The Department for Education has released updated statutory safeguarding guidance in readiness for the new academic year.

This year’s update is, thankfully, less comprehensive than the updates from previous years and there are not many significant changes this year (following some extensive amendments over recent years); the vast majority of changes are to add clarity. In the meantime, KCSIE 2022 continues to apply.

However, there are some important changes for institutions to be aware of ahead of its implementation on 1 September 2023. This year, the main changes include:

Part one – Safeguarding information for all staff

The existing requirement for all staff to receive appropriate online safety, safeguarding and child protection training has been widened to include an understanding of the expectations, applicable roles and responsibilities in relation to filtering and monitoring (paragraph 14 and Annex A).

It is the responsibility of the governing body to ensure that all staff undergo this training (paragraph 124).

Part two – The management of safeguarding

Further clarity has been provided in paragraph 89 regarding positive action. The Equality Act allows schools and colleges to take positive action where it can be shown that it is proportionate to deal with particular disadvantages affecting pupils or students with certain protected characteristics, in order to meet their specific needs.

The new guidance gives an example of this where a school or college could consider taking positive action to support girls if there was evidence that they were being disproportionally subjected to sexual violence or sexual harassment.

The main changes to part two this year are regarding online safety, and in particular, regarding appropriate filtering and monitoring:

  • Clarity that the Designated Safeguarding Lead’s responsibility for safeguarding and child protection also extends to understanding the filtering and monitoring systems and processes in place at their institution (paragraph 103). Annex C has also been updated to reflect this.
  • Guidance has been added in the footnotes (number 29) for schools that have a sole proprietor rather than a governing body. The guidance clarifies that appropriate steps should be taken to ensure that the DSL is able to discharge its role with sufficient independence, in particular, in relation to any allegations about the proprietor or their family. Consideration should be given to providing the DSL with access to advice from an external company or legal service.

It is already a requirement that the approach to online safety be included within the child protection policy. This has now been extended however to include content about appropriate filtering and monitoring on school devices and networks (paragraph 138).

Governing bodies should be doing all they reasonably can to limit children’s exposure to harmful material from the school or college’s IT system. The new guidance confirms that, when considering the filtering and monitoring processes in place, governing bodies should consider the number of, and age range of their children, those who are potentially at greater risk of harm and how often they access the IT system along with the proportionality of costs versus safeguarding risks. (paragraph 142). To support schools/colleges with this obligation, the DfE has produced filtering and monitoring standards (paragraph 142), which include:

  • Identify and assign roles and responsibilities for managing the filtering and monitoring responsibilities;
  • Reviewing the filtering and monitoring provision at least annually.
  • Blocking harmful and inappropriate content without unreasonably impacting teaching and learning.
  • have effective monitoring strategies in place that meet the safeguarding needs.

Governing bodies should review standards and discuss with IT staff and service providers about what further actions need to be implemented in order for them to meet this standard.

The guidance states that additional guidance on filtering and monitoring can be found at UK Safer Internet Centre: appropriate filtering and monitoring.

South West Grid for Learning has created a tool to check whether a school or college’s filtering provider is signed up to relevant lists (CSA content, Sexual Content, Terrorist content, Your Internet Connection Blocks Child Abuse & Terrorist Content).

A suggestion that schools/colleges should consider meeting the cyber security standards for schools and colleges has been added to paragraph 144.

Further changes to part two include:

  • An example of taking positive action has been added to paragraph 89 to illustrate the obligations under the Equality Act 2010.
  • Signposting to the Keeping children safe in out of school settings guidance has been added in paragraph 167 to make clear the safeguarding arrangements that must be in place for any providers who are using school/college premises for external activities.
  • Clarification that some children are potentially at greater risk of harm, both online and offline (paragraph 170).
  • Paragraph 175 relates to children who are absent from education. Additional wording clarifies that children being absent from education for prolonged periods and/or repeat occasions can act as a vital warning sign to a range of safeguarding issues. Emphasis has been added regarding the importance of a school/college’s approach to persistently absent students to prevent the risk of them becoming a child missing education in future (paragraph 175). A link to the Working together to improve school attendance guidance has been added. Annex B has also been updated to reflect this.
Part three – Safer recruitment

Last year we saw the introduction of the suggestion that schools/colleges undertake online searches of shortlisted candidates as part of their due diligence.  This has been amended to confirm that schools/colleges should ensure that the shortlisted candidates are made aware that online searches may be conducted as part of due diligence checks (paragraph 221).

