Keeping Children Safe in Education, the government’s new statutory guidance on safeguarding, took immediate effect upon its publication in April.
It sets out the national requirements for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children under the age of 18, and applies to all schools, 6th-form colleges and further education colleges. Here I look at five key questions about the guidance to help you understand the duties your school must now meet.
What do staff need to know?
All staff should be familiar with the school’s safeguarding systems. This means reading the child protection policy and staff code of conduct and knowing who the designated safeguarding lead is. Staff should also undertake appropriate child protection training and regular refresher training.
The guidance endorses taking an “it could happen here” approach, and says staff should be alert to the signs of abuse (physical, emotional or sexual) and neglect. Additionally, they should be aware that they may be asked to support social workers to take decisions about individual children.
The guidance makes specific reference to the need for staff to be watchful of the possibility of a girl being at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM), and suggests some indicators of heightened risk. Any member of staff who perceives a girl to be at risk should follow local safeguarding procedures and liaise with police and social care. All staff are expected to read part one of the guidance, which covers the expectations placed on staff in more detail.
What do we do if we have concerns?
Your school’s designated safeguarding lead is the first port of call for anyone who wishes to raise concerns about a child. This applies equally where the concern is about possible abuse by a member of staff. The safeguarding lead will decide whether to refer the case to children’s social care, or continue to monitor the situation. The guidance also stresses that any anyone can make a referral directly. If at any point there is a risk of immediate serious harm to a child, then you should refer the case immediately. You should press for reconsideration if a child’s situation does not appear to be improving.
The clear message is that children must receive the right help at the right time. It’s important that school staff identify and address risks early, and prevent issues escalating. The guidance reminds us that the dangers of not taking effective action are well-evidenced in serious case reviews. Failing to refer the early signs of abuse or neglect, not listening to the child’s views, failing to challenge inaction, and poor record-keeping, the government says, are not only poor practice but might also prevent a child from being helped.
Safer recruitment training.
It is still the case that at least one person on any appointment panel must have completed safer recruitment training. The government reinstated this requirement following a public consultation on the draft guidance. However, from September 2014 you no longer need to secure this training from a person approved by the secretary of state.
Who needs to have a DBS check?
The majority of school staff will require an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check with barred list information, as they will be working in “regulated activity”. In schools, this applies to individuals who are regularly responsible for the care or supervision of children, or who work regularly in the school when children are on the premises. It does not apply to a supervised volunteer who regularly teaches or looks after children.
Providing personal care (such as helping with toileting, washing, bathing and dressing) or health care is always considered regulated activity, regardless of how often the care is provided or whether it is carried out under supervision.
You should get a DBS certificate from a candidate before, or as soon as possible after, making the appointment. Alternatively, with the individual’s agreement, you may make an online check using the DBS Update Service. You do not need to obtain an enhanced DBS check if the applicant has been working in regulated activity within a school or college setting in the last three months. You may not request barred list information for anyone who will not be working in regulated activity.
How should we work with other agencies?
Keeping Children Safe in Education should be read alongside the government’s inter-agency safeguarding guidance, Working Together to Safeguard Children. This explains that schools are expected to work alongside other agencies – in education, health, housing and the police, for example – to provide a co-ordinated offer of early help for children with additional needs. You should also contribute to inter-agency plans to help those subject to child protection plans, and allow representatives of children’s social care to visit the school when necessary.
Your governing body, as well as ensuring that the school has sufficient safeguarding policies, procedures and training in place, should assign one governor to liaise with your local authority and any partner agencies on child protection issues.
Further informationThe statutory guidance is at www.gov.uk/government/publications/keeping-children-safe-in-education
Amy Cook is a senior researcher at The Key, which provides support services to school leaders and governors.