We were promised the changes from KCSIE 2022 to KCSIE 2023 would be minor. Therefore there was no consultation document for Keeping Children Safe in Education 2023. This is indeed the case. Just three additional paragraphs.
1. Filtering and monitoring
This is a repeated theme throughout the document. Mentions of the importance of all staff having ‘an understanding of the expectations, applicable roles and responsibilities in relation to filtering and monitoring’ are spread across the document. The school’s approach to online safety, including appropriate filtering and monitoring on school devices and school networks should be reflected in their Child Protection policy which should include awareness of the ease of access to mobile phone networks. (Para 138).
It is reasserted that the DSL has the lead responsibility in this area. Also in paragraph 141 that the ‘Governing bodies and proprietors should consider the number of and age range of their children, those who are potentially at greater risk of harm and how often they access the IT system along with the proportionality of costs versus safeguarding risks.’
It is only in the new paragraph 142 linked to the PREVENT duty that we are provided with any detail about what is meant by this and a link to the DfE filtering and monitoring standards which set out that schools and colleges should:
· identify and assign roles and responsibilities to manage filtering and monitoring systems.
· review filtering and monitoring provision at least annually.
· block harmful and inappropriate content without unreasonably impacting teaching and learning.
· have effective monitoring strategies in place that meet their safeguarding needs.
Further, governing bodies and proprietors should review the standards and discuss with IT staff and service providers what more needs to be done to support schools in meeting this standard.
There is also a reminder of the importance of meeting cyber security standards for schools.
2. Retention of documents
Paragraph 276 helps to clarify that copies of documents used to verify a successful candidate’s identity, right to work and required qualifications should be kept on their personnel file. But copies of DBS certificates and records of criminal information disclosed by a candidate are covered by UK GDPR/DPA 2018. To comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 2018, when schools choose to retain a copy, there should be a valid reason for doing so and it should not be kept for longer than six months. When the information is destroyed a school may keep a record of the fact that vetting was carried out, the result and the recruitment decision taken if they choose to. It goes on to emphasise that schools do not have to keep copies of DBS certificates, in order to fulfil the duty of maintaining the single central record.
3. Use of school sites by outside organisations
There is a new heading, ‘Use of school sites by outside organisations’ (para 377) in Part 4 on raising concerns and managing allegations. This confirms schools’ safeguarding responsibilities when they receive an allegation relating to an incident that happened when an individual or organisation was using their school premises for the purposes of running activities for children (for example community groups, sports associations, or service providers that run extra-curricular activities). As with any safeguarding allegation, schools should follow their safeguarding policies and procedures, including informing the LADO.
There are a few other minor changes.
· The word ‘students’ has been added after the word pupils in various places. This is presumably to act as a reminder for sixth form colleges and other further education providers that KCSIE applies to them as stated in the introduction. Regardless of the language used to describe them- students, pupil, child, young person- we need to be clear that all those under 18 are children and entitled to the rights and protections of a child.
· Where a child receiving elective home education has an EHCP, the LA need to review the plan working with the parents and carers.
· Under the section on the additional safeguarding vulnerabilities of children with SEND, we are reminded that the SEND Code of Practice is a source of information and support is available from specialist organisations including SENDIASS.
· Paragraph 89 clarifies that provision within the Equality Act includes reasonable adjustments for disabled children and young people.
· There is an interesting, but not fully explained language change from children ‘Missing from education’ to children ‘who are absent from education’. There is an emphasis on the safeguarding risks for those missing from education, particularly on repeat occasions and/or for prolonged periods (para 99 and 175). We are told that a robust response is needed to persistently absent pupils as they are at risk of abuse and becoming a child missing education in the future. This is particularly for children known to social care. The links for further support now include the Working together to improve school attendance guidance.
· In Part 3 on safer recruitment, the section on the need for Ongoing vigilance (para 343) is explicitly extended to include all staff and a culture which considers matters inside and outside the work place, including online.
· In Part 5, there are links to guidance on suspensions and permanent exclusions and it is made explicit that teachers can sanction pupils (para 542). This is picked up in the following section which was called ‘Discipline and the Alleged perpetrator(s)’ is now entitled ‘Sanctions and the alleged perpetrator(s)’. I feel there needs to be further discussions on the role of sanctions as part of discipline and that they are not synonymous.
· In Annexe B the link between mental health, school attendance and progress is emphasised.
· The section on PREVENT includes a language change. Referrals to Channel are for those who are susceptible rather than vulnerable to radicalisation and being at risk of being drawn into terrorism. We are also reminded that referrals to Channel require the individual’s consent.
· Finally, the section on Forced marriage reflects the law change that came into force in February 2023. This made it a crime to carry out any conduct whose purpose is to cause a child to marry before their eighteenth birthday, even if violence, threats or another form of coercion are not used. As with the existing forced marriage law, this applies to non-binding, unofficial ‘marriages’ as well as legal marriages.
What was not in KCSIE 2023
There are several things that schools might have hoped would have been included in KCSIE 2023 and are not. In my view these include:
· Clarification about what online searches should be carried out on shortlisted candidates and how these should be conducted. The only additional information included is a reminder that shortlisted candidates should be informed that online searches may be done as part of due diligence checks (para 221).
· There is nothing on supervision for DSLs. This passed through KCSIE in the abandoned consultation document of 2020. It is being quietly or not so quietly dropped from the agenda. While a recent DfE study showed that it neither impacted the quality of referrals or DSL wellbeing, this is not supported by other evidence. It remains a key concern for many DSLs.
Possible actions for schools
· Check your filtering and monitoring procedures.
o Who is responsible for the filtering and monitoring?
o Who checks and responds to any attempted breaches of the filtering systems?
o How frequently is this done?
o How is this recorded?
o Who decides what is inappropriate and harmful content?
o Who checks the filtering systems are up to date and monitoring for appropriate words?
This should not solely be the responsibility of your school’s IT provider or server. The DSL needs to have a lead role and there needs to be clear procedures to respond to issues considering safeguarding concerns and responsibilities under the PREVENT duty.
Ensure all staff understand their responsibilities in this area. It needs to be included in training and annual updates.
· Check your cyber security is robust and appropriate.
· Check if you are keeping copies of ID documents for staff and if so, where. There is no need to keep copies of DBS certificates and these should not be kept for longer than six months.
· Check the procedures for responding to safeguarding concerns about other organisations and individuals using your schools site. Also ensure that these are clearly stated in any lettings policy and hirings contracts.
· Ensure that governors understand their duties under the Equality Act include reasonable adjustments for children with disabilities.
· Ensure that your attendance policies are clear about the safeguarding risks for children absent or missing from school, including those absent on repeat occasions and/or for prolonged periods. This should include how those supporting attendance work with the DSL.
· Continue to review your procedures for conducting online searches for shortlisted candidates. This should include informing them that these will be undertaken. This should be included on the application form and/or in letters inviting candidates to interview.
· Ensure that your school’s culture of safeguarding is clearly stated and that explicitly includes all staff and their responsibilities in and outside of school and on and offline.
· Consider the information included in your behaviour policy with regard to alleged perpetrator(s) of harmful sexualised behaviours, sexual harassment or violence and the use of sanctions against them.
· Check that your policy on referrals to Channel refers to those susceptible to (rather than vulnerable to) being drawn into terrorism and recognises that any referral requires the individual’s consent.
· Ensure that the section on Forced Marriage in your Child Protection policy reflects that any form of marriage for someone under 18 is illegal, even where violence, threats or another form of coercion are not used.