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Coronavirus Guidance on Pupil Welfare Risk Assessments

on Tuesday, 19 May 2020.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak raises unique challenges and new and additional hazards and/or risks for schools.

All schools (and everyone who works with the school) have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of pupils. For academies, due to the requirements of the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014, they are required to undertake pupil welfare risk assessment to cover safeguarding and welfare risks to pupils. This will involve a careful examination of safeguarding risks and what could cause harm to pupil welfare and a consideration of appropriate control measures, so that you can weigh up whether the school has taken adequate precautions to enable operations to continue or should take additional steps to prevent the risk of harm. The approach may be useful to maintained schools also, particularly at a time when more pupils may be vulnerable due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

There is no mandatory process to be followed. Schools should follow usual risk assessment principles. Usual assessments should be reviewed in light of the particular risks posed by COVID-19.

You should:

  • Identify any new, unique or additional hazards or issues that may harm pupils, a cohort or group of pupils or an individual pupil.
  • Decide who might be harmed and how.
  • Evaluate the risk(s). The risk is the likelihood or chance that a pupil or group of pupils could be harmed, together with an indication of its severity or how serious the harm could be if it occurs.
  • Decide on appropriate actions or control measures. It may be appropriate to consult with the pupil, parents and/or other third parties such as professionals involved in the pupil's care at this stage.
  • Make a written record of your significant findings - the concern, the issues, how pupil(s) might be harmed and what arrangements the School has in place to control those risks to determine whether the risk is reduced to an acceptable level.
  • Review your risk assessment, as necessary.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of hazards or issues which may be experienced by schools as a result of the coronavirus.

You should carefully consider your school's particular circumstances, location, buildings, pupil and parent cohort etc when assessing risks.

Remote Learning Issues

Examples include:

  • mental health risks for pupils at home/away from normal routine, environment and social contacts and increased screen time
  • anxiety, stress or mental health risks posed by worries around IT access, academic work, public exams or qualifications
  • increased risk of domestic abuse or neglect
  • increased risk of safeguarding issues not being identified because of decreased face-to-face contact with staff who are trained to identify and report these issues
  • the risk of grooming or abuse by staff in a virtual learning environment
  • increased risk of online peer-on-peer abuse through heightened use of social media
  • greater risk of the production and sharing of youth sexual imagery
  • difficulties in reporting concerns caused by staff absences (either through illness or not being physically on site).

Caring for Children Who Are Currently in School

Examples include:

  • mental health risks for children of critical workers who have concerns about their parent's health, safety and wellbeing whilst at work
  • difficulties adapting to a new routine, timetable, school environment, classmates and the social distancing measures required
  • feelings of isolation from their usual peers and friendship groups
  • difficulty integrating vulnerable pupils and those who are the children of critical workers.

Return to School As the Restrictions Are Relaxed

Examples include:

  • concerns about their own health, safety and welfare and that of their family, especially for pupils or household members who are clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable
  • risk of children (especially those of EYFS/primary school age or those with SEND) failing to understand or adhere to social distancing measures
  • risks of pupils developing symptoms in school, and of others being exposed to the virus
  • difficulties adapting to a new routine, timetable, school environment, classmates and the social distancing measures required
  • anxiety, stress or mental health risks posed by worries around academic work, exams or qualifications - particularly for those pupils entering key stages or examination years in September
  • mental health issues associated with impact of coronavirus on them or their family, eg bereavement or serious illness of family member or friend
  • stigmatisation based on nationality or ethnicity, or if they, or a member of their family has had coronavirus
  • difficulty/reluctance to report such concerns.

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SEND Risk Assessments

Specific guidance has been published in relation to pupils with SEND, which can be accessed here.

Schools should continue to work collaboratively with local authorities to carry out/review risk assessments to determine whether a pupil with SEND, and/or an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP), and/or a social worker will be able to have their needs met at home, and be safer there than attending an educational setting.

Risk assessments should include consideration of:

  • the potential health risks to these pupils from coronavirus, bearing in mind any underlying health conditions
  • the risk to these pupils if some or all elements of their EHC plan cannot be delivered for the time being, the risk if they cannot be delivered in the normal manner or in the usual setting, and the opportunities to meet needs in a different way temporarily (for example, in the home or online)
  • the ability of the pupils' parents or carers or home to ensure their health and care needs can be met safely week-round or for multiple weeks, bearing in mind the family’s access to respite
  • the potential impact to pupil wellbeing of changes to routine or the way in which provision is delivered
  • any safeguarding risks for pupils with a social worker if not in school and the need to support care placements for looked-after children
  • any other out-of-school issue or vulnerability, for example, a child or young person becoming involved in dangerous behaviour or situations (including the risk of exploitation)
  • their progress over time.

It is more likely that pupils with EHCPs may benefit more from remaining at school than at home if:

  • a pupil is receiving personal care or healthcare at their school which cannot be replicated at home (for example, many pupils and students in residential settings)
  • it is not sustainable for parents or carers to meet their child’s needs full-time for an extended period (for example, those attending day settings whose parents/carers meet their personal care, mobility or other needs in evenings and weekends, but where this would not be sustainable full-time)
  • a pupil would face other risks out of school (for example, if it is more feasible for them to follow social distancing and good hygiene practices within the routine and familiarity of their school day, or where their behaviour would put them at other risks out of school)
  • a pupil's condition prevents or inhibits self-regulation and whose behaviours cannot be supported or managed by parents or carers at home; or where this would place a risk to other siblings or family members.

For further advice on pupil welfare and safeguarding, please contact Yvonne Spencer or Joanna Goddard in our Academies team on 020 7665 0870 or 020 7665 0805 respectively, or complete the form below.

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