The Government has just released the updated version of Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE), which will come into force on 1 September 2020. You should continue to refer to the current version of KCSIE until 31 August 2020, but schools will want to start preparing for the upcoming changes. The key new developments are as follows:
- Most notably, the definition of safeguarding has been widened, with mental health now being given parity with physical health. For schools, this means that they need to be just as alert to children’s mental health difficulties as they are to any issues affecting physical health. In addition, there is new guidance to help school staff make the link between mental health concerns and safeguarding issues. There is a requirement for clear systems and processes to identify possible mental health problems, including how to escalate and refer any such problems when they are identified.
- There is significant new guidance to deal with the changes schools have had to make in light of Covid-19. It is made clear that where pupils are being asked to study remotely from home, schools should follow the advice that has been given by the Department for Education in their publications ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): safeguarding in schools, colleges and other providers’ and ‘Safeguarding and remote education during coronavirus (COVID-19)’. Additionally, schools’ obligations to keep children safe online extend to when children are carrying out schoolwork from home.
- Schools will now have a duty to act on allegations made against supply teachers. The guidance had previously only applied to a school’s staff and volunteers, meaning that where a supply teacher was hired from an agency, there was no explicit obligation on a school to follow up on allegations made against those supply teachers. This will no longer be the case and it will be insufficient simply to choose not to use that supply teacher again. The school must take the lead in ensuring the relevant procedures are followed as they would be if the allegations had been made against a permanent member of the school’s staff.
- There has also been a widening of the scope for allegations that would indicate someone could pose a risk of harm to children. Such allegations will now include where someone has behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children. This means that allegations could relate to incidents which occur outside of school, which may not necessarily have even involved children. For example, an incident of domestic violence at home could result in someone being considered unsuitable to work with children where there is a risk that a child in school could trigger from that individual the same actions that the individual displayed at home.
- The Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) is to have some additional responsibilities. There is added advice for DSLs on the needs of children with a social worker and suggestions for actions that could be taken to promote these children’s educational outcomes. The guidance also includes a link to the NPCC’s ‘When to call the police’ publication, which will help DSL’s to determine which situations need to be referred to the police and what they should expect when they make such a call.
- Child sexual exploitation and child criminal exploitation have now been given distinct separate definitions. There is also additional updated information on County Lines. Schools should make sure they are aware of the distinctions between these three separate issues so that they can act quickly and appropriately when any problems are identified.
- Child protection policies must make clear that peer on peer abuse can take the form of certain additional types of abuse – of particular note is the requirement to include bullying, cyberbullying and ‘upskirting’. There is also further guidance on what constitutes ‘upskirting’, with it specifically being made clear that anyone, of any gender, can be a victim of ‘upskirting’.
Schools, and in particular DSL’s, should take the time to familiarise themselves with the new guidance. They should look at their policies and procedures to check that they adequately deal with these updated matters, and that staff are fully briefed on their obligations. For example, staff need to understand their duty to escalate any mental health concerns they may have about pupils and this needs to be clearly set out in the relevant policy. It will also be necessary to update policies to take into account the additional requirements relating to peer on peer abuse and how to handle allegations against supply teachers.
If you would like any help in understanding your obligations under KCSIE, updating your safeguarding policies or if you would like advice on how to handle any safeguarding issues, then please get in touch.