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Knowledge Base » Safeguarding » Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020

Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020

Last updated on 4th August 2023

Click the links to access the 2021, 2022 and 2023 updates.

Although the objective of keeping children safe at school has always been important, it was specifically laid out as policy in March 2014. The policy has developed since then, with new editions published in 2016, 2018, 2019, and the latest in 2020.

The policy document is called Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE), with the 2020 edition ready for implementation in September of this year. In the publication, all of the statutory, or legal, obligations for a school in respect of child safeguarding are laid out.

Lots of information is contained in the document. If you’re covered by it, you need to make sure you read and comprehend it fully. There are key functions and responsibilities laid out as well, which we’ll cover further down.

We’re going to take a close look at the Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021 document and go through:

  • Who Keeping Children Safe in Education applies to and where.
  • Some of the key elements of the document to be aware of.
  • Some of the important additions, clarifications, and changes since 2019.

This will ensure that you are aware of your responsibilities when working in an education setting.

Who does Keeping Children Safe in Education apply to?

Safeguarding children in school has become a major focus of education policy in recent years. The legal obligation to safeguard students has been outlined in three different pieces of legislation, namely:

All of which confirm that it is a school’s responsibility to safeguard children. Every person working in a school is obliged to safeguard children.

The guidelines cover:

  • Headteachers
  • Teachers
  • All other staff
  • Governors
  • Proprietors and owners.

And lays out a specific role within a school, known as the designated safeguarding lead. We’ll go through the role and responsibilities of this person a little later.

Every place that offers education to students aged 18 and under must comply with the KCSIE rules.

The types of places that are covered by the policy are:

  • Government funded schools
  • Independent schools
  • Non-maintained schools
  • Colleges
  • Nurseries
  • Pupil referral units.

Training staff about their legal obligations falls under the remit of governors. We’ll cover the amended roles of governors laid out within the policy as we go through the important elements that you need to know about.

Children sat in classroom talking together while teacher completes welfare checks

How has the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance changed?

After first being published back in 2014, the Keeping Children Safe in Education document has been updated in 2016, 2018, 2019, and there are new changes due to be implemented from 2020’s school year. Changes have reflected evolving concerns around internet use and grooming.

The 2016 update came with a backdrop of young people going to Syria after being influenced online. The general atmosphere of social media and how children are interacting with platforms has also informed modifications to the policy.

Other social issues such as “honour violence” and female genital mutilation have been recognised as issues that a school should be aware of over the years.

Here, we’re going to look at some specific sections of the 2020 guidance that have key information and have differences to the Keeping Children Safe in Education 2019 guidance.

Safeguarding definition

The concept of safeguarding is covered by a few different pieces of legislation in the UK. In general, safeguarding means to protect the interests of vulnerable people, with children being a vulnerable category.

In the KCSIE 2020 guidance, the definition of safeguarding can be summarised as:

  • To protect children from being maltreated.
  • To prevent a child facing impairment of their development or physical or mental health.
  • To make sure that children are given care in their childhood that’s safe and effective.
  • To take action to ensure children get the best possible outcomes.

There has been a change in this guidance from the 2019 document in terms of what safeguarding covers. The explicit reference to mental health is new and recognises the importance of mental as well as physical health.

It’s unlikely that the mental health of a child would have been ignored in the past. However, the inclusion of it as a separate consideration offers a child more protection.

Mental health

As well as the separate recognition given to the mental health of children, the KCSIE 2020 document has fresh details about how mental health and safeguarding are connected. There are five new paragraphs that give you new information about mental health in school:

  • Paragraph 34 states that mental health issues in children can be linked to exploitation, abuse, or neglect in some circumstances
  • Paragraph 35 notes that only trained professionals can give a diagnosis of a mental health issue, but that school staff are able to observe children and spot changes that could indicate deeper problems
  • Paragraph 36 points out that school staff need to be aware of how traumatic experiences in a child’s past can affect their present behaviour, mental health, and overall education
  • Paragraph 37 advises that any concerns about the mental health of a child should be raised in line with existing child protection policies and they should also speak to the designated safeguarding lead
  • Paragraph 38 is the final one in the mental health section and provides resources for teachers, such as the Department for Education guidance on Preventing and Tackling Bullying along with resources about building resilience

There are further additions to the document that refer to mental health. Under the section titled “Children potentially at greater risk from harm”, you’ll find information about children that require mental health support.

This section again confirms that mental health issues can be an indicator of deeper issues for a child, such as abuse and neglect. The onus is put on governors or the proprietors of schools to have proper systems in place to support pupils with mental health issues.

Along with signposting you to other material about supporting mental health, the section also confirms new funding for mental health training. This is going to be covered in the next section.

Whole school safeguarding culture

There are five references to a whole school approach within the safeguarding policy for schools in KCSIE 2020. A new addition to the concept of a whole school approach is within mental health strategy.

In paragraph 116 there is a promise of funding to train all mental health leads in state-funded schools with the Link Programme. The training will help the mental health lead to develop a whole school approach to mental health – an area now becoming integral to safeguarding.

Another area where a whole school safeguarding approach is encouraged is in part five, regarding sexual violence and sexual misconduct. Although this section hasn’t changed at all from Keeping Children Safe in Education 2019, we think it’s worth noting it as a section that also encourages a whole school approach.

The final area that the guidance covers that discusses a whole school approach is regarding online safety. Again, the principles of online safety in terms on the guidance have seen no material change.

There are now three areas that the guidance encourages a whole school approach to safeguarding:

  • Mental health
  • Sexual violence and sexual misconduct
  • Online safety.
Teacher comforting child struggling with her mental health

The important role of governors

Governors in general have an important role to play in schools. Depending on how a school is owned and ran, there may be owner/s or proprietor/s who would fulfil a similar role to governors. To make things easier for you to understand, here we’re going to just talk about governors but take this to mean owner/s or proprietor/s if that is what applies to the school you work in.

Governors are responsible for the management of safeguarding in a school, including the hiring and training of staff about the rules and their responsibilities. Having the right policies and procedures in place comes down to governors, too.

Policies that need to be in place include:

  • Child protection policy.
  • Staff behaviour policy.
  • Safeguarding measures for children missing from education.

Although this isn’t new, there are wider safeguarding measures that come into place with the new guidance.

External to the school, there will be new safeguarding partnerships in place under the school’s local authority. Governors and leaders in the school need to be aware of the new partnership that will be between the school and:

  • The school’s local authority
  • The local clinical commissioning group
  • The chief police officer for the area.

Schools must engage and be active in local safeguarding and this should be at governor level or delegated to the designated safeguarding lead.

The designated safeguarding lead

To coordinate safeguarding information and records, your school with have a designated safeguarding lead. This person must be in a senior leadership role and is usually your headteacher or deputy head, although sometimes in can fall under the remit of your SENCO or wellbeing coordinator.

As we’ve already discussed, mental health issues have become more prominent in KCSIE 2020. The designated safeguarding lead, or their deputy, is the person who will receive reports from staff about concerns for the mental health of children.

There is a complete section regarding the role of the designated safeguarding lead. This hasn’t changed from previous years, so if you fulfil this role in your school the overall scope and actions of your role haven’t changed. Some advice has been added for the lead to help promote positive educational outcomes for children with a social worker.

One element that has been updated, as with the role of the governors, is how the designated safeguarding lead works with safeguarding partners. As and when your school is named as a “relevant agency”, you’re obliged to then work with the three safeguarding partners.

The designated safeguarding lead is also confirmed as the person who needs to keep a record that a child in their school has a social worker.

Children who have a social worker

We’ve touched on some changes in the guidelines for children with a social worker just a moment ago. Along with the designated safeguarding lead being required to record that a child has been assigned a social worker, there are some other amendments to be aware of.

When a child needs a social worker, decisions should be made about sharing absence information with the social worker. Any decisions you make about the child should also be informed by this extra element in their lives. A child with a social worker has likely suffered some form of abuse or neglect so this needs to be taken into account.

Safer recruitment

The details in the Safer Recruitment section of Keeping Children Safe in School 2020 hasn’t seen any changes since the 2019 edition of the document. Outlined in the section are details about who in a school needs to have a DBS checks and what level that should be at. The rules for whether you’ll need to have a barring check carried out are also in here for you to check.

Two teachers sat talking about safer recruitment for new position

Other changes

There have been other changes in the document, mainly to give you more clarity around certain matters.

There have been changes relating to:

  • Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic
  • Extra guidance about what type of staff behaviour should be reported
  • Clarification about reporting harmful behaviour in supply teachers
  • Additional details and definitions about criminal and sexual exploitation
  • New information about County Lines
  • Clearer guidance about how domestic abuse can affect children
  • Honour-based abuse and radicalisation
  • More information about Upskirting.

You’ll notice that there is generally more information about these issues rather than any significant changes that you need to get to grips with again.

Updating the safeguarding and child protection policies

The safeguarding and child protection policies in your school will need to see some updates in time for the 2020 academic year. It’s up to the person in charge of the policy to make them; there’ll be a designated teacher in charge of each – it might be the same person.

The details around mental health that we’ve discussed will need to be added, including amending the overall definition of safeguarding in school. Also in relation to safeguarding, it needs to be recognised that safeguarding specifically needs to encompass the mental health needs of children. There’ll need to be similar changes to the child protection policies.

A small addition has been made to the guidance to make a specific reference to reporting safeguarding concerns about staff, specifically supply teachers. If you own your school’s policies, you should check that you add this detail in.

The new details about multi-agency working and the three safeguarding partners that schools need to work with also need to be reflected in your school’s safeguarding policy. Data sharing has been clarified in terms of working with partners so this needs to be altered going forward.

The guidance makes it clear that there need to be school policies in place to report staff behaviour that could be harmful. Be sure to update details of new or amended policies in your school’s safeguarding and protection policies, even if it’s just a change in the title of the document.

With a new definition of what could constitute harmful behaviour in staff, you’ll need to cross-reference this with your current policies and make sure your definitions cover it. Likewise, with the other sections noted above, where definitions and details have been amended, you should double check language. If words don’t match, change them to align with the official policy to make sure you’ve got everything up to date.


There’s quite a lot for you to take in when it comes to the Keeping Children Safe in Education Guidelines 2020. If you take on one of the roles named in the document like a headteacher, governor, or designated safeguarding lead, you need to be familiar with the differences to last year and update any policies.

As a teacher or other member of staff who’ll need to adhere to the guidelines, you’ll likely be asked to read the document and sign to say that you’ve understood it. Be aware of these changes so you know where to pay particular attention to when you get presented with the document at school.

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About the author

Joanne Rushton

Joanne began her career in customer services in a UK bank before moving to South East Asia to discover the world. After time in Malaysia and Australia, she settled in Hanoi, Vietnam to become an English teacher. She's now a full-time writer covering, travel, education, and technology.

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