your intended approach to students at induction, e.g. “ground rules” should be set during the pupil induction process to ensure that pupils are aware of who they are expected to behave and what constitutes as peer-on-peer abuse.

SEND

It is essential that enhanced practice arrangements are implemented for SEND students, recognising the disproportionate risks for this vulnerable group, including bullying, isolation, behaviour and communication difficulties.

Close alignment of your safeguarding and SEND policies is essential, directing staff to consider the potential for abuse on an equal footing with meeting the pupil’s SEND needs.

With rates of exclusion for this at-risk group beginning to rise, it is imperative that staff can identify triggers in behaviour change. Communication impairments and an inability to understand what is happening or to seek help can lead to abuse not being reported.

Tip: By linking the information on your school’s SEND register, those with poor attendance, children who are looked-after, children with multiple exclusions and those who score highly on other risk factors, resources can be effectively focused.

Use of force

All school staff members have a legal power to use reasonable force to prevent pupils committing a criminal offence, injuring themselves or others or damaging property, and to maintain good order and discipline. However, the new guidance also places a greater focus on cautious application of the use of force to control or restrain a pupil, particularly those with SEND. To meet requirements, you now have a statutory duty to:

  • Create individual plans to minimise the likelihood of challenging behaviour.
  • Where such behaviour does occur, employ measures to minimise the use of physical restraint.

By completing and disseminating these individual assessments and plans, every member of staff should be able to consistently apply de-escalation measures reducing the need for physical restraint. It is key that staff can recognise the signs of escalating anger; and approach the student in a calm manner.

Recognised de-escalation techniques include verbal strategies, such as maintaining a calm tone of voice and not shouting or verbally threatening the person, and non-verbal techniques, including an awareness of self, body stance, eye contact, and personal safety. Use of force should always be a last resort when all other identified measures have failed.

Safer recruitment

KCSIE significantly raises expectations of the staff and volunteer induction process, simply cascading information is not enough – there is a statutory requirement for staff to clearly understand the behaviour and child protection policies, code of conduct and procedures around children missing education within the induction process.

They should receive core training to ensure knowledge and practice is robust. Under KCSIE, volunteers have equal safeguarding responsibilities as employees, and all staff must read KCSIE Part 1.

Annex A must be read by all staff working directly with children, revised to include four additional key support topics: children and the court system (children as witnesses); children with family members in prison; county lines (where groups or gangs use young people or vulnerable adults to carry and sell drugs from borough to borough); and homelessness.

In addition, all educational settings must:

  • Have a written policy on how pupils will access the internet while on-site.
  • Complete risk assessments for all staff and volunteers to determine if they are deemed to work in “regulated activity” and if an enhanced DBS check is required. The results of these assessments should be recorded in a new column on your Single Central Record.
  • Include duties for staff deputising for designated safeguarding leads in their employment contracts.
  • Have a minimum of two emergency contacts for each pupil.
  • Obtain written statements regarding vetting and barring from alternative providers.

Working Together to Safeguard Children

The key revisions to the Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance include two key focus areas: multi-agency safeguarding arrangements and assessment, help and support.

As we move from Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards towards a tri-partnership arrangement for the strategic development and management of local safeguarding arrangements, jointly led by local authorities, police, and clinical commissioning groups, it is likely that educational settings will be formally named as “relevant agencies”.

Any setting named will have a statutory duty to cooperate and comply with their local published arrangements. Currently one in three councils are yet to consider how they will replace LSCBs so keep a close eye on how arrangements develop in your area.

The revisions also strengthen the emphasis on preventative working, expecting early and timely intervention. You must be alert to known groups and situations where intervention is likely. You should consider pupils:

  • At risk of radicalisation, modern slavery, trafficking and all forms of exploitation.
  • With SEND (including those without statutory Education, Health and Care Plans).
  • Demonstrating signs of commencing anti-social or criminal behaviour. This includes gang involvement and association with organised crime, e.g. county lines, financial exploitation.
  • Frequently missing from home or care.
  • Returning home from having been in care.
  • Who are privately fostered.
  • Misusing drugs or alcohol.
  • Whose family circumstances present challenges, e.g. domestic abuse, substance misuse, adult mental health issues.
  • Who are young carers.

The statutory guidance highlights the importance of remembering that children are vulnerable in a range of contexts, not just within the context of the educational setting, and that this may negatively impact on family relationships.

It directs us to be aware of “contextual safeguarding”, an approach to understanding, and responding to, young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their families, such as the relationships they have outside the family home or online.

Information-sharing is also a key focus so it is worth reviewing your processes to determine if:

  • You only share information that is relevant to those who need it.
  • Information shared is adequate for the purpose.
  • Information is accurate, up-to-date and clearly distinguishes between fact and opinion (if the information is historical then this should be explained).
  • Information is shared in a timely fashion to reduce the risk of missed opportunities in offering support and protection.
  • Information is shared in an appropriate, secure way. You must always follow your policy on security for handling personal information. GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 do not prevent or limit the sharing of information for safeguarding purposes.
  • All information-sharing decisions are recorded, whether the decision is taken to share or not.

Next steps

Increased in size from 76 to 110 pages, the new KCSIE guidance covers such a wide area of provision and compliance can feel overwhelming. However, it provides a solid focus for you to critique your current safeguarding provision. My best advice is to approach this as you would an assessment of curriculum effectiveness – undertake a full audit. You see the bigger picture more quickly and be able to establish whether you are meeting the new statutory requirements and if practice is secure.

  • Sam Preston is the safeguarding director at SSS Learning.

Further information

  • Keeping Children Safe in Education, Department for Education, March 2015 (last updated September 2018): http://bit.ly/2bI2Zsm
  • Working Together to Safeguard Children, Department for Education, March 2015 (last updated August 2018): http://bit.ly/2hZOeVM
  • Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Between Children in Schools and Colleges, Department for Education, December 2017 (last updated May 2018): http://bit.ly/2ASbvks
  • Use of Reasonable Force in Schools, Department for Education, July 2013: http://bit.ly/2zMT7g7


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