Distressed child

 

Introduction

 

On 14 December 2017, the DfE launched their national consultation on the statutory guidance ‘Keeping children safe in education’ (KCSIE). All schools must have due regard to this guidance when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

The consultation seeks views on a number of changes, including:

  • How best to improve the effectiveness of the ‘Online safety’ and ‘What to do if you have concerns about a child’ sections of KCSIE.
  • The new sexual violence and sexual harassment departmental advice, the summary of the advice, and the best long-term location for this advice.
  • Clarification of the ‘Safer recruitment’ and ‘Allegations of abuse made against teachers and other school staff’ sections of KCSIE.
  • How schools put the provisions of KCSIE into practice – the information gathered in response to this will be used to inform future departmental advice.

All paragraph references mentioned in this guidance refer to the 2018 version of KCSIE.

 

Part one and two

 

What to do if you have a concern about a child

New information has been added to paragraph 17 of the guidance, outlining which groups of pupils staff members should be particularly alert to as a potential indicator for needing early help, such as those who are young carers, misuse drugs or alcohol, or have SEND. The consultation asks if this additional information is helpful.

Greater detail for staff members on what to do if they have concerns about a pupil has been provided in paragraphs 22-35 of the guidance, and the consultation asks whether this has provided enough clarity to the reporting process. The new information links to a flow chart which sets out the process staff should follow, and includes more information on the conversation staff need to have with the designated safeguarding lead (DSL), the options available for intervention, and a breakdown of what to do in terms of early help and conducting statutory assessments.

Children missing education

Additional information regarding children missing education in a safeguarding context is provided in paragraph 55 of the guidance, which outlines that, where reasonably possible, schools should go beyond the legal minimum requirement to hold one emergency contact number. The consultation asks whether schools already hold more than one emergency contact number, and whether the suggestion for schools to go beyond the legal minimum is a sensible approach.

Online safety (Annex C)

The DfE intends to help schools to continue to protect pupils when they are online. Whilst the government will not be making amendments to the ‘Online safety’ section of KCSIE, it is requesting that schools, colleges, software providers and sector experts advise whether there is anything more the DfE could consider in order to improve Annex C of the guidance.

Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools

On 14 December 2017, the DfE published separate guidance for schools on tackling sexual harassment and sexual violence between pupils. To reflect this new guidance, the DfE has provided a summary of the advice in Annex A of KCSIE, and has also updated paragraph 86.

The consultation is seeking views on whether schools have any comments on the effectiveness of the sexual violence and sexual harassment guidance. It also seeks comments on the effectiveness of the sexual violence and sexual harassment advice in Annex A of KCSIE, including whether the summary is of an appropriate length.

In order to determine the best long-term location for this advice, the consultation also asks which of the following options schools would support and why:

  • The department publishes standalone advice and summarises it in Annex A of KCSIE; or
  • Move the advice to a new ‘part 5’ of KCSIE, which addresses peer-on-peer abuse, and withdraw the current standalone guidance.

Pupils with SEND

The importance of making the link between restraint, and safeguarding and welfare has been added to paragraph 97 of KCSIE, reflecting the additional challenges for pupils with SEND highlighted in paragraph 96.

The consultation asks whether the approach to making a link between pupils with SEND and considerations regarding restraint is helpful, and also if schools have any comments on any other changes made to part one and part two of KCSIE.


Part three

 

Single central record (SCR)

This section details the statutory information that schools must record on their SCR; in the latest version of the guidance, additional information has been added to paragraph 131 to clarify the non-statutory information that can be included – if schools choose to do so. This could include checks for childcare disqualification, volunteers, and safeguarding and safer recruitment training dates – it could also include the name of the person who conducted the check.

The consultation asks if the changes make it clear what information must be recorded on the SCR and, if the information were to be reviewed, is there anything else schools think should be recorded on the SCR.

Annex E (and paragraph 170): Host families – homestay during exchange visits

The information in Annex E has been revised to provide further clarification on how best to minimise the risk of harm to pupils taking part in school exchange visits; this includes more detail on when schools should conduct DBS checks on host families, and explains that schools should work with partner schools abroad to ensure satisfactory safeguarding arrangements are in place.

The consultation asks whether the revised information is clear about schools’ responsibilities and, if not, which specific areas are unclear.

Secretary of State prohibitions

The latest version of KCSIE has amended the title of this section to ‘Prohibitions, directions, sanctions and restrictions’, (paragraphs 109-116) explaining the meaning of each of these, and the system that can be used to establish whether a staff member has any of these imposed against them. New information for checking section 128 barring decisions is also included.

The consultation asks if the difference between prohibitions, directions, sanctions and restrictions, when they can be made, and when they would prevent an individual from being employed for a particular role is clear.

Pre-appointment checks

The section has been amended to provide clarity about the circumstances in which an enhanced DBS check is not required. Paragraph 121 reflects the wording set out in the associated regulations.

The consultation asks if it is clear when a check must be undertaken for staff who have worked in a school in England during the three months prior to their appointment. It also asks if schools have any evidence to suggest that information about criminal activity, that would have been relevant to an individual’s suitability to be employed, would not be obtained if only undertaking a barred list check.

If the answer to the latter proposal is ‘yes’ the consultation asks what actions schools would take if new information was presented and, if that new information had been available sooner, would schools still have appointed the individual to the role.

Finally, the consultation asks whether, for staff who have worked in a school three months prior to their appointment, schools’ normal practice would be to request an enhanced DBS certificate, and why.

Flowchart of DBS criminal record checks and barred list checks

To reflect the guidance outlined in paragraphs 159-162 of the guidance regarding checks for contractors, the flowchart has been replaced (page 37). The consultation asks whether the flowchart is clear about when a school must and should conduct a DBS check for contractors and, if not, why.

Obtaining references

To emphasise the importance of confirming employment history, new information is outlined in paragraphs 124-127 regarding exploring the reasons for gaps and inconsistencies in an individual’s employment history, and why the individual left their previous employment. This section also aims to place emphasis on ensuring all information obtained is authentic.

The consultation asks if the information provided is sufficient for assisting employers, in terms of ensuring references and CVs are accurate and complete, including those received electronically. It also seeks views on whether schools have ever dealt with an employee who has provided inaccurate information as part of a reference or CV.

If the answer to the latter proposal is yes, the consultation asks that schools provide details of this.

Providing references

KCSIE advises (paragraph 201) that where an allegation was proven to be false, unsubstantial or malicious, it should not be included in an employer reference – this also applies to repeated allegations of this kind.

The consultation asks whether schools believe references should include information about unsubstantial allegations, providing that this information is fair, factual, accurate and free of ambiguity. If so, schools should outline what information they consider could be included and under what circumstances.

Part four

 

Duties as an employer and an employee

A new footnote has been added to explain the meaning of the ‘harm test’ outlined in paragraph 173, providing a link to the Gov.UK website. The third bullet has been reworded to include ‘may’ pose a risk – “…behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates he or she may pose a risk of harm to children”.

Initial considerations

In this section, a list of definitions that should be used when determining the outcome following the consideration of allegations is outlined. In the latest version of the guidance, the term ‘unfounded’, previously shown as a footnote reference, is moved into the main list.

The consultation is not seeking views on either of the above amendments.

 

General questions

 

Individuals who have lived or worked outside the UK

Individuals who have lived or worked outside the UK must undergo the same checks as other staff, and schools must make any further checks they deem necessary (paragraph 136).

The consultation asks how easy is it for schools to identify the information that may be needed to conduct these further checks, and what further checks would be appropriate. Views are also being sought on whether carrying out any further checks schools deemed necessary has created a barrier to employing individuals and, if so, what these were.

Size and scope of the full document

The DfE wants to explore the optimum length and scope of KCSIE. In order to do this, it is asking a series of multiple choice questions relating to the length of the full document, the length of part one and the length of Annex A.

Part three and four

The consultation is seeking views on the general content of parts three and four of KCSIE. These relate to:

  • Any confusing or difficult areas of the safer recruitment practices.
  • Any requirements placed on schools that make completing safer recruitment activities difficult.
  • Selecting one area to change about safer recruitment practices.
  • Selecting areas to change about the requirements placed on schools for handling allegations of abuse.
  • Any requirements placed on schools that make addressing allegations of abuse difficult.

 

Next steps

 

Views on the changes to the statutory guidance can be submitted here.

 

Bibliography

DfE (2017) ‘Keeping children safe in education: Government consultation’

DfE (2018) ‘Keeping children safe in education’

The consultation closes on 22 February 2018, and the government will publish the response in due course.

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