Responding to the KCSIE 2021 consultation
The DfE is seeking views on proposed changes to the statutory guidance ‘Keeping children safe in education’ 2020, with a view to making changes for September 2021.
The consultation closes on 4 March 2021 and is based on the draft consultation document.
There are a number of important points of difference proposed for KCSIE 2021 that DSLs and school leaders might like to comment on in this consultation and bear in mind when planning for next year.
1. Covid-19 and online learning guidance
In the ‘Summary’ at the start of the draft document it states that Covid 19 guidance ‘has now been withdrawn as the government expects all settings across the nation to reopen for the new academic year in September with full availability to all learners’.
It might be prudent to keep Covid-19 guidance in place as there may still be disruption to learning in the 2021-22 academic year (although hopefully not!). More importantly, it seems likely that online or blended learning will remain a feature of some/many schools even after the impact of Covid-19 is over, so keeping or expanding guidance on online learning would be sensible.
2. Behaviour, bullying and online safety
Looking at the systems and policies that schools need to have in place it specifies now that the behaviour policy ‘should include measures to prevent bullying, including cyberbullying’ (see paragraph 13). Many schools currently have separate bullying and behaviour policies and it would be helpful to have clarity if bullying now needs to be incorporated into the behaviour policy.
The fact that online safeguarding is central to safeguarding in general is reiterated several times, including the need for all staff to have training in online safety (14). There is a new paragraph (22) stating that ‘All staff should be aware that technology is a significant component in many safeguarding and wellbeing issues.’
Online safeguarding training will certainly need to be a regular feature of staff training.
3. Governor involvement in safeguarding
The role of school governors in understanding and taking responsibility for safeguarding policies and practice is given a greater emphasis. Governing bodies ‘have a strategic leadership responsibility for their school’s safeguarding arrangements’ (66). They should ‘ensure they facilitate a whole school or college approach to safeguarding’ (69) and safer recruitment policies (74).
There is a new introductory paragraph (144) to the section ‘Children potentially at greater risk of harm’ which stating that: ‘Whilst all children should be protected, it is important that governing bodies and proprietors recognise (and reflect in their policies and procedures) some groups of children are potentially at greater risk of harm.’
None of this is novel for school practice, but suggests that governor meetings may require a more significant safeguarding report and that regular safeguarding training for governors may need to be more substantial.
4. Letting school facilities
Another new section (140-41) puts a more definite duty on schools with regards to safeguarding by outside organisations using their facilities. If facilities/premises are rented out, governors ‘should ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to keep children safe.’
If the activity is being run by the school, then its child protection rules apply. If not, then the governors should ‘seek assurance that the body concerned has appropriate safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures in place (including inspecting these as needed)’ – ensuring that ‘safeguarding requirements are included in any transfer of control agreement…and that failure to comply with this would lead to termination of the agreement.’
5. Allegations made against teachers
There are no changes made to the statutory requirements in this section, but there is a potentially concerning change to the details and wording regarding the handling of allegations against staff.
KCSIE 2020 states that: ‘The designated officer may ask the case manager to obtain relevant additional information, such as previous history, whether the child or their family have made similar allegations previously and about the individual’s current contact with children’ (221).
Schools should be sharing fuller pastoral information about students for whom there has a been a safeguarding concern
This is very different to paragraph 315 of the new draft version which suggests that: ‘Before contacting the LADO, schools and colleges should conduct basic enquiries in line with local procedures to establish the facts to help them determine whether there is any foundation to the allegation, being careful not to jeopardise any future police investigation’.
While it goes on to state that this is only asking for ‘initial information’ for the LADO, there seems to be an expectation for the school to start a safeguarding investigation, when all previous advice has been that concerns are passed immediately to social services and/or the police where relevant (to avoid prejudicing the later investigation).
Even if the intention of this section is to suggest that the school investigator should have essential basic information on the issue for the LADO and/or police the concern still remains that a senior member of staff without much experience of serious safeguarding matters could, with the best of intentions, undermine an investigation by following these instructions.
6. Annex A vs Part one
Annex A is a new condensed version of part one of KCSIE that can be given to support staff to read instead of part one if they do not work directly with children on a regular basis.
Annex A gives an effective summary, but having two different documents might create unnecessary complication. It could be argued that staff who only read Annex A will miss important pieces of information.
For example, in part one there is a useful list of ‘What school and college staff should look out for’ (18) but in Annex A it just says ‘If staff are unsure, they should always speak to the designated safeguarding lead’ which is considerably less helpful – though is consistent with the basic message that any concerns should be passed on straight away.
The idea of safeguarding supervision which was in the consultation document for KCSIE 2020 has not been reintroduced
7. Transfer of safeguarding files
In Annex C there is a greater level of specification: when there is a safeguarding file transfer it must be done ‘within 5 days for an in-year transfer or within the first 5 days of the start of a new term’.
It also makes clear that wider context around a student should be shared with a new school because ‘lack of information about their circumstances can impact on the child’s safety, welfare and educational outcomes.’
This last point is important as often schools will be quite limited in information that they send to other schools, sticking purely to specific safeguarding incidents. The new draft guidance makes it clear that schools should be sharing fuller pastoral information about students for whom there has a been a safeguarding concern.
8. DSL role expansion
Annex C presents an expanded role for the DSL. The section has been substantially re-written; here’s four extra elements to the job description I’ve identified.
- DSLs are to be a ‘source of support, advice and expertise for all staff’, which on its own suggests an even wider brief than ever before and really emphasises the fact that there is a liaison role with all staff, not just teaching.
- There’s an emphasis on promoting ‘supportive engagement with parents and/or carers’, which is something most DSLs are doing already.
- It’s specified that the DSL will ‘liaise with the senior mental health lead and, where available, the Mental Health Support Team’. This advances the idea that all schools should have a member of staff who is a ‘mental health lead’ or even a full team for this – so not only a new responsibility for the DSL but also potentially a new set of responsibilities within a school.
- There’s a new emphasis on promoting ‘educational outcomes by knowing the welfare, safeguarding and child protection issues that children in need are experiencing.’ Working with the head the DSL is now to have ‘lead responsibility for’ ‘maintaining a culture of high aspirations’ among the students who need a social worker and supporting ‘teaching staff to feel confident to provide additional academic support or reasonable adjustments’ to help children who need a social worker or who have had them in the past, given that ‘even when statutory social care intervention has ended, there is still a lasting impact on children’s education outcomes.’
What many school leaders have already noted, and which will doubtless be a big part of the consultation, is that there is nothing written about a requirement for extra support for DSLs. The DSL is still described as a singular figure even with their growing job, and the idea of safeguarding supervision which was in the consultation document for KCSIE 2020 has not been reintroduced.