The Department for Education (“DfE”) has published its 2020 update to Keeping Children Safe in Education (“2020 Guidance”), which came into force on 1 September 2020.
Keeping Children Safe in Education is statutory guidance published by the DfE that sets out what schools and colleges need to do when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The guidance is applicable to maintained schools, colleges, academies, free schools, alternative provision academies, non-maintained special schools and pupil referral units (“Schools”).
The key changes to the 2019 version of Keeping Children Safe in Education are:
The mental health of young people
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into focus the importance of the mental health of young people. The guidance recognises that sometimes there is a link between a child’s mental health and matters of safeguarding.
The definition of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children has been updated to include an obligation on Schools to prevent the impairment of children’s mental health and development and all staff should be aware that mental health problems can be an indication of abuse, neglect or exploitation.
The 2020 Guidance states that only appropriately trained professionals should attempt to diagnose mental health problems. However, staff should and are well placed to observe children on a day to day basis to identify behaviour that suggest they may be experiencing mental health issues or are at risk of developing them. Staff should therefore be alert to any change in general behaviour of a child and if concerned, either with regards to the mental health of a young person or in relation to a safeguarding issue (or both), they should inform the relevant person at a School.
If staff are concerned that mental health issues are also a safeguarding concern, immediate action must be taken and the School’s child protection policy must be followed. The designated safeguarding lead or a deputy must be informed.
Relevant policies and procedures should be reviewed to ensure they include clear information on how to identify and manage mental health problems, and must note that mental health is a possible indicator of safeguarding concerns. Staff should receive training on how to identify behaviour which may indicate that a child is experiencing mental health problems or is at risk of developing one.
Staff must also be aware of how difficult experiences, like abuse and neglect, can have a lasting impact on a child’s mental health, behaviour and education. The DfE is providing funding to support the costs of a significant training programme for senior mental health leads (available to all state schools and colleges by 2025), as well as the national rollout of the Mental Health Services and Schools and College Link Programme.
The 2020 Guidance includes links to advice and guidance related to mental health, such as Public Health England’s guidance on promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing.
Governing bodies, management committees and proprietors should ensure they have effective systems and processes in place for identifying mental health problems, including clear referral and accountability systems. Schools should review their current systems and processes and see whether more could be done. It may be prudent for Schools to speak to their legal advisor, to obtain their input. They will be aware of how systems and processes work in a number of different schools and may be able to provide guidance and tips on how to improve and refine what you already have in place. Schools should also reflect on how best to promote good mental health and wellbeing and consider training opportunities for relevant staff.
Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE)
Both CSE and CCE are forms of abuse and both occur where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance in power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child into sexual or criminal activity. The 2020 Guidance states that whilst age may be the most obvious reason for power imbalance, it may not be the reason or the only reason. The power imbalance can also be due to physical strength, status and the ability to access economic or other resources.
Such abuse can be perpetrated by individuals or groups, males or females, and children or adults. It can be a one-off event or a series of incidents over time.
Annex A of the 2020 Guidance sets out indicators of CCE, which include:
1. children who appear with unexplained gifts or new possessions;
2. children who associate with other young people involved in exploitation;
3. children who suffer from changes in emotional well-being;
4. children who misuse drugs and alcohol;
5. children who go missing for periods of time or regularly come home late; and
6. children who regularly miss school or education or do not take part in education.
The above indicators can also be indicators of CSE. In addition, Annex A of the 2020 Guidance provides 2 other indicators of CSE, namely:
1. children who have older boyfriends or girlfriends; and
2. children who suffer from sexually transmitted infections or become pregnant.
The role of the DSL
The 2020 Guidance has added to the obligations of a DSL. Annex B states that DSLs must: “help promote educational outcomes by sharing the information about the welfare, safeguarding and child protection issues that children, including children with a social worker, are experiencing, or have experienced, with teachers and school and college leadership staff.
Their role could include ensuring that the school or college, and their staff, know who these children are, understand their academic progress and attainment and maintain a culture of high aspirations for this cohort; supporting teaching staff to identify the challenges that children in this group might face and the additional academic support and adjustments that they could make to best support these children.”
As there will be additional responsibility for DSLs moving forward, Schools should revisit their job descriptions for DSLs. They should also consider what resources, training and support they will need. For example, Schools should consider providing additional training or appoint additional DSLs or deputies to share the workload.
