Safeguarding during Covid-19: summary and actions for schools.

Updated: Apr 21


On 27th March the government issued new guidance for Safeguarding in schools and colleges during the current crisis. This applies to all schools and colleges. It is interim guidance and will be reviewed and may be changed.

Schools and colleges need to continue to follow KCSIE to ensure that schools are safe places for children. They need to continue to work with the local authority and children’s services to promote this, even if they are working differently. There will be more advice for working in hubs and clusters and providing education remotely to follow.

The safeguarding core principles remain the same:

  • the best interests of children must always continue to come first

  • if anyone in a school or college has a safeguarding concern about any child they should continue to act and act immediately

  • a DSL or deputy should be available

  • it is essential that unsuitable people are not allowed to enter the children’s workforce and/or gain access to children

  • children should continue to be protected when they are online

The changed circumstances and the way that schools are operating will require a review and update of their safeguarding policy. This can be done by adding an annex/addendum. Schools do not need to rewrite and re-issue their entire policy. The new policy should reflect:

  • any updated advice received from the three local safeguarding partners

  • any updated advice received from local authorities regarding children with EHCP, the LADO and children’s social care, reporting mechanisms, referral thresholds and children in need

  • what staff and volunteers should do if they have any concerns about a child

  • the continued importance of all staff and volunteers acting and acting immediately on any safeguarding concerns

  • DSL (and deputy) arrangements

  • the continued importance for school and college staff to work with and support children’s social workers and the local authority virtual school head (VSH) for looked-after and previously looked-after children

  • peer on peer abuse - given the very different circumstances schools and colleges are operating in a revised process may be required for managing any report of such abuse and supporting victims (the principles as set out in part 5 of KCSIE should continue to inform any revised approach). Remember peer on peer abuse can happen on and offline.

  • what staff and volunteers should do if they have concerns about a staff member or volunteer who may pose a safeguarding risk to children (the principles in part 4 of KCSIE will continue to support how a school or college responds to any such concerns)

  • any arrangements to support children the school or college are concerned about who do not meet the ‘vulnerable’ definition

  • what arrangements are in place to keep children not physically attending the school or college safe, especially online and how concerns about these children should be progressed.

Ideally, in line with KCSIE 2019 there should be a trained DSL or deputy on site whenever the school is open. But it is recognised that this might not be possible. The guidance recommends various options:

· A DSL is available by phone or online (working from home)

· Sharing of DSLs between schools

· Where the DSL is not on site, senior leaders should take responsibility for co-ordinating safeguarding on site, including updating and managing access to child protection folders, liaising with the DSL, and social workers if needed.


Vulnerable children remain the highest priority, particularly those with a social worker. It is expected that these children will attend school sites, ‘unless in consultation with the child’s social worker and family it is agreed that it is not in the best interest of the child’. I would suggest that any such agreement is risk assessed and noted, particularly when there are changes to it.


As you all know there are daily attendance forms to be completed to record the vulnerable children and children of critical workers coming onto the school site each day. The guidance reminds us of the importance of following up with parents or carers where a child is expected to attend and does not. Such follow up should be used as an opportunity to check that contact numbers are up to date and correct. If a vulnerable child does not take up a school place or discontinues, the school should inform their social worker. This applies to children with social workers. Those with ECHP should be risk assessed to decide if they need to be offered a school place or can safely stay at home. The government view is that ‘Many children with EHC plans can safely remain at home.’ (Guidance for schools about temporarily closing 27/03/2020


If you have any new staff or volunteers joining the school or coming on site from another school in a hub or cluster, they must still receive safeguarding induction. Where staff are moving between schools, the receiving school should make a case by case judgment about what level of safeguarding induction is required. They will not require a new DBS, nor will childcare workers moving temporarily into a school setting. But the school should satisfy themselves that the appropriate checks have taken place and record this on their SCR.


If the school are recruiting new staff or volunteers, they should continue to follow Part 3 of KCSIE with regards to safer recruitment. The latest guidance (24/03/2020) allows for ID checks for DBS to be carried out via a video link. Volunteers will continue to need to be risk assessed as described in KCSIE 2019 (paras 167-172).

