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Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020: summary and possible actions for schools

Despite suspending the consultation process, on 17th June 2020 the DfE released Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020. The resulting document is a compromise between the ambition and scale of the proposed changes outlined in the draft document and a desire to avoid controversy. The document states the only changes included are where they are required by legislation (those relating to the RSE and Health Education curriculum) or to add helpful information or clarification, however not all changes necessarily fall into these categories. They some useful clarifications and updates, particularly round CCE (Child Criminal Exploitation) and Domestic Abuse. But in many ways the omissions, from both the draft and from KCSIE 2019, are more significant than the inclusions.

In 2018, the concept of Contextual Safeguarding was introduced into the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance. This emphasised the importance of considering children’s safety and wellbeing within a range of contexts and settings reflecting the impact of their experiences beyond the home and school. This has been removed from KCSIE 2020. The draft document had a clear emphasis on extra-familial risks, including exploitation and online. This was a thread running through the document. A new paragraph (Para 21) states

All staff should be aware that safeguarding incidents and/or behaviours can be associated with factors outside the school or college and/or can occur between children outside of these environments. All staff, but especially the designated safeguarding lead (and deputies) should consider whether children are at risk of abuse or exploitation in situations outside their families. Extra-familial harms take a variety of different forms and children can be vulnerable to multiple harms including (but not limited to) sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation, and serious youth violence.

Despite the inclusion of this paragraph, this thread is not so clear within the finalised guidance.

Many of the most significant changes proposed in the draft document were around the role of the DSL. Most of this has not been included in the finalised document. The commitment to supervision for DSLs has been removed. It was not clear how this would have been implemented or funded but has been a weakness within safeguarding for many years. Too often DSLs are the only practitioners involved with complex cases who do not receive supervision. Even though they often have the closest contact with the children. Given the increase in safeguarding concerns and the demands being made of DSLs during the Covid crisis this is needed more than ever. There have been reports of DSLs being asked to make ‘proof of life calls’. No-one should be asked to do this without access to supervision and support. Let’s hope this will be reinstated in future updates.

The major change to the role of the DSL proposed in the draft document was to give DSL’s a statutory responsibility for promoting educational and wellbeing outcomes of pupils open to social care. The guidance now states that the DSL should:

Help promote educational outcomes by sharing the information about the welfare, safeguarding and child protection issues that children, including those with a social worker, are experiencing or have experienced, with teachers and the school and college leadership staff. Their role could include ensuring that the school or college, and their staff, know who these children are, understand their academic progress and attainment and maintain a culture of high aspirations for this cohort; supporting teaching staff to identify the challenges that children in this group might face and the additional academic support and adjustments that they could make to best support these children.’ (Page 100).

This leaves a lack of clarity over the DSL’s role and expectations being made of them. The confidentiality issues remain. Should all staff know which children are open to social care. Further, there are logistical problems of how to track and monitor a constantly changing cohort of pupils. I suspect the government will return to this issue, particularly as there is reference to Help, Protection, Education: Concluding the Child in Need Review (June 2019) which first laid out these changes in the document. I remain concerned about the implications for DSL workload and doubtful about the impact on children’s learning or wellbeing. Few of these children will not already be within focus groups in school, to add them to a further group will confuse issues, not support children, and reduce DSL capacity for their key safeguarding role. There is another significant addition in this section that LAs should inform the school when a child has a social worker (paras 109-112). In Annexe B there is a reference to DSL training and ensuring they understand of roles, processes, procedures and responsibilities of other agencies including children’s social care.

The draft document had a clear emphasis on embedding safeguarding within the school culture. Much of Annexe C on online safety was moved to the main body of the document and there was a clear emphasis that safeguarding should be integral to all aspects of school leadership and development, with an increased focus on the role of the governors. This has been lost.

The proposal to add a shortened version of KCSIE, to be read by members of staff who do not work directly with children, as a new Annexe A has not been followed up. It was not clear who this was for and was likely to be a distraction. I hope that this will not be raised again.

More importantly, there is confusion around Part 5 on sexual violence and harassment between children or child on child sexual violence and harassment. There is a discrepancy in language between Part 5 and its summary in Annexe A. Hopefully, this will be picked up before the final release for September. But more importantly, we have lost the key changes of perpetrator to perpetrator(s), emphasising that often more than one person is involved in incidents of sexual violence and harassment. Moreover, the reminder disclosures may not be immediate has not made it into the final guidance. Yet, this will be particularly important for schools to be aware of as children return to school sites after lockdown. Many of the children who have experienced abuse of all kinds during this time will need to rebuild relationships with staff before they can share their experiences, including disclosures of abuse. If we disregard or devalue sharing of past abuse, we are at risk of doing irreparable harm.

Other interesting, and I would have thought non-controversial, omissions from the draft document


  • The focus on domestic abuse in intimate relationships between children

  • The GDPR issues related to use of unsecured communication channels (PMR Radios/ walkie talkies) when discussing personal and sensitive information. This would seem to be particularly relevant given the increase use of such devices to communicate between bubble groups in schools.

  • The excellent changes proposed to Part 3 on Safer Recruitment to bring it in line with the recommendations of the Safer Recruitment Consortium. There is not even a mention of the Covid changes for verification of ID for DBS.

