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Keeping Children Safe in Education - All You Need to Know about the Revised Guidance

on Tuesday, 12 January 2016.

Three days before Christmas, the DfE published a consultation on revisions to Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE).

The consultation is open until 16 February 2016 and the final version of the statutory guidance, which the government aims to publish in advance of the proposed implementation date of September 2016, will no doubt vary a little from the current draft.

In the meantime, here is a short summary of the proposed changes, which are largely focused on Parts 1 and 2 of the guidance.

Likely changes to a school's suite of safeguarding policies
Annual safeguarding training
Referrals to children's services/Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO)
Internet filtering
Looked after children and children with SEND
Host families

Likely Changes to a School's Suite of Safeguarding Policies

The revised KCSIE mentions in a few places the need for schools to have an 'overarching' safeguarding policy. This appears to be a discrete and separate policy to the school's child protection policy and may therefore require a restructuring of the school's suite of policy documentation. Before you start rewriting your policies, however, this is an area where greater clarity might emerge as a result of the consultation process.

Additional specific policy content likely to become best practice as a result of the revised KCSIE includes:

  • an acceptable use of technologies policy in the staff Code of Conduct and a policy on the use of mobile technology as part of the child protection policy
  • greater detail on tailored procedures to minimise the risk of peer on peer abuse
  • reference to local protocols for assessment and the Local Safeguarding Children Board's (LSCB) threshold document for different types of assessments
  • how the school addresses barriers which can exist when recognising abuse and neglect of children with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND)

Annual Safeguarding Training

Training for the school's Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) and indeed all staff is likely to become an annual requirement. Allied to this, the revised KSCIE requires in a number of places that staff must not only be familiar with the guidance but must also understand it - presenting obvious evidential and practical challenges to schools and inspectorates alike.

It is possible that sampling staff understanding of KCSIE, through mini-surveys or interviews, could become a feature of the governor-led annual review of safeguarding. Of course, greater staff understanding presents opportunities as well as challenges and the revised KCSIE reflects this, requiring governing bodies and proprietors to recognise the expertise staff build by undertaking safeguarding training and managing safeguarding concerns on a daily basis, and to provide opportunities for staff to feed in and shape safeguarding policy.

Referrals to Children's Services/Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO)

With a slight change of emphasis, the revised KCSIE indicates that anyone with a concern about a child's welfare 'should ensure a referral is made' to children's social care. In relation to referrals to the LADO for allegations against staff members, the revised guidance sensibly indicates that staff may consider discussing any concerns with, and if appropriate make the referral via, the DSL.

Internet Filtering

KCSIE currently refers to internet filters only in the context of preventing access to terrorist and extremist materials. The revised KCSIE broadens this out to any type of potentially harmful and inappropriate online material.

In addition, schools' IT systems will need to be able to identify children accessing or trying to access such content. Proprietors are warned, however, that filters should not 'over block' or unreasonably restrict access to what children can be taught with regard to online safety. And the current requirement that proprietors 'should consider how children may be taught' about safeguarding is strengthened to a requirement that children are taught about safeguarding.

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 will extend all this content to independent schools.

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), but it is likely that independent schools will need to emulate this role in order to discharge their duties under the revised KCSIE.

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 is currently included in KCSIE 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 consider to be a regulated activity provider.

The revised KCSIE proposes to remove the words highlighted, which will be of concern to many schools who rely upon this formulation, derived from Sir Roger Singleton's 2009 review of this area of the law.

Areas for School Leaders to Consider

All of our pastoral, employment and safer recruitment materials will be updated to take into account changes deriving from KCSIE once it is in a final form. Areas for school leaders to think about and prepare for now include the following:

  • How can we be sure that all staff understand KCSIE?
  • Could we answer questions from ISI about local protocols for assessment and the LSCB's threshold document?
  • What opportunities do we provide for staff to feed in and shape safeguarding policy in this school?
  • Are we confident that filters and monitors are in place to prevent access to harmful and inappropriate online material and/or track when attempts are made? How does the school achieve the balance between protection and 'over-blocking'?
  • How do we ensure that staff have the skills, knowledge and understanding necessary to keep looked after children safe?

Self-audit questions like these are included in our Governance of Safeguarding best practice resources pack.

Please contact Matthew Burgess in our Independent Schools team on 0117 314 533 if you are interested in finding out more.

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