In this article
Keeping Children Safe in Education has been an official policy since March 2014. It is the government’s statutory safeguarding and child protection guidance for schools in England. Over the years, there have been changes and updates to the policy, with new editions published in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) has been updated again and becomes official from September 2021.
It is recommended that alongside the KCSIE document, professionals also read through Working Together to Safeguard Children; What to do if you are Worried a Child is Being Abused – Advice for Practitioners; and Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Between Children in Schools and Colleges.
What does this article include?
Within this article, we shall be looking at the changes to the existing Keeping Children Safe in Education:
- Part One: this is the first part of the Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021 document, and is required reading for all staff.
- Part Two: the management of safeguarding. Changes have been made in terms of whole school policy, as well as the intended aims of safeguarding.
- Part Three: there have been significant changes to the information about safe recruitment processes.
- Part Four: there has been clarification on what constitutes a concern and what to report.
- Part Five: looking at sexual assault, violence, and harassment, with further guidance on child-on-child abuse.
- Annexes: the introduction of Annex 1 (the simplification of Part One) and changes to subsequent annexes.
Who does it apply to?
As with previous Department of Education (DfE) guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021 relates to schools and places of education for children; however, a change is the inclusion of 16 to 19 academies and further education facilities – such as colleges – under this remit, with the same expectations of in-house safeguarding policy and training.
It is specifically stated, and to quote from the KCSIE directly, that the statutory guidance should be read in full, and be followed by:
- “Governing bodies of maintained schools (including maintained nursery schools) and colleges;
- Proprietors of independent schools (including academies, free schools and alternative provision academies) and non-maintained special schools. In the case of academies, free schools and alternative provision academies, the proprietor will be the academy trust;
- Management committees of pupil referral units (PRUs); and
- Senior leadership teams.”
For everyone else who works within the aforementioned institutions, in direct contact with children, they are expected to read at least Part One. It is the responsibility of the governing bodies and proprietors to make sure that this happens. They are expected to work with senior leadership teams and the Designated Safeguarding Lead to make sure that this happens. (For more information about what safeguarding involves, read our article Definition of Safeguarding Children.)
For those who do not work directly with children, they are expected to read Part One or Annex A (which is a simplified version of Part One), depending on the school or college’s assessment of their context, their children’s needs, and the role of the staff member, in order to make an effective promotion of their children’s welfare.
One new element of the guidance is the focus on understanding. Whereas previously the school’s responsibility was worded on ensuring employees read the information, now it is stated that “mechanisms [should be] in place to assist staff to understand and discharge their role and responsibilities”.
Part One: Safeguarding Information for all Staff
There have been changes made to Part One in several key areas.
1. In-house policy: the protection policy an institution has in place needs to have a procedure and policy regarding child-on-child abuse – all staff must be aware of this.
2. Dealing with victims: there is a focus on making sure that a victim of abuse is to be reassured they are being taken seriously, and that they are supported within the institution. It is highlighted that they should be heard, not shamed in any way, or made to feel that their reporting any abuse is ‘a problem’.
3. Safety online: in light of the UK Council for Internet Safety’s 2020 report, there has been an addition about the sharing of nude, and semi-nude, images and videos. (For more information about this, look at our article on Internet Safety in Schools.)
4. Exploitation of the child: this guidance has been changed to better support members of staff in recognising the criminal and sexual exploitation of the child. There is guidance about how exploitation doesn’t always have to be a long-term occurrence; once is still sexual exploitation, and is sexual abuse. It is also raised that it can look different based on the gender of the child, and highlights how their vulnerability may not always be apparent to an adult observer. In light of the broader changes to whom this document applies to (the inclusion of colleges), there is a reminder that all children and young people under the age of 18 can experience sexual exploitation.
5. Mental health: resources have been signposted within the document to help staff in supporting children with their mental health. (For more information about this, read our Mental Health Guide in Schools.)
6. Child-on-child abuse: there is an expanded section on child-on-child abuse. There is also an emphasis that ‘banter’ and ‘boys will be boys’ should not be used to dismiss certain behaviours, as this creates an unsafe environment. Staff are encouraged to report any concerns to their Designated Safeguarding Lead, as just because there are no reported cases of this within the school, doesn’t mean it is not occurring.
7. Serious violence: within this they have added risk factors that may make serious violence more likely:
– Being male
– Absences and exclusion
– Being a victim of abuse
– Involvement in crime
8. Social care assessments: there is an entirely new paragraph on the importance of schools and colleges when it comes to social care assessments. This is to give a greater context of a child’s situation outside their home.
9. Record-keeping: more information has been given on what child protection records should include:
– A clear and complete summation of the concern
– Information of how the concern was followed up and dealt with
– A record of all actions, decisions and the result.
