Suzanne O’Connell outlines the most important points of which everyone should be aware.
- Staff must recognise their important role in safeguarding.
- Part One of the guidance must be understood as well as shared.
- Staff must be updated annually on safeguarding.
In December 2015, the government published a consultation on proposed changes to the statutory guidance, Keeping children safe in education. In May 2016 the new guidance itself was published, along with a government response to the consultation. Keeping children safe in education: Statutory guidance for schools and colleges (May 2016) replaces the document of the same name published in July 2015. It includes some important changes of which senior leadership, the designated safeguard lead (DSL) and the whole staff need to be aware.
Perhaps the most important message in the new guidance is that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. Some tragic cases have highlighted the risks of delegation without follow-up. This guidance leaves us in no doubt: not only are you responsible for making your referral, but also for checking that actions have been taken subsequently.
Whether it is the member of staff or the DSL who alerts social care, they must feel reassured that something has been done and that whatever the cause of the referral, it has been addressed. The situation for the child must improve; if not, it is the individual’s responsibility to continue to highlight the issue until it does.
With this in mind, it is beneficial to plan into your school year an opportunity to review your safeguarding policy. You should conduct an INSET to ensure that the message is clear and that all staff are aware of how your school addresses safeguarding issues.
Prior to training, it is important that all staff are issued with their own copy of Part One of Keeping children safe in education. Staff must be familiar with this document and understand it. We are reminded in the guidance that this must not just be a tick-box exercise. The INSET day should include the opportunity to check people’s understanding and for staff to raise any queries they might have.
Staff must be clear about what their role is. This might turn out to be greater than they had anticipated. It is not only the DSL who might need to be closely involved with child protection cases, but also those most directly working with the children in question. Teachers themselves may be required to contribute to meetings, supply information and be responsible for part of a care plan.
The DSL or training day facilitator might talk through the guidance flow chart on page 10 of the guidance. Discussing each stage and how it applies to a specific school will clarify individual responsibilities. In particular, the note at the bottom of the chart should be emphasised:
'At all stages, staff should keep the child’s circumstances under review and re-refer if appropriate, to ensure the child’s circumstances improve – the child’s best interests must always come first.'
Staff should be clear about the difference between a concern and a child in immediate danger. Any member of staff can make a direct referral to social care if the situation requires it. They should know how they might do this and when such an action might be needed.
Part One now includes a section on confidentiality. This is in line with the need to clarify with staff the balance between maintaining an appropriate level of confidentiality and ensuring that the right people have the right information.
It is beneficial to go through the ‘seven golden rules of information sharing’, which are included in the document, Information sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers.
Designated safeguarding lead
More emphasis is placed in the new guidance on the accessibility of the DSL. There must be someone who is acting in this capacity at all times. They are there to receive referrals, to be consulted and to provide information.
This might be a good time to review the DSL’s job description in the light of the new guidance too. The DSL should have sufficient knowledge to support and guide other members of staff in relation to areas of major safeguarding concern, and it is worthwhile reviewing their training log.
Schools are in a good position to identify when issues are emerging for a family. Staff must be familiar with the signs of abuse and neglect, as well as other safeguarding issues that have been raised more recently. Make sure they are familiar with indications of FGM (female genital mutilation), CSE (child sexual exploitation) and other risks specified on pages 12 and 13 of the guidance.
Not all concerns will be reported to social care immediately, and it is beneficial to discuss what support is available internally and how it can be accessed. This might also reveal where there are gaps in your provision, and the senior leadership team (SLT) might need to address this as a matter of urgency.
Concern around what children and young people are accessing over the internet is increasing and the new guidance reflects this with a section dedicated to online safety. The SLT will want to explore what this means for your school with the people responsible for filters and for monitoring the system.
Schools must find the right balance between keeping children safe and enabling them to use the internet for educational purposes. What must be shown clearly is that provision is monitored and that staff are alert to what the risks might be. Of course, it is not only your staff who need to be alert. As with all aspects of safeguarding, pupils should be made aware of the possible risks and the actions they should take.
Keeping training to the forefront
An important addition to the new guidance is that staff must be updated at least annually on safeguarding and child protection issues. There is a degree of flexibility in how this updating might take place and there is no need to book extensive training every year.
This provides a good opportunity to audit the staff’s training needs in relation to safeguarding. All staff must receive comprehensive induction in school policies, and changes to legislation and guidance should be circulated promptly throughout the school.
The number of changes that schools experienced last year and must continue to address in the coming year can mean that safeguarding slips down the list of priorities. The new guidance makes it clear that no school can afford to let this happen.
- Keeping children safe in education: Statutory guidance for schools and colleges, DfE, May 2016: http://bit.ly/Keeping-children-safe
- Information sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers, DfE, March 2015: http://bit.ly/InformationSharingAdvice
Use the following items in the Toolkit to put the ideas in the article into practice:
- Checklist – Staff understanding of Keeping children safe in education39.15 KB
- Handout – Keeping children safe in education training schedule39.92 KB
- Checklist – Child protection policy: Worked example38.3 KB
- Staff INSET – Clarifying safeguarding guidance changes39.07 KB
- Table – The main changes to safeguarding guidance and implications for schools39.46 KB
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