Copies of the documents used to verify the identity of successful candidates, their qualifications and their right to work should be kept in their personnel file. In line with UK GDPR, there must be a valid reason for retaining copies of DBS certificates and criminal record disclosures. KCSIE states that copies of these documents should be retained for no longer than six months. A record of the fact that vetting was carried out, the result and recruitment decision can however be kept for longer if schools or colleges chose to (paragraph 276).

For agency staff, emphasis has been added that the school or college must ensure they receive written notification that the enhanced DBS certificate has been obtained by the agency or other third party organisation (paragraph 285).

Schools are free to determine where to store information regarding the outcome of the risk assessment for volunteers (paragraph 307, footnote 101).

Paragraph 310 includes the definition of ‘supervision’ in the context of regulated activity. Clarity has been added in footnote 104 that if work is undertaken in a specified place (i.e. a school) paid workers will be considered to be in ‘regulated activity’ even if they are supervised.

Paragraph 324 has confirmed that academy trusts have the same obligations as independent schools in relation to requesting enhanced DBS checks for permanent and supply staff.

Part four – Safeguarding concerns or allegations made about staff

A new heading has been added to paragraph 377 to make clear that schools/colleges should follow their safeguarding policies and procedures, including informing the LADO, in the event an allegation is raised regarding an incident that happened when an individual or an organisation was using the premises for the purposes of running activities for children. This includes events such as community groups, sports associations, and more.

When informing parents about an allegation, careful consideration should be given to data protection legislation, the law of confidence and the Human Rights Act 1998 in deciding what information should be disclosed (paragraph 389, footnote 127).

Clarification that the prohibition of publishing material which may lead to the identification of a teacher in a school who is subject to an allegation, under the Education Act 2011, does not apply to teachers in colleges (paragraph 393, footnote 128).

Paragraph 403 highlights the legal requirement for employers to make a referral to the DBS where they consider an individual has engaged in conduct that harmed, or is likely to harm a child; or if a person otherwise poses a risk of harm to a child.

Part five – Child on child sexual violence and sexual harassment

A link to the National Crime Agency’s CEOP Education Programme has been added which provides information on protecting children and young people from online child sexual abuse (paragraph 466).

A change in language has been introduced to be clear that teachers can “sanction” students whose behaviour falls below the acceptable standard (paragraph 533). This had previously read “discipline”. This terminology has been changed throughout part five.

Annex A – Safeguarding information for school and college staff

Paragraph 20 had previously advised staff to speak to a member of the senior leadership team in the event of a concern, or allegation, about the Headteacher/Principal. This has now been changed to the chair of governors, chair of the management committee or the proprietor of an independent school.

Annex B – Further information

It has now been recognised that mental health may impact a student’s attendance and progress.

There is also a change in language to suggest that children may be ‘susceptible’ to radicalisation and being drawn to terrorism, not necessarily ‘vulnerable’. There is also clarity that the DSL and any deputies should be aware of local procedures for making a Prevent referral.

There is also clarity that it is now considered a criminal offence to facilitate or attempt to arrange a marriage for a child under the age of 18, including non-legally binding or unofficial marriages, even in cases where threats, violence or coercion are not involved.

Annex D – Host families – homestay during exchange visits

In circumstances where the school or college has the power to terminate a homestay arrangement, there is clarity that the school or college would be the regulated activity provider.

What should schools and colleges do now?

We would strongly encourage schools and colleges to promptly review their policies and procedures as soon as possible, in readiness for September, to ensure that the above changes are implemented. As always, there is a helpful table at Annex F of KCSIE 2023 that summarises the substantive changes from the September 2023 version, which may be useful, alongside this note, when undertaking this work.

Given the focus on filtering and monitoring within the new guidance, we would strongly recommend that schools and colleges also consider reviewing their current arrangements, and consider providing training to all staff as part of INSET days ahead of the new academic year.

We’re here to help

As always, if there are any queries in relation to the new guidance or the obligations contained within it, we are more than happy to assist.

Speak to a member of our dedicated independent school education team today.

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Emma and Esther specialise in employment advice for education clients including independent schools and academies, as well as both further and higher education institutes.

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Published: 15th June 2023
Area: Education

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