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Safety first

Legal advice: changes and main points of interest in the Government's '€˜Keeping Children Safe in Education'

Posted by Dave Higgitt | May 30, 2014 | Law, finance, HR

On 3 April 2014 the Government published the long awaited statutory guidance ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ (KCSIE). It applies to all schools and replaces ‘Safeguarding Children & Safer Recruitment in Education’ (SCSRE) with effect from 3 April.

Child protection policy and related policies

All schools should now ensure that their policies are updated to reflect the requirements of KCSIE.

As there is now much emphasis on local requirements, all policies should contain the main points of the local procedures and identify where full local procedures are available. It is also suggested that reference is made in the child protection policy to local guidance on thresholds for referrals and make clear the route for obtaining advice and assistance with borderline cases.

It is also now a requirement that the child protection policy contain missing pupil procedures, since it is recognised that this is a potential indicator of abuse or neglect. The aim is to help to identify any risk of abuse and neglect including sexual exploitation and help prevent the risks of children going missing in the future.

The policy is now also required to differentiate between safeguarding of those children who have suffered, or are at risk of, suffering serious harm and those who are identified as in need of extra support from external agencies, which should lead to inter-agency assessment using locally agreed procedures.

In addition KCSIE states that schools must put in place a code of conduct for staff.

Safer recruitment checks

KCSIE contains much less detail than SCSRE on the recruitment processes to be followed by schools. This seems to be recognition that schools have made great strides in adopting professional recruitment processes since the publication of SCSRE. However, SCSRE still contains some very useful information and should remain a best practice reference point for all schools.

KCSIE has introduced an additional pre-employment check for teaching staff recruited from 3 April 2014. Schools must now check that teachers are not subject to a Prohibition Order issued by the DfE. The check can be undertaken using Employer Access Online. However, it is not currently possible for schools to use this service if they do not already have an account due to work being undertaken on the website. Once this is complete the check will be treated as a requirement for all schools when recruiting teaching staff. It will be best practice for schools to amend their single central register to confirm that this check has been carried out. The other recruitment checks which independent schools are required to undertake remain unchanged.

KCSIE does require schools to have written recruitment and selection policies and procedures in place, which is a timely reminder to schools to review their current documentation to ensure it reflects how they work in practice.

Designated Safeguarding Lead

Each school is required to have a ‘Designated Safeguarding Lead’ (DSL) whose duties will include liaising with the statutory agencies in child protection matters, and providing advice and support to staff in carrying out their safeguarding duties. KCSIE says that the DSL should be a member of the school's leadership team and that their job description should set out the duties required of them. There should always be cover for this role and appointing a deputy is therefore recommended.

KCSIE makes it clear that all staff, and not just the DSL, can make a referral to children's social care if there is a risk of immediate serious harm to a child. Wherever possible, however, a conversation should ideally take place with the DSL before any such referral is made.

Training

The training requirements in respect of safeguarding have changed. While the DSL should undergo child protection training every two years, there is no longer a specific requirement for all other staff members (including the Head) to undergo training every three years. Rather, KCSIE states that staff should undergo child protection training regularly in accordance with the advice and requirements of the Local Safeguarding Children's Board (LSCB).

There is an express requirement that all staff, including temporary staff and volunteers, must be provided with induction training that covers:

* the child protection policy
* the staff code of conduct
* the identity of the DSL
* Part 1 of KCSIE

In addition all existing staff are required to read Part 1 of KCSIE.

Allegations against staff

The statutory guidance, ‘Dealing with allegations of abuse against teachers and other staff’ is now contained at Part 4 of KCSIE. The October 2012 version has been archived and schools should therefore refer to KCSIE in relevant situations.

Volunteers and regulated activity

KCSIE confirms that schools must undertake an enhanced DBS check and Children's Barred List check on all volunteers undertaking regulated activity with children, ie where the volunteering is unsupervised, frequent (once a week, four times or more in a 30-day period) or overnight and provides the opportunity for contact with children. Schools are not permitted to carry out a Barred List check on individuals who are not undertaking regulated activity.

KCSIE also clarifies that if a volunteer is not engaging in regulated activity then a school can undertake a risk assessment, taking into account what is known about the volunteer and what duties they will be doing, to determine whether an enhanced DBS check is desirable.

It remains the case that an unchecked volunteer must not have unsupervised access to children.

When appointing volunteers schools will therefore have to adopt a practice of assessing the nature and frequency of the duties of each volunteer, and whether they will be supervised, rather than applying a blanket policy to all.

Annex D of KCSIE sets out the statutory guidance on regulated activity and supervision which should assist with this process.

Next steps

Schools should draw up an action plan to implement the changes from KCSIE which should include:

* circulating Part 1 to all staff
* reviewing the child protection policy
* implementing a staff code of conduct
* updating the job description of the DSL
* considering the training needs of all staff

Authors Tracey Eldridge-Hinmers and Richard Hewitt are Senior Associates at leading education law firm Veale Wasbrough Vizards

teldridge-hinmers@vwv.co.uk

rhewitt@vwv.co.uk

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