Updated: Jun 4, 2022
Some years Keeping Children Safe in Education brings big changes. This is not one of those years. Nevertheless the document is considerably longer than last year and there are a number of significant tweaks and adaptions which it is important that schools embed into practice and policy.
The Annexe on online safety has been removed and online safety is now fully embedded within safeguarding. This is good news as children do not make a clear distinction between their on and offline lives. However, it is vital that we don’t lose sight of this issue in our training. Specific changes include:
Paragraph 139 reminds us about the importance of home school communication during remote learning including clarity about who will be contacting a child and what sites they will be asked to access.
Paragraph 140-141 includes a reminder to schools to regularly review their filtering systems for effectiveness. Many of these were established some time ago. Both the concerning issues children may searching for and the language they use in these searches are constantly changing. We need to ensure that our filters keep pace with this and are reviewed regularly. There is a new link to the SWGfL toolkit to support this.
Online abuse and the role of technology in abuse is highlighted in Annexe A - the shortened version of Part 1 for staff without direct contact with children.
Child on child abuse, including Part 5 on Child on Child Sexual violence and assessment
There is an important language change moving from ‘peer on peer’ to ‘child on child’ abuse. This provides a reminder that when one child abuses another they are not peers and equals, there is an imbalance of power which is used to harm. It also reminds us that abuse can happen between children of any age and that the perpetrator(s) and victim(s) may not be the same age. This change needs to be reflected in all school policies, not just the safeguarding policy.
The information on child on child abuse has been moved to earlier in Part 1 which feels like a change in emphasis.
The Sexual Violence and Harassment between Children document which has existed since 2017 is being discontinued. The content has been absorbed into Part 5 of KCSIE. This makes excellent sense as having two documents with largely the same content contributed to confusion. However, this has added significant material, including the useful case studies, to KCSIE. Much of this material is not new but may feel new to those not completely familiar with the SVSH document. Other changes include:
In the introduction on page 4, there is a useful reminder about the use of the words victim and perpetrators and the need for schools to think carefully about how they use this language.
There is new and extended information about considering confidentiality, consent and anonymity (paragraphs 470-478)
We are reminded risk assessments should include when and where incidents took place and the actions taken in response.
We need to emphasise the role of law to support children, not to criminalise them (paragraph 468).
An important addition is a reminder to consider intra-familial harm and support for siblings after incidents of sexual violence and harassment (paragraph 482).
Paragraph 492 emphasises schools’ role as relevant agencies and that they should be involved in inter-agency discussion and the setting of local thresholds.
The safeguarding of vulnerable children, including in the RSE curriculum
There is a consistent theme about ensuring children with SEND access the RSE curriculum and are provided with support. This is included in a paragraph on the role of preventative education (paragraph 130) ‘to prepares pupils and students for life in modern Britain and creates a culture of zero tolerance for sexism, misogyny/misandry, homophobia, biphobic and sexual violence/harassment.’ This education needs to be inclusive and appropriate for children’s age and stage of development. The paragraph goes onto list what should be taught.
In the section on the additional vulnerabilities of children with SEND (paragraph 198), a fifth bullet point is added which highlights the issue of ‘cognitive understanding – being unable to understand the difference between fact and fiction in online content and then repeating the content/behaviours in schools or colleges or the consequences of doing so.’ Further schools should consider the need for extra pastoral support and support for communication for these children (paragraph 200). This work should be supported by close liaison between the DSL and SENCo (paragraph 199). Resources from Mencap and Council for disabled children are identified as sources of information and support (paragraph 201).
In Part 5, we are reminded of the greater risk (3 times more likely) of sexual violence and harassment being faced by children with SEND (paragraph 448).
Further in in Annexe C, it is highlighted that DSLs need to be alert to the specific needs of children with SEND and recognise the additional risks they face online, for example from bullying, grooming and radicalisation, and are confident they have the capability to support them to stay safe online (p.165). This is quite a tall order given the range of SEND in most schools which is why work with the SENCo will be essential.
In paragraph 202, a new section highlights the additional safeguarding risks for children who identify as or are perceived by other children to be lesbian, gay, bi, or trans. It is interesting that the list does not include queer or intersex or any other sexualities or gender identities. The issue of a lack of a trusted adult or safe space are noted. This feels like lip service rather than a change, but it is a step in the right direction. More useful information can be found in Independent Inquiry CSA report on Engagement with LGBTQI+ survivors .