Part Two: The Management of Safeguarding
It is explicitly laid out that there is a “whole school approach to safeguarding”, with a need for this to be at the heart of all policies within the school or college. There is also a push to remember that the child – and their wishes and feelings – is to be considered when thinking about an action; again, this emphasis on the child or young person feeling safe and heard runs throughout the policy, as all systems should “operate with the best interests of the child at heart”. As such, all reporting systems should be clear, easily accessible, and well promoted, with both staff and the children in your care.
It should be clear within these systems – and within the policy that applies to them – that there is a zero-tolerance approach towards abuse of any kind, and a reminder that just because there may not be a reported case, doesn’t mean that complacency or dismission can be tolerated. There should also be a clear statement that child-on-child abuse is a part of this zero-tolerance approach.
Within Part Two, there is information on information sharing, clearing up what power a school or college has to share, hold and use information to better enable promotion of children’s welfare, as well as how to better deal with abuse and neglect.
There is also information looking at safeguarding training and education. The importance of training for school and college staff has been highlighted, as well as its place withing the whole school or college approach to safeguarding. The requirement has also been added that children and young people need to be taught about safeguarding, in particular online safety. On page 32 (section 121), of the Keeping Children Safe in Education document, there are links to resources to help teachers with this.
Online safety – especially in light of home learning due to Covid-19 – has been added too (specific advice from the DfE on safety with home learning can be found here). There should be a whole school approach to online safety, with specific mention within the policy to the use of mobiles and smart technology (such as smart watches). Within this policy, there needs to be specific mention of how incidents of child-on-child sexual harassment via mobile or smart technology will be dealt with (this has been added to in light of the 2021 Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges that found:
… nearly 90% of girls, and nearly 50% of boys, said being sent explicit pictures or videos of things they did not want to see happens a lot or sometimes to them or their peers…
There should also be specific mention of what filters and systems are in place to protect students from online risks; policy for this should be reviewed every year. (Guidance from the DfE on online sexual harassment.)
When it comes to use of school properties or premises for non-school activities (such as clubs and renting of school sites), there is now a requirement for the governors and/or proprietors to make sure that there are fit for purpose safeguarding arrangements in place – even if it is an outside agency (such as a youth club), it is the responsibility of the school or college to make sure that their safeguarding policies and procedures are good enough.
For alternative provision (more in-depth DfE guidance), and elective home education, there is an emphasis on the school, local authorities and other key professionals to communicate and coordinate with parents and carers to ensure that the child is kept safe. This is particularly important for those with SEND.
There are also recommendations on mental health. There is a recommendation to appoint a Mental Health Lead to better support those children with needs of this type; however, there is no requirement to do so. If a school does choose to appoint as such, then the Mental Health Lead should be supported by the Designated Safeguarding Lead, SENCO and senior leadership.
Part Three: Safer Recruitment
The first change is the extension of safeguarding provisions to providers of post-16 education. Recruitment checks are integral to safeguarding and pre-appointment checks should be part of good safeguarding policy. Within the Keeping Children Safe in Education document, information can be found on page 52–53 on best practice for such checks. There is also an emphasis that recruiters should be properly trained in safe recruitment.
The section on recruitment is a lot clearer in the step-by-step guide to recruitment, as well as having a new section in regard to ongoing safeguarding, and the legal responsibility that employers have to report concerns about an individual.
Part Four: Allegations and Safeguarding Concerns
This section has now been divided into two sections in response to feedback.
1. Section One – Allegations that may meet the harms threshold: this section has not changed in any meaningful way.
2. Section Two – Concerns that do not meet the harm threshold: this section discusses low level concerns. This is any action that shows the adult has exhibited behaviour that is inconsistent with the code of conduct, either in or outside of work, but does not meet the threshold to be passed on to the local authority designated officer.
Any such concerns must be reported to the Designated Safeguarding Lead, unless the concern is about the Designated Safeguarding Lead. In this instance, it should be reported to the Head Teacher or Principal. It is the duty of school management to create an environment where staff feel safe to do so. The Designated Safeguarding Lead must ensure that all reports are recorded clearly with the facts of what the concern was, how it became a concern, and the actions taken. Examples of behaviours that might fall into this category are:
a. being over friendly with children
b. having favourites
c. taking photos of children on their mobile phone
d. engaging with a child one-to-one in a secluded area or behind a closed door
e. using inappropriate sexualised, intimidating or offensive language
(taken from the NSPCC’s report)
Part Five: Child on Child Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment
It has been newly highlighted within this section that children may not always be forthcoming about experiencing abuse. This may be, as the 2021 Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges found, that it was considered normal among children, because:
92% of girls, and 74% of boys, said sexist name-calling happens a lot or sometimes to them or their peers. The frequency of these harmful sexual behaviours means that some children and young people consider them normal.
It is therefore the responsibility of staff to not only recognise the symptoms and warning signs of abuse (including what may be considered ‘hearsay’ such as conversations and gossip by other students), and report to the Designated Safeