The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

John Viner

Keeping children even safer

With an updated Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance now in force, John Viner summarises what has changed and how schools need to respond.

I usually try to kick off a new academic year with a quick review of what’s gone on and going on in the political world of education but, this year, it is appropriate to review the updated guidance on Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE), which came into force earlier in the month, on 3 September.

KCSIE is the key guidance that applies to the whole area of safeguarding and child protection. It is expected that all staff and governors have read – and usually signed to say they are familiar with – Part 1. This is statutory guidance and the 2018 update is more comprehensive than its predecessor, being longer by 34 pages.

We  had plenty of notice that the update was coming and its early release gave schools time to get up to speed before the launch date. Nevertheless, this is a reminder of what has changed and how we needed to have responded, if there are still tweaks to be made.

A focus on the individual

It is helpful to appreciate that the guidance helpfully makes clear the difference between must and should. The difference is one of legal status – if something is a must then there is a statutory obligation to comply while, if it’s a should then the expectation is that the action will be taken unless there is a good reason against it.

KCSIE 2018 places more emphasis than before on understanding the issues for children and this is a key focus of the guidance – a greater sense of the individual. In particular, there is a recognition that, although their immediate circumstances may have changed, there may be continuing issues for care leavers and previously looked-after children.

There is also a heightened awareness of the vulnerability of pupils with SEND, for example, they could be the victims of consequential bullying and at higher risk of peer-group isolation. While schools have always been aware of these pastoral issues, it is good to see them lifted out of the serendipitous to the statutory.

Staying with the theme of pupils with SEND, the new guidance reiterates that ‘reasonable force’ in physical intervention is ‘no more force than is needed’. Although schools should be wary of a no contact policy, there is an intent to minimise physical restraint and, to this end, vulnerable children should have individual plans in place. This may be a focus for reflection in those schools who regularly train and use such strategies.

Minimising abuse

In a sad recognition of changing times, KCSIE 2018 picks up on peer-on-peer abuse and sexual violence and harassment. These go beyond bullying to include ‘initiation ceremonies’ and sexting.

Importantly, a school’s child protection and safeguarding policy must now include references to the way in which the school is minimising the risk of peer-on-peer abuse. Similarly, since pupils with mobile devices will have uncontrolled 3G or 4G internet access there is a raised expectation that schools will have a robust policy on mobile technologies.

The updated guidance also refers to the work done by the University of Bedfordshire around ‘contextual safeguarding’ – an approach to understanding, and responding to, young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their families.

Although most, if not all schools, will already comply, there is now an obligation on schools to have more than one emergency contact number for children. This follows a couple of high profile cases where a parent had died.

Safer recruitment

There have been some changes to the advice in respect of safer recruitment. Oddly, multi-academy trusts do not now need to maintain a separate single central record for each of their schools. However, since the relevant part of the SCR must be accessible by each school, this is likely to be both a logistical and technical nightmare and it is quite likely that schools will continue to keep their own records.

Under the new rules, volunteers need not be subject to a blanket obligation to have a DBS check; instead schools must carry out – and have available – a risk assessment to determine if a DBS is needed.

For independent schools, free schools and academies, certain leaders and governors are also required to have a Section 128 check against a list of individuals barred from the management of these schools. The new guidance extends leadership roles to include department heads.

Finally, when a school’s pupil attends alternative provision of any kind, it should now obtain a written statement from the provider that it has carried out all the necessary vetting and barring checks with its staff. Induction training for new staff must now, in addition to the usual child protection procedures, include the school’s behaviour policy and procedures for managing children who are missing from education.

Additional information

While most schools will have now reviewed and revised their child protection and associated policies in response to KCSIE 2018, they now need to make sure that, in addition to reading Part 1, any staff who are directly working with children, should also read Annex A. This annex deals with key themes such as sexual exploitation and radicalisation and has now been expanded to cover children in the legal system, parents in prison, county lines and homelessness.

I am grateful for the work done by Andrew Hall, in summarising the new KCSIE, from which I have drawn key points. Andrew also has an excellent introductory video (which could be used with governors, for example) on his website.

For more information on the key changes to KCSIE, watch our webinar with education lawyer Dai Durbridge.

More from Optimus

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Identifying peer-on-peer abuse: examples for staff

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