The Government has published the long awaited update to KCSIE. Importantly, this guidance is not effective until 5 September 2016 which gives Schools and Colleges the rest of the summer term and the holidays to update relevant policies and procedures.
What are the changes?
Helpfully, Annex H to the new Guidance sets out a summary of the changes (a practical point regular readers of our briefings will know Farrers raised with the Government during the consultation phase). This "Table of Changes" is easy to use and we recommend this as the starting point for Schools reviewing the changes and we do not set out verbatim the table here for this reason. Our overall view of the significant changes and themes are as follows:
- Increased emphasis on safeguarding being the responsibility of everyone in the organisation - and a corresponding Governance requirement to assist all staff to do this and involve staff in shaping policies and procedures.
- Linked to the above, there is greater emphasis on appropriate, integrated training, including by requiring all staff to have annual safeguarding training updates.
- Increased emphasis, and information on, the importance of "early help". Early help is a topic which is addressed in Working Together on which we will be circulating more detailed guidance and best practice in time for the new academic year.
- Greater prominence of the fact that children can abuse children.
- Greater clarity around certain key concepts and requirements in Part One (such as confidentiality, record keeping, definitions, raising concerns and how to "blow the whistle") in recognition that Part One is the main introduction and toolkit for all members of all staff. This is assisted by confirmation that the more detailed information in Annex A "Further information" is only meant to be read by school leaders and staff who work directly with children.
- Greater emphasis on online safety – but that technical measures should be proportional.
- Guidance on the new EEA checks and checks for governors of maintained schools.
- Greater detail provided in the Annexes for school leaders and staff who work directly with children, such as detailed information on children missing from education, child sexual exploitation, so called honour based violence and the prevent duty, online safety, and children staying with host families. Please note that the information on children missing from education and child sexual exploitation will be updated again before September 2016.
What should schools do?
- Review the changes fully and revise existing safeguarding, child protection and other relevant policies and procedures to ensure they reflect the new guidance. It is now important that this process involves staff.
- Review the role of your Designated Safeguarding Leads in light of revised Annex B "Role of the Designated Safeguarding Lead", which reflects the general changes throughout the guidance.
- Carefully consider staff training and updating needs in light of the annual updated training requirement. At the very least, and as an interim measure, we suggest that schools issue the new Part One to all members of staff before the end of the summer term so that they are familiar with it by the start of the new academic year.
- Issue school leaders and staff who work directly with children with Annex A "Further Information" but (unfortunately) with the caveat that this may be updated by the start of the next academic year.
- Review your school's approach and understanding of "early help" in conjunction with the staff training requirement set out above.
- Review your online systems and whole school approach to online safety, again in light of the staff training requirement but also what and how children are taught online safety.
- Consider how you check individuals who have lived or worked outside the UK. This was a subject addressed in the Vahey Serious Case Review and is currently being considered by the International Task Force on Child Protection and Interpol.
- If relevant, ensure you comply with the new requirements for checks on maintained school governors.
This revised guidance is generally positive and there has clearly been a genuine effort to provide greater clarity and information, even if in some cases (such as Annex E "Children Staying with host families") more definitive guidance would have been useful. We believe that it does not present a radical change to safeguarding in schools but does confirm the direction of travel – a greater emphasis on early help, on staff awareness and training, on online safety for staff and students and on an integrated and cohesive school approach to all aspects of safeguarding.
We believe that the great majority of schools have been working hard for a number of years to get this right and so will not find these changes too onerous – but changes do have to be made where necessary. While still a very tight timeframe, schools have been given three months' notice of the amended requirements. As ever, the devil is in the detail and it is imperative that schools take the time now to consider the new guidance and what practical changes should be made in their organisations so that they are ready on 5 September 2016.
If you require further information on anything covered in this briefing please contact Kathleen Heycock (firstname.lastname@example.org ; 020 3375 7113) or your usual contact at the firm.
This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
© Farrer & Co LLP, May 2016