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Keeping Children Safe in Education 2016 - What it Means for Schools

on Monday, 20 June 2016.

The long-awaited next version of Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE) was published just before the half term break, following a DfE consultation on proposed changes earlier in the year.

We participated in the consultation and can claim some (small) credit for improving aspects of the consultation draft. However, the changes remain quite substantial and a clutch of school policy documents will need review and revision prior to 5 September, when the new guidance takes effect.

A short summary is below - more detailed information has already been provided to schools which subscribe to our Compliance Toolkit service.

Staff Training

The consultation proposed that all staff should not only read but also understand Part 1 of KCSIE. This has been amended to impose a responsibility on the proprietor to ensure that mechanisms are in place to assist staff to understand and discharge their role and responsibilities.

In an attempt to make Part 1 a more manageable source of information, DfE has moved some of the information relating to specific safeguarding issues into an annex which is required reading for school leaders and those staff who work directly with children. DfE has emphasised that it is a matter for individual schools to decide who is classed as working directly with children although 'if in any doubt, schools should always err on the side of caution'. Annex A includes information on children missing education, child sexual exploitation, so-called 'honour-based' violence, including FGM and forced marriage and Prevent/Channel.

KCSIE will also require all staff members to receive appropriate safeguarding and child protection training which is regularly updated, and safeguarding and child protection updates (for example, via email, e-bulletins and staff meetings) as required, but at least annually to provide them with relevant skills and knowledge to safeguard children effectively. As there are no longer any national guidelines or accredited training programmes/providers, guidance from your Local Safeguarding Children Board on the content of safeguarding training will be important, although KCSIE is a good reference point.

Online Safety

The new KCSIE contains more guidance, set out at Annex C, on expectations around online safety.

Schools are expected to establish an effective approach to online safety to protect and educate the whole school community in their use of technology, with mechanisms to identify, intervene and escalate any incident where appropriate.

Proprietors are required to do 'all that they reasonably can' to limit children’s exposure to harmful and inappropriate online material, with appropriate filters and monitoring systems in place; although the guidance also cautions against 'overblocking' and imposing unreasonable restrictions as to what children can be taught with regards to online teaching and safeguarding.

Proprietors should consider a whole school approach to online safety, which will include a clear policy on the use of mobile technology in the school.

Allegations of Abuse

There is greater emphasis on procedures in place to handle allegations against other children, with staff able to recognise that children are capable of abusing their peers. Proprietors should ensure that the school's child protection policy includes procedures to minimise the risk of peer on peer abuse, sets out how allegations of peer on peer abuse will be investigated and dealt with, and how victims will be supported. The policy should reflect the different forms peer on peer abuse can take, make clear that abuse is abuse and should never be tolerated or passed off as 'banter' or 'part of growing up'.

The new KCSIE is also clearer about the circumstances in which referrals should be made to children's services and the role of the DSL. The difference between a concern and a child in immediate danger, and the required action in each case, is clarified and a new referral flowchart included.

Whilst the consultation did not focus on Part 4, KCSIE contains a useful clarification that staff may consider discussing any concerns about fellow members of staff with, and make any referral via, the DSL.

Looked After Children and Children with SEND

Current KCSIE content relating to looked after children does not apply to independent schools, but the revised KCSIE extends all this content to independent schools. Whilst legislation and separate guidance on the role of a 'designated teacher' to promote the educational achievement of looked after children continues to apply only to maintained schools (and, via funding agreements, to academies), independent schools will need to consider how they discharge their duties under the revised KCSIE to looked after children.

In relation to children with SEND, the revised KCSIE acknowledges that additional barriers can exist when recognising abuse and neglect in this group of children and expects schools to address these challenges in their policies and procedures.

Host Families

The question of whether schools involved in host family arrangements are engaged in regulated activity has been a complex one ever since the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.

Helpful wording has been included in KCSIE since 2015 to clarify that, where parents either make the arrangements themselves 'or take the responsibility for the selection of the host parents themselves', then this is a private matter between parents, and the school is not considered to be a regulated activity provider.

Unfortunately, the revised KCSIE removes the words highlighted. Our discussions with DfE indicate that the department’s policy position has not changed - and of course the underlying legislation, section 53 of the Safeguarding and Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, is also unchanged.

So whilst this is unlikely to be a new area of focus on inspection, given the reputational and other risks involved, not least the criminal offences in the 2006 Act, we recommend that schools carefully reconsider the scope of arrangements they make, and those made by parents, to form a view as to whether the hosting falls within the regulated activity definition or not.

If the school is a regulated activity provider, KCSIE requires that it should request a DBS enhanced check with barred list information to help determine the suitability of the hosting parents.

How we can Help

Policy review

A number of school policy documents will require review and revision, including:

  • the child protection/safeguarding policy|
  • staff code of conduct
  • all e-safety/online policies
  • pupil welfare risk assessment policy
  • host family policy
  • safer recruitment policy

Staff training

As part of our commitment to deliver essential compliance services to independent schools, we will shortly be releasing a KCSIE e-learning module that staff, governors and volunteers can use to assess and evidence (not least for inspection purposes) their understanding of Part 1. Sign up to Compliance OnStream for details on how to access this module.

Safeguarding governance

We regularly deliver training to governors focusing on best practice safeguarding governance and have developed written guidance covering guidelines for annual reviews, terms of reference for the nominated safeguarding governor, and prompts for discussion by governors. Further information is available via Compliance OnStream.

Compliance Toolkit

If you would like to subscribe to our monthly updates on regulatory compliance changes, please visit Compliance OnStream for details of the Compliance Toolkit.

For more information, please contact Matthew Burgess in our Independent Schools team on 0117 314 5338.

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