Managing allegations against supply teacher
Supply staff are now expressly named as individuals who may pose a risk of harm to children.
Schools sometimes have to deal with allegations against individuals not employed by them and to whom its procedures do not fully apply, such as in the case of a supply teacher. Schools must deal with allegations properly and never decide to cease using a supply teacher due to safeguarding concerns without finding out the facts and working with the LADO to determine a suitable outcome. Governing bodies and proprietors should discuss with the agency whether it is appropriate to suspend or redeploy the supply teacher to another part of the school whilst investigating the allegation.
Schools are expected to take the lead in handling allegations as they are best placed to collect facts and information required for the referral process. Schools should inform the supply agency of its process for managing allegations and agencies should be fully involved and co-operate with any enquiries made by a LADO.
Schools should review their policies and procedures and make sure they refer to supply teachers and detail how allegations against them will be handled. Existing and new supply teachers should be informed of any updated or new policies and procedures, as well as any staff who manage allegations. Supply agencies should also be made aware of any changes to policies and procedures.
When to call the Police?
The 2020 Guidance makes reference to “National Police Chief’s Council (NPPC) – When to call the police”. The guidance should assist in clarifying when Schools should consider calling the police and what to expect when they do.
DSLs, their deputies and the senior leadership team should be aware of the NPCC guidance and use it when considering whether to involve the Police.
Schools know that information sharing is important in tackling all forms of safeguarding issues. For the benefit of children, governing bodies and proprietors must recognise the importance of information sharing between practitioners and local agencies. The 2020 Guidance provides clarity around GDPR and its application to the sharing of information in the context of safeguarding.
It is important that governing bodies and proprietors are aware that among other obligations, the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR place duties on organisations and individuals to process personal information fairly and lawfully and to keep the information they hold safe and secure.
Schools should ensure that policies, training, standard practice and procedures give staff the confidence to know when, how and to whom they can share information when dealing with a safeguarding concern - making reference to relevant guidance such as the new toolkit and the July 2018 guidance – Information Sharing: Advice for Practitioners Providing Safeguarding Services to Children, Young People, Parents and Carers. Training should cover how to record information – it should be recorded with a focus on what is necessary for the purpose of safeguarding.
Most importantly, it should be noted that “the Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR do not prevent the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to safeguard and promote the welfare and protect the safety of children.”.
Relationship Education, Relationships Education, Relationship & Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education
The guidance states that Relationship Education (for all primary pupils), RSE (for all secondary pupils) and Health Education (for all state school pupils) will be compulsory from September 2020. However, Schools should be aware that due to Covid-19, Schools that are not ready to deliver the new subjects or that are unable to meet the requirements will be allowed to delay teaching until the start of the summer term in 2021 at the latest.
Schools have flexibility to decide how they discharge their duties effectively within the first year of teaching and are encouraged to take a phased approach (if needed) when introducing the subjects.
Schools should consider how to deliver the relevant content to students as soon as possible and should comply with the relevant statutory guidance. Schools should produce a policy for Relationships Education and RSE in consultation with parents, including details of how parents can exercise their right to excuse their child from sex education, which parents have the right to request.
Behaviour that indicates an adult may not be suitable to work with children
An addition has been made to the listed types of behaviour which may indicate a person poses or might pose a risk of harm if they continue to work in regular or close contact with children. The added type of behaviour is one where a person has “behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children”.
The addition is wide in scope and could capture a much broader range of behaviour which demonstrates risk or potential risk to children. It captures, for example, where a member of staff or volunteer is involved in an incident outside of school which did not involve children but could have an impact on their suitability to work with children. An example of this could be where a member of staff is involved in domestic violence at home.
School policies should be updated to include this new type of behaviour. Staff need to be aware of it so that they can report any allegations of such behaviour following the procedures of a School.
Schools may be tempted to amend their policies to reflect the changes brought about by the 2020 Guidance by adding annexes to their policy documents. However, I would recommend redrafting the policy documents to include all updates in their main body. This improves the accessibility of the policy and assists in avoiding circumstances where policy information is missed.
If you would like to discuss anything related to the contents of this article, please contact Thomas Emmett on 01245 453847 or email Thomas at Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org.