Record keeping for child protection files

Good record keeping is essential to keep files secure, up to date and to protect pupils. Follow this best practice for keeping, storing and destroying safeguarding files

Author details

Lisa Griffin is content lead at Optimus Education, focusing on leadership and governance. 

Child protection records should be separate from the main pupil file, kept in a locked cabinet or be password protected on a secure digital system.

Child protection records must be accessible only to the headteacher and designated staff. If anyone else needs to see the file, record who the person is, why they need access, and make a note of the date in the file.

What should be in a CP file?

The file should be kept in chronological order with a front sheet detailing:

  • who has parental rights and responsibility
  • an emergency contact number (more than one, if possible)
  • names and contact details of professionals involved with the child or family.

The files should also contain cause for concern forms showing what actions were taken, when, why and who by. These forms should contain facts only, not personal interpretations of what is seen or heard.

A copy of any referrals made – and the outcomes – should be retained, along with copies of relevant accompanying letters, emails, minutes of meetings etc.

If the case has been discussed in supervision, these details should be recorded and kept. If you need to escalate your concerns, document how and when you did this and what the outcome was.

Dealing with disclosure

All staff should know what to do if a child tells them they are being abused or neglected. This means involving those who need to be involved, such as the DSL (or a deputy if the DSL is absent) and children’s social care.

It is essential a written record is made. Records should be dated, and concerns detailed with actions taken, names of people you have spoken to, advice you were given and your response to this advice.

Record the facts as presented to you by the child. The notes should not reflect personal opinion, bias or any interpretation of what the child has said.

If you feel able to make some notes during the disclosure you can but priority is to give the child your full attention. Best practice is to wait until the conversation is over and write down what you’ve been told as soon as possible.

Record making

A school must have clear procedures in place for recording, reporting and responding to child protection concerns. All members of staff should know how to report concerns about a pupil, to whom, what to write down and who else to notify.

Records may be used in investigations by children’s social care and/or the police and can be used as evidence in court.

  • Record the words the child uses, don’t translate to ‘proper’ words.
  • Do not destroy any original notes.
  • Record statements, facts and observable things rather than your views, interpretations or assumptions.
  • Record any questions you asked, or clarification sought.
  • Draw a diagram indicating position, size and colour of any bruising; do not photograph.
  • Record non‐verbal behaviours.
  • Record the date and time, sign the record (include your position in the school), and pass to the DSL in person.

Processing data

Schools have a responsibility to process only information that is relevant and factual. This means CP and safeguarding information should be processed differently to pastoral or educational data and staff need to be trained to understand the difference between them.

Privacy notices for parents and pupils should make clear that confidential child protection and safeguarding records may be held and do not need the consent of the parent to do so.

Monitoring a concern

Monitoring a child when there are safeguarding concerns is particularly important where there has been no direct disclosure nor physical evidence, or the child has communication difficulties or is too young to give much information.

School staff are accustomed to monitoring and observing behaviour and are likely to know what is ‘normal’ for a particular child. You may look for changes in the following:

  • attendance
  • mood
  • academic functioning
  • relationships
  • language
  • behaviour
  • demeanour and appearance
  • comments, stories or drawings by the child
  • parental engagement, disclosures and requests for support
  • home or family life
  • response to getting changed for PE or sport
  • injuries, marks, etc.

Report writing

Do  Don't
Use plain English, short sentences and write clearly. Use education jargon or acronyms that those in other agencies won’t understand.
Keep to the facts. Use opinion (yours or someone else’s).
Use the words the child has said. Translate or interpret words and meaning.
Use strong phrases such as ‘I did/did not see signs of…’ Make personal value judgements.
Share information only with those who need to know. Use confidentiality as a reason not to protect a child from harm.
Date and sign reports. Mix up dates in the report or use first names only – use full names, as far as possible, to avoid mistaken identity.

Transition and file transfer

When a child leaves school, their file should be transferred from one school to another as soon as possible (separately from the main file as child protection files should not be accessible to all staff). It’s sensible to review the file before you transfer it to ensure all the information is still relevant.

The DSL is responsible for ensuring the transfer is secure and that confirmation of receipt is obtained. Ideally, this would be done in a face to face meeting between designated staff to enable a discussion to take place about any key issues.

If that isn’t possible, the designated staff should speak by phone to outline the concerns, agree when and how the file is to be transferred and how receipt will be confirmed.

The DSL will also need to decide if it is appropriate to share any information with the new school or college in advance of a child leaving.

  • Is sharing this information necessary for the ongoing safeguarding of the pupil?
  • Will support need to be put in place ahead of their arrival?

The second to last entry will be where the file was transferred to, when and how. The final entry will be the date the new setting confirmed safe receipt.

Your copy of the file can then be securely destroyed. Once the child has moved to another school, ask yourself what is to be gained from keeping a copy?


There is no education specific guidance that sets out a period for which records should be retained, so if you are the last school a child attends, it is even more important that clear guidelines for the retention, storage and destruction of CP files in your setting are included in safeguarding policies.

The Information Management Toolkit for Schools recommends the file be kept until the child is 25 (seven years after they reach the school leaving age), which is good practice.

Schools could retain for longer if they wanted, though keep in mind that records containing personal information should only be kept for as long as is necessary, so your policy should set out reasons as to why you feel it necessary to keep them for a longer period.

When you destroy files, you must ensure you do so safely and securely.

With thanks to Carolyn Eyre and Dai Durbridge.

Last Updated: 
13 Jan 2020