Paragraph 19 repeats that children may not be ready or able to speak about abuse. It recognises that this may relate to vulnerability, disability and/or sexual orientation or language barriers. The importance of professional curiosity, supportive relationships and speaking to the DSL are emphasised.
There is information about Domestic Abuse threaded through the document. In part 1 paragraph 26 re-asserts the impact of witnessing abuse of others as a key indicator of abuse and explicitly links this with domestic abuse. The status of children as victims of domestic abuse and its impact is then highlighted in paragraph 43.
Radicalisation and PREVENT
Throughout the document radicalisation is slipped in as an example on the end of a list of examples to give this issue additional emphasis. The importance of preventative education is discussed in paragraph 130. There is an explicit addition of the link to information on the EducateAgainstHate website about behaviour traits that could indicate exposure to radicalisation.
Low Level concerns
Having been introduced last year, it feels as though low level concerns have now been embedded throughout the document this year.
The list of statutory documents on page 7 includes that the staff code of conduct must include low level concerns, allegations against staff and whistleblowing
Low level concerns are now included in Part 1 where staff are reminded about ‘processes and procedures in place to manage any safeguarding allegation, or concern (no matter how small), about staff members (including supply staff, volunteers, and contractors)’. They are reminded that there is more information in Part 4 (Paragraphs 71 &73). This will still need emphasising in training as staff may not pick up the significance of this, particularly as it is near the end of their statutory reading.
It included in Part 2 where the governors’ responsibilities are made clear (paragraph 151)
Part 4 is clear that any concerns about supply staff or contractors should be referred to their employers so that any potential patterns of inappropriate behaviour can be identified. Also if in doubt about a concern meeting the harms threshold, the school should consult the LADO.
There remains some confusion about who low level concerns should be reported to. We are told ‘Whether all low-level concerns are shared initially with the DSL (or a nominated person (such as a values guardian/safeguarding champion), or with the headteacher/principal is a matter for the school or college to decide. If the former, then the DSL should inform the headteacher/principal of all the low-level concerns and in a timely fashion according to the nature of each particular low-level concern. The headteacher/principal should be the ultimate decision maker in respect of all low-level concerns, although it is recognised that depending on the nature of some low-level concerns and/or the role of the DSL in some schools/colleges, the headteacher/principal may wish to consult with the DSL and take a more collaborative decision making approach' (paragraph 432). To be honest, if all issues should go eventually to the headteacher, it would surely be easier and more confidential for them all to be reported directly to the headteacher and remove the need for staff to try identify if a concern meets or does not meet the harms threshold and who to report it to.
There are significant changes for Governors, particularly in relation to training.
‘All governors and trustees must receive appropriate safeguarding and children protection (including online) training at induction so that can provide strategic challenge to test assure themselves that the safeguarding policies and procedures in place are effective and support the delivery of a robust whole school approach to safeguarding.’ Their training should also be regularly updated (para 81)
Governing bodies and proprietors should be aware of their obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998, the Equality Act 2010, (including the Public Sector Equality Duty), and their local multi-agency safeguarding arrangements (para 82-93). This is going to be a significant training issue of its own.
Role of DSL and understanding of the role of the appropriate adult
The inquiry into the strip searching of Child Q raised the issue that the school did not challenge the police’s decision to carry out the search without an ‘appropriate adult’ being present. In response a requirement to understand this role has been added to KCSIE 22 with a link to PACE Code C 2019 for more details (p.162).
The role of the appropriate adult is to safeguard the rights, entitlements and welfare of juveniles and vulnerable persons ensuring the police are acting properly and fairly and helping the detained person understand their rights. They are not just an observer and if they are not happy, they are expected to take action and speak to a senior officer of the “rank of inspector or above”. Their role includes ensuring the detained person has access to food and drink and that they understand both the process and any questions that they are being asked. Again their will be particular issues when working with children with SEND.
This is a new area for the majority of DSLs and will require training and reading.
In paragraph 59, there is a suggestion of a change in thresholds. We are told in the section on Statutory children’s social care assessments and services that ‘Where a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer from harm, it is important that a referral to local authority children’s social care (and if appropriate the police) is made immediately.’ The language in previous years has been about raising concerns. This is not included here which suggests only section 47 reports should be made to social care. But may be a wording issue rather than a change in policy as a concern below section 47 is not a statutory referral. We need to watch what happens with this in the future.
Promoting educational outcomes- the role of the virtual head
Paragraphs 194-195 (not 154-155 as it suggests in Annexe F) outlines the role of the virtual head to provide strategic oversight for educational attendance, attainment and progress of children with a social worker. This was included in non-statutory guidance in June 2021 but is only now included in KCSIE. It talks about engagement with a range of key stakeholders but it is still not clear how this will work.
There is a reminder (paragraph 214) that schools can only accept CVs alongside an application form. A CV as on its own it does not provide adequate information. I am not sure why this is included as no school role should be applied for by CV alone.
More usefully, we are told (paragraph 220) that as part of the shortlisting process schools should consider carrying out an online search as part of their due diligence on the shortlisted candidates. Some schools are already doing this. However there are some concerns about the impact, as without training, staff may not be sure what they are looking for or where to look. Further, there is a risk of subjective judgements being made that may not be in accordance with employment law or equality legislation.
It is emphasised that low level concerns and concerns or allegations which have been found to be false, unfounded, unsubstantiated or malicious should not be included in any reference (paragraph 223).
Finally we are reminded that schools should check the ID and DBS status for visitors to the school in a professional capacity but they do not need to ask to see their DBS certificate (paragraph 301).
Part 4 Safeguarding concerns and allegations made about staff, including supply teachers, volunteers and contractors
This is rebranded as safeguarding concerns about staff, not just teachers.
The section on serious violence in Annexe B extends the information offered to highlight risk factors and the work of Violence Reduction Units (p.150-151). This is supported by the linkage of CCE and CSE in the same annexe. There is inclusion of the risks in the hours immediately before and after school and travelling to and from school.
A paragraph on mental health has been added to Annexe B
Possible Actions for schools
Ensure all relevant policies, including the safeguarding and behaviour policies, refer to child on child abuse, rather than peer on peer abuse.
All senior leaders in school, including DSLs and governors, should review the updated and extended Part 5 on Child on Child Sexual violence and harassment. There is significant new material in here (from the SVSH document) which they may have forgotten or not be familiar with.
To consider including the explanation of terms ‘victim’, ‘perpetrator’ and ‘alleged perpetrator’ and their use in their policy. This might need to be a point in training.
Ensure the staff code of conduct includes low-level concerns, allegations against staff and whistleblowing and that this has been included in training. This should include clarifying the procedures for raising low level concerns, so staff are fully aware and understand them, particularly if these are to be reported to someone other than the headteacher.
Consider additional domestic abuse training for staff so that they fully understand how children can be victims of domestic abuse and are impacted by it.
Ensure governor safeguarding, including online safety, training at induction and a regular programme to update this.
Ensure governors understand their duties under The Human Rights Act, Equality Act and PSED. This maybe a training need.
Ensure there is clear home-school communication during remote education about who will be contacting children and what websites they will be expected to access.
Consider the arrangements for effective and regular reviews of online filtering arrangements.
Consider how to engage with virtual head to support educational outcomes of children with a social worker.
Review working relationship and communication of SENCo and DSL and ensure all staff are supported to understand the additional vulnerabilities of SEND children, including issues of cognitive understanding.
Check staff are aware of and understand the additional vulnerabilities of children identifying or being identified as LGBTQI+.
Consider how to use social media and online checks as part of the recruitment process.
Check the DSLs understanding of the role of the appropriate adult and when they should be involved. This may require training and possibly for the school to establish a protocol for police involvement with pupils on school premises.
Unfortunately, there are a number of presentational issues with the document in its current form. Hopefully, there will be a re-release which will iron these issues out. But at the moment Annexe F showing substantive changes is not useable. Many of the paragraph numbers are out, often by one paragraph. Also there many substantive changes not included. In this blog I have recorded the paragraph numbers from the main text.
The issues in Annexe B are now listed alphabetically which makes them easier to find, but this separates key issues e.g. CCE and modern day slavery, which impacts the narrative and makes it harder for staff to see the links between these issues. So the links needs to be emphasised in training.
If you want more information, please join me for my Webinar on KCSIE 2022: Changes and possible actions for school on June 23rd at 4.00pm. Tickets through Eventbrite.