Schools must continue to ensure that anyone working on their site as the required checks. Further they must continue to ‘follow their legal duty to refer to the DBS anyone who has harmed or poses a risk of harm to a child or vulnerable adult.’ Equally, schools must continue to refer safeguarding concerns of this kind to the Teaching Regulation Agency where needed. This should be done by emailing Misconduct.Teacher@education.gov.uk .


Schools must continue to maintain their single central record (SCR) to show that everyone in school on a given day has undergone the appropriate checks. The guidance suggests that the SCR could be used to log everyone working or volunteering in a school, including those from other institutions on a given day, including any risk assessments.


If children, particularly any vulnerable child, is moving schools during the crisis information sharing should happen ideally at DSL and/ SENCo level, if this is not possible a senior leader should take responsibility. Information should include the reasons for the child’s vulnerability and how they are supported. If they are a Looked after child, any change of school should be led and managed by the VSH. We are reminded that ‘Whilst schools and colleges must continue to have appropriate regard to data protection and GDPR they do not prevent the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe.’


Schools should be aware of and continue to work to meet children’s mental health needs, including being aware of the impact of the current circumstances.

There will be DfE guidance on providing education remotely, but in the meantime

  • We need to remain conscious of the need to provide a safe school environment, including online. This includes having filters in place and contingency arrangements to support this. The UK Safer Internet Centre has a helpline for professionals working with children to support with online safety issues which may be helpful.

  • It is important that staff working with children online continue to be vigilant about signs that a child may be at risk. They should raise concerns following the safeguarding policy and where appropriate referrals should be made to children’s services or police.

  • The starting point for online teaching should be the same as set out in the school’s staff behaviour policy/ code of conduct including

  1. The acceptable use of technology

  2. Staff/ pupil relationships and communication, including the use of social media

  • Schools need to ensure that any online learning tools and systems are in line with privacy and data protection/ GDPR requirements.

  • Children have a clear route to raise any concerns they might have while online both to the school and signposting to age appropriate support, e.g.

  1. Childline - for support

  2. UK Safer Internet Centre - to report and remove harmful online content

  3. CEOP - for advice on making a report about online abuse

  • Schools should be clear with parents about what they are expecting children to do online, who from the school they should be expected to interact with and what sites they will be expected to access.

Possible School Actions

  • Review and update school safeguarding policy by adding an annex/ addendum, particularly including how to respond to concerns when working with children online and online safety.

  • Consider reviewing your staff code of conduct to clarify issues around online teaching and communication with pupils, if required. The Safer Recruitment Consortium’s Guidance on safer working practices is excellent.

  • Share the updated part of the safeguarding policy and staff code of conduct with all staff.

  • Consider and publicise your arrangements for contacting a DSL, so that staff on site and working from home know how to raise and share concerns.

  • Consider your support for children with a social worker, particularly if they are not attending school. How are you keeping in contact with them and with their social worker?

  • DSLs will continue to be regarded as trained, even if they miss their update training during this crisis. However, I will be offering new to role and update training online using Zoom early next term. Please contact me at seainclusion@btinternet.com if you want more details.

  • Ensure that you are following up any child who you were expecting to be attending school on site and does not attend, particularly vulnerable children. Also, that you are using this as an opportunity to check that you have all the appropriate and up to date contact details

  • Consider safeguarding information provided to to any staff or volunteers joining your school from other schools or organisations. I would suggest if they are safeguarding trained at another school, they will need an introduction to your setting. This should include who is the DSL, how to contact them and any other local processes. Consider using the information you provide to supply staff and other visitors with any changes relevant to the current crisis.

  • If you are recruiting new staff or volunteers review ways of conducting DBS checks to reduce unnecessary contact.

  • Ensure that you maintain your SCR and consider how to use it to show that everyone in school on a given day has undergone the appropriate safeguarding checks.

  • Should any child, particularly a vulnerable child, include LAC, change schools during the crisis ensure that all appropriate information sharing takes place’

  • Review your online safety policy and the information, support and reporting links you provide on your website. Consider how to share this information with children and parents.

  • Consider sharing the updated guidance with parents.


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SEA INCLUSION & SAFEGUARDING

 

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