  • Increased information of the vulnerability of children with SEND

  • The inclusion of child abduction and community safety incidents

  • The extension of the list of children who might benefit from an Early Help Assessment

There is inclusion of information ready for the RSE curriculum to become statutory in September 2020. There are clear and useful clarifications about CCE and domestic abuse within Part 1 and Annexe A. The information in para 28 emphasises the risks of CCE and CSE from both individuals and groups and highlights the risks from men and women, and from adults and other children. Further, that ‘abuse can be a one-off occurrence or a series of incidents over time and range from opportunistic to complex organised abuse. It can involve force and/or enticement-based methods of compliance and may, or may not, be accompanied by violence or threats of violence.’ Equally the CSE definition is extended to include male and female victims, 16 and 17 year olds, contact and non-contact offences, which occur without the child’s immediate knowledge e.g. online offences. The information on County lines includes much more detail and explanation, including information about use of phone lines, how children and vulnerable adults are exploited to move and store drugs and money, including the use of ‘plugging’, the use of coercion, intimidation and violence, including sexual violence, to ensure that victims remain within these networks, the targeting and recruitment processes including drug debt. The links to missing episodes from home and school are emphasised. These fuller definitions and information will be useful for staff to clarify understanding and provide a clear basis for training.

Mental health is given emphasis throughout the document and included in an updated definition of safeguarding (para 4) which now explicitly states the impairment of mental and physical health, rather than merely imply it. A new section on mental health (para 34-38) clarifies the need to link mental health and safeguarding concerns, adding that mental health issues may be an indicator of abuse, neglect or exploitation. Teachers should not attempt diagnosis, but observation of behaviour may suggest a problem. There is consideration of the long lasting impacts of ACEs and abuse. There is consideration of the needs of children requiring mental health support and the importance of schools’ role in this, including accessing advice to help identify children in need and working with external agencies. There is indication of the importance of having clear systems for this. There is also a promise of training for senior mental health leads available by 2025! (para 113-116).

More information is provided about domestic abuse including about its impacts. There is detailed information about Operation Encompass and National Domestic Abuse Helpline. (Annexe A).

There are important language changes from so called Honour Based Violence to so called Honour Based Abuse and the inclusion of child on child abuse alongside peer on peer abuse.

A description of terrorism (page 89) has been added to the section on preventing radicalisation. This section also includes risks within the home which is particularly important given children’s experiences during lockdown. There is an emphasis on the importance of the DLS being aware of local procedures for Prevent referrals. More details on the Channel panels and how they work are included, alongside links to the Home Office e-learning modules and more information for further education settings.

With regard to Part 4: Managing allegations, there is an additional bullet point for para 211 that extends the guidance about managing allegations to adults working in schools, including volunteers and supply teachers, who have ‘behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children’. The notes on substantial changes in Annexe H (page 116) makes explicit the link to ‘transferrable risk’ and to incidents outside of school, not involving children but which could have an impact on the individual’s suitability to work with children and gives the example of domestic abuse and the risk that a child could trigger the same reaction. All this is left unsaid in the main text which is not clear without the information from Annex H. To paraphrase the paediatrician at the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie, there is a serious risk that this will not be understood in the way the drafters would have like it to be understood.

Paragraph 56 and Part 4 (para 214-217) include clarification about the management of allegations against supply staff. This emphasises the need to follow through allegations against supply teachers including the involvement of the LADO and the employing agency. The agency should be fully involved and co-operate, but the school will need to lead the investigation as the agency won’t have the necessary access to information, staff or children, When employing agency staff schools should inform them of the processes for managing allegations. There is an implication that many schools manage these allegations by ceasing to use individual supply staff. This makes it clear that this is not acceptable. However, there is an interesting loophole as schools use supply staff who are not teachers. This is likely to increase with ‘catch up’ programmes using tutors, so the guidance needs to apply to them too.

Interestingly, given the guidance doesn’t come into force until September, it contains references to the Covid safeguarding guidance and that this remains in force. This maybe an element of future proofing, but it is an indication of government expectations of time scales. The inclusion of learning online at home (para 92) and some of the resources (particularly in para 94) also reflects this. I think that it also indicates that we will get a further update once things have returned to some form of normality.

There is additional information about 2 useful documents:

Possible Actions

  • Change language in policies to child on child sexual violence and harassment

  • Ensure definitions of safeguarding in the policy and elsewhere include ‘impairments of mental and physical health’. This needs to be supported in training so staff understand that mental health issues can be an indicator of abuse and the long lasting impacts of ACEs and abuse. Review your systems for identifying and supporting children with mental health needs.

  • Ensure an ongoing emphasis on risks outside of the family and schools in policies and training

  • Make changes to your managing allegations policy to include supply staff and the actions to be taken in case of an allegation against supply teachers. Also include information about adults who have ‘behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children’. This will also need to be reflected in the staff code of conduct.

  • Share the updated information about CCE, CSE, county lines and domestic abuse with staff through policies and training.

  • Check that you are using the language of so called honour based abuse, not violence, in training and policies.

  • Include the description of terrorism into Prevent training and policies. For the DSL to check that they are confident with the local Prevent referral procedures. Also, check that all staff have completed the relevant Home Office e-learning modules for Prevent training. Consider is it time for staff to update this training?

  • Consider how your DSL will promote educational outcomes for children with a social worker and if this information should be shared with other staff.

  • Consider the support (and supervision) needed by your DSL and their deputies

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