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Updated: Dec 10, 2019

The new OFSTED Documentation to come into force in September 2019 have just been issued, including the Inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills settings guidance. This article identifies the key safeguarding changes and implications from the updated documentation and key actions for schools in response.


The Safeguarding Guidance continues the work of the document issued in September 2018 of ensuring that the OFSTED ‘s approach to safeguarding is in line with the Social Work and Children Act 2017 provisions as they come into force. So, the references to transitional arrangements have gone and have been replaced with references to local safeguarding multi-agency partners as these should be in place by September.

As in the most recent frameworks safeguarding is judged under leadership and management and explicitly contributes to the overall effectiveness judgement, but it is not subject to its own judgement. However, it remains key so only exceptionally will a school with ineffective safeguarding be judge as anything other than inadequate (see below where there are easily rectified minor weaknesses). Included in this is for schools to ensure that they are meeting their obligations to make arrangements for supporting pupils with medical conditions (p.22).

The guidance’s changes include a number of recurrent key themes:

• The inclusion of understanding healthy and unhealthy relationships, reflecting the wording from the SRE guidance • An emphasis on teaching about and awareness of exploitation, particularly criminal exploitation • Teaching about risks related to the use of social media • Ensuring the needs of children with medical conditions are being met and they are receiving appropriate care • The inclusion of previously looked after children as a vulnerable group

The risks from technology are expanded to include risks linked to using technology and social media, including online bullying; the risks of being groomed online for exploitation or radicalisation; and risks of accessing and generating inappropriate content, for example ‘sexting’ (p.6). Social media is explicitly included whereas previously the guidance has considered the risks relating to the internet in general.

There a number of mentions of responses to bullying, homophobic behaviour, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination and that children should know how to get support rather than how to keep themselves safe (p.8). This is an interesting change of emphasis as it requires schools to ensure that they are explicitly providing support and that children know how to access it.

On page 9 the guidance emphasises that ‘Adults understand that children’s poor behaviour may be a sign that they are suffering harm or that they have been traumatised by abuse.’ And ‘In cases of peer-on-peer abuse, staff should consider what support might be needed for the perpetrators as well as the victims.’ While this view and approach is emphasised in KCSIE 2018, the guidance on Sexual Violence and Harassment between Children (2018), Timpson Review of School Exclusion and much of the work in the realms of safeguarding, it is not necessarily to the fore in the approach being promoted by Tom Bennett and his government sponsored ‘crackdown on bad behaviour.’ Linked with this is the responsibility for schools to identify those in need of support with their mental health as well as those at risk of abuse or neglect (p.12). With this in mind, schools need to ensure staff are trained to understand how to handle reports of sexual violence and harassment between children, both on and outside school premises (p.11) and develop their understanding and language around behaviour as a communication of need and possible abuse.

The guidance is clear that learning about safeguarding and the identification of risk must be embedded within the curriculum. We are told ‘children and learners are supported to understand what constitutes a healthy relationship both online and offline, and to recognise risk, for example risks associated with criminal and sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, substance misuse, gang activity, radicalisation and extremism, and are aware of the support available to them’ (p.13). This now includes the focus on what is a healthy relationship.

OFSTED clarifies the role of the DSL as the main point of contact with Multi-agency partners (MAP) (p.12). It is clear that the DSL role(s) should always be explicitly defined in their job descriptions and that they should be given sufficient time, funding, supervision and support to fulfil their child welfare and safeguarding responsibilities effectively (p.31). To reflect WTSC 2018 the guidance extends and clarifies the list of agencies involved in multi-agency work (p. 31) to include

• local authorities and district councils that provide children’s and other types of services, including children’s and adult social care services, public health, housing, sport, culture and leisure services, licensing authorities and youth services • NHS organisations and agencies and the independent sector, including NHS England and clinical commissioning groups, NHS Trusts, NHS Foundation Trusts and GPs • the police, including police and crime commissioners and the chief officer of each police force in England and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in London • the British Transport Police • the National Probation Service and community rehabilitation companies governors/directors of prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs) • directors of secure training centres (STCs) • principals of secure colleges • youth offending teams/services (YOTs)

There is an emphasis on the development of a culture and training, so staff are competent to carry out their responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and creating an environment where staff feel able to raise concerns and feel supported in their safeguarding role. So, Staff should be given a mandatory induction, which includes familiarisation with child protection responsibilities and the procedures to be followed if anyone has any concerns about a child’s safety or welfare. Further, whistle blowing (p.31) and managing allegations against staff (p.32) should be included in the staff code of conduct, induction and training. All practitioners should have regular reviews of their own practice to ensure they have knowledge, skills and expertise that improve over time.

The guidance is explicit that ‘Organisations should have clear policies for dealing with allegations against people who work with children. An allegation may relate to a person who works with children who has:

• behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child • possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child; or behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children.

Any allegation against people who work with children should be reported immediately to a senior manager within the organisation or agency. The designated officer, or team of officers, should also be informed within one working day of all allegations that come to an employer’s attention or that are made directly to the police (p.32).

