After the aborted consultation on Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020, the government have released a consultation on Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021 early. The consultation is due to close on 4th March 2021. The majority of the proposals are a resurrection of the 2020 proposals. There is a key focus within the guidance on the importance of a whole school safeguarding culture, including increased responsibilities for governors, the DSL and improved safer recruitment procedures. In this blog, I do not intend to identify all the changes, but pick out some key themes and thoughts that I feel school should bear in mind when responding to the consultation or reviewing their safeguarding policies and procedures.
There is the introduction, as in the proposals for KSCIE 2020, of a new Annexe A containing a shortened version of Part One to be read by staff in school who do not have direct contact with children. I remain sceptical about this. I am not convinced that anyone working in schools really has no direct contact with children or at least information about them. I am concerned that some schools will use this as an easy way out and leave staff without the knowledge they need to safeguard children. This would work against the focus on a whole school safeguarding culture running through the rest of the guidance.
The key themes are
Developing a safeguarding culture and the Governors’ safeguarding responsibilities
Part 2 on the management of safeguarding is now explicit that governors must ensure that the school complies with legislation and guidance (para 66) and if the school has charitable status must comply with the Charity Commission guidance. It goes on to emphasise the governors’ whole school responsibilities (para 69). To support this there is greater clarity about school policies and the governors’ responsibilities for these ensuring the policies include online safety, peer on peer abuse and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
There is an interesting new paragraph (105) that ‘whilst considering the above training requirements, governing bodies and proprietors should have regard to the Teachers’ Standards which set out the expectation that all teachers manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe educational environment, and requires teachers to have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils.’ This makes an explicit link between behaviour management in schools and safeguarding, though the intention is not clear.
There are new categories of children who might benefit from an Early Help Assessment added including those with a family member in prison or affected by parental offending, at risk of HBA including forced marriage and FGM or persistently absent from education (Para 18). This feels fine, but doesn’t deal with the issues many schools have of ensuring multi-agency involvement in the EHA process.
There is greater clarity and emphasis on the need to refer concerns to children’s services, including an emphasis on risks outside of the home. The language of Contextual Safeguarding has gone, but a link to it remains. Alongside this is a reminder of the importance of referrals for neglect as well as abuse.
The guidance clarifies the governors’ role and responsibilities in regard to children in additional provisions and missing from education.
There is a lot here and if it comes into force, it will need to be taken seriously. Governors’ training and understanding of their responsibilities remain a weakness in many schools and this will need to change.
Much of the guidance on online safety which is currently in Annexe D has been pulled into the main document in Parts A and B. This makes good sense in a world where children are increasingly living their lives and receiving their education online to separate online and offline safeguarding feels outdated. There are links for online and remote education which we are promised will be updated before publication.
The guidance clarifies that the school’s behaviour policy must include information bullying and cyberbullying. There is an increased emphasis on the need for online safety awareness and training for staff and the governors’ responsibility to ensure that this happens (para 103). This is going to require additional input for many schools.
Clarity is added to the guidance by the replacement of the word ‘sexting’ with the explicit language of ‘sending of nude or semi-nude images or videos’ throughout the document. This is helpful to clear up confusions about the legal status of sexualised language without images in online messages. However, this remains a concern and a risk indicator and is now not covered by the guidance.
Following the extended definition of Child Criminal and Sexual Exploitation included in KCSIE 2020. Information about and references to sexual and criminal exploitation are now threaded through the guidance.
Abuse in intimate relationships between peers
This was planned for inclusion in 2020 and is a key element threaded through the sections of the guidance looking at peer on peer abuse and domestic abuse and included in Part 5.
Changes in the role of the DSL- mainly included in Annexe C
I wrote about these proposals extensively when they were put forward last year. I remain very concerned about the increased load being placed on DSLs particularly those in small primary schools who often hold this role alongside many others and have no back up system to draw on for support. It is notable that there is no recommendation for supervision DSLs.
There is additional focus on the work of the DSL with others including the mental health lead. It should be noted that in many primary schools the DSL is the mental health lead. Also work with parents ‘to promote supportive engagement with parents and/or carers in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, including where families may be facing challenging circumstances.’ It needs to be remembered that the majority of DSLs are also teachers and while they are keen to work with families this role needs to be shared with other agencies.
There then comes the increased role for the DSL in promoting the educational outcomes for children experiencing welfare, safeguarding and child protection issues including their attendance, engagement and achievement at school. This includes ensuring the school knows who the cohort who currently need a social worker are and promoting their academic support and reasonable adjustments. I feel that this is important, but it needs to happen on an individual basis. I am deeply concerned about the confidentiality implications of this group being regarded and tracked as a cohort. The information about a child’s safeguarding status should be on a need to know basis and not information that should be shared across a school as a cohort. I am often concerned by the focus on information shared about pupil premium children, but this feels even more invasive of children’s privacy. Further the majority of children open to social services are already being tracked and supported through other groups in school. Further the identification and tracking of a changing cohort as children’s safeguarding status changes is difficult on a practical level.
The support and differentiation being identified should be the entitlement of all children. This seems to me to be an unnecessary burden being placed on DSLs which will be of little benefit to the children concerned and may even work against them. It feels that this is more to do with the scrutiny of schools than the needs of pupils. What is important is that there is clear information sharing with other agencies about children’s learning, attainment and access to school. Further that the other agencies are supported to understand the attainment data and involved in children’s educational support. Too often this is an after thought in safeguarding meetings and it needs to be brought into focus as part of multi-agency work.
The guidance lays increased importance on DSLs understanding their roles in relations to local guidance and procedures, including the working of child protection conferences and the importance of information sharing.
There is additional information on understanding of specific needs and harms including
· children in need, those with SEND, health needs and young carers
· impact of trauma and adversity on behaviour, mental health and wellbeing and response to promote educational outcomes
· prevent duty
· unique risks associated with online safety
· additional risks for children with SEND including online.
Finally, the DSL needs to show understanding of the views of children, including developing a culture of listening, taking account of children’s wishes and understanding the difficulties children may have in approaching staff and the need to build trusted relationships.
There is a lot here and if this is going to be implemented DSLs are going to need more time and support and it is not clear where this is going to come from. While few of the requirements are individually unreasonable and the majority are supportive of safeguarding, there is an increasing risk that the role of the DSL is going to become unmanageable.
Sexual violence and harassment between Children- Part 5
The proposed update sits alongside a consultation for the full Sexual violence and harassment between children in schools and college guidance which has not been updated since 2018. The two need to be looked at together. In KCSIE the changes include a very useful summary and explanatory statement emphasising that sexual violence and harassment between children can happen with any age or sex and that there may be multiple perpetrators or victims.
This is supported by some important language changes. There is a move from managing reports to responding to reports and a change from perpetrator to perpetrator(s) recognising that often there is more than one perpetrator. There is a focus on the importance of schools’ initial response, including a recognition that reporting may not be immediate and the need to consider barriers to disclosure. The guidance clearly lays out links between sexual violence and harassment and other forms of abuse and exploitation, including abuse within intimate relationships.
Other changes include a reminder that Early Help support for the perpetrator(s) or victim is not mutually exclusive of managing the incident internally. There are also links to the excellent NSPCC guidance When to call the police and The National Organisation for the Treatment of Abusers (NOTA) which provides support for professionals involved in work with, or related to, sexual offending.
These changes are also included in the full guidance document which is also updated to reflect that RSE is now statutory and its role in relation to this issue.
There is significant and important re-writing of the guidance in Parts 3 and 4.
Part 3 contains significant changes to safer recruitment procedures and practices. This reflects the work of the Safer Recruitment Consortium and does not introduce any new statutory requirements. However, it provides much greater clarity and guidance on the procedures for safer recruitment from the start to finish of the process, including for example information on adverts. It emphasises that safer recruitment is about a whole school safeguarding culture and extends beyond ensuring that people have a DBS. There is a focus on the importance of safer recruitment training. These changes are to be welcomed.
Part 4 on allegations against adults, like Part 3 contains no new statutory requirements, but is substantially re-written and reordered. This feels to me to be much clearer and to reflect the order of the procedures when there is a concern about an adult’s behaviour which I hope will make the guidance more useful and easier to follow. There is greater clarity about the roles of both the case manager and the LADO. There is information about allegations that do not meet the harm threshold and the need for schools to have policies relating to these. The lawyers Farrer & Co produced some excellent guidance on this. There is also more information on managing allegations against Governors. The duty of care to employees and the child are emphasised as is the importance of ensuring that lessons are learnt from an investigation.
The final point clarifies the action in the case of allegations of non-recent abuse. If the victim is now an adult, they should report the matter to the police and if they are a child the school should report the matter to the LADO. I am concerned that this may need some consideration to ensure that those aged 18 and over who are still within the education system receive the support they need if they make such allegations.
· Use of school or college premises for non-school/college activities and where the safeguarding responsibilities lie (para 140-141)
· Addition of child abductions and community incidents to Annexe B
· Annexe E on online safety is now just a list of resources as the majority of the information has been moved to the main body of the text.
Please respond to the consultation via https://consult.education.gov.uk/safeguarding-in-schools-team/keeping-children-safe-in-education-schools-and-col/