Rules regarding schools’ responsibilities for apprentices are made explicit (p.32).


The new framework document continues to emphasise the importance of the setting’s safeguarding arrangements (as well as culture). These must be effective. They must prioritise the safeguarding of learners at all time and include taking prompt and appropriate action on any safeguarding or health and safety issue. Governors continue to hold their duties under the PREVENT strategy.

Effective safeguarding arrangements will

• identify learners who may need early help or who are at risk of neglect, abuse, grooming or exploitation • help learners reduce their risk of harm by securing the support they need, or referring in a timely way to those who have the expertise to help • manage safe recruitment and allegations about adults who may be a risk to learners and vulnerable adults (p.12)


(Page numbers are taken from the Section 5 handbook, unless otherwise specified.)

The OFSTED Handbooks are clear that an out of schedule inspection may be called or exempt schools may be inspected between risk assessments for safeguarding concerns. A Section 8 inspection will be converted to a Section 5 inspection, if safeguarding is not effective. There remains the implied 2-pronged approach of considering both the school’s safeguarding culture and arrangements.

The grade descriptors for overall effectiveness and leadership and management will include a judgement on the effectiveness of safeguarding. A school can be RI if there are safeguarding weaknesses that are ‘easily rectified and there are no serious failings that leave pupils either being harmed or at risk of harm’ (p.40). If safeguarding is ineffective, the school is inadequate. The same applies under the leadership and management judgement.

There is an emphasis under the behaviour and attitudes judgement on the school culture and environment. It should be positive and respectful, and pupils should know that staff care about them. Pupils will be safe and bullying, discrimination and peer-on-peer abuse – online or offline– are not accepted and are dealt with quickly, consistently and effectively whenever they occur (p.52).

Inspectors will consider the school’s use of exclusion and any safeguarding risks to pupils who may be excluded (p.54). They will consider the safeguarding procedures in any alternative provision that the school are using.

The handbook emphasises the school culture of safeguarding that means they should have effective arrangements to

• always act in the best interests of children, pupils and students to protect them online and offline • identify children, pupils and students who may need early help, and who are at risk of harm or have been harmed. This can include, but is not limited to, neglect, abuse (including by their peers), grooming or exploitation • secure the help that children, pupils and students need, and if required, referring in a timely way to those who have the expertise to help • manage safe recruitment and allegations about adults who may be a risk to children, pupils, students and vulnerable adults (p.70)

The handbook goes on to give examples of what ineffective safeguarding might include:

• Safeguarding allegations about staff members are not being handled appropriately. • Children, pupils and students or particular groups of children, pupils and students do not feel safe in school/the setting. • Children, pupils and students have little confidence that the school/setting will address concerns about their safety, including risk of abuse. • Pupils are frequently missing from school (including for part of the school day), but this is not addressed appropriately by staff. • Incidents of bullying or prejudiced and discriminatory behaviour are common (p.72).

There is a clear recognition of the additional vulnerabilities for children with SEND which is emphasised in the sections on special schools, units and alternative provision. This needs to be considered in all mainstream provisions as well.


• Check that your safeguarding policy includes

o Healthy and unhealthy relationships o Teaching about and awareness of exploitation, particularly criminal exploitation o Teaching about risks related to the use of social media o The needs of children with medical conditions o Inclusion of previously looked after children as a vulnerable group o Talks about children knowing how to get support and assess risk, not just keeping themselves safe o Recognises and states that children’s behaviour may be a sign of abuse and the provision of support for all involved in peer-on-peer abuse including the victim, alleged perpetrator and witnesses. o Includes the DSL’s role as the main point of contact with the Local multi-agency partners and includes an up-to-date list of partners, adding any additional local partners your school works with.

• Review your policy and procedures for supporting children with medical conditions, considering both physical and mental health conditions.

• Review your policy for managing allegations against staff and volunteers. Does it include reporting to the LADO or DO within one working day? Does it reflect this guidance fully? Do your staff know and understand it?

• Consider how robust is your staff training for managing and reporting incidents of peer on peer abuse including sexual violence and harassment. Do all staff understand the need to support all those involved (victim, alleged perpetrator and witnesses).

• Consider how raising concerns, whistle blowing and managing allegations against staff are covered in your induction, training and staff code of conduct. You may wish to look at the new guidance from the Safer Recruitment Consortium on safer working practices.

• Consider how you will ensure staff are able to review their own practice to ensure they have knowledge, skills and expertise to improve over time. Is this part of training? Included in appraisal? Part of a review of safeguarding incidents?

• Check your policies for children missing from school including those missing for part of the school day.

• Consider the safeguarding risks and implications for any pupil excluded from school. Think about Contextual Safeguarding and the risks of radicalisation, grooming and criminal and sexual exploitation.

• Ensure that you understand and are confident about the safeguarding arrangements and culture at any alternative provision you are using. Remember that an OFSTED inspector may visit them as part of your inspection. Has a member of the school staff visited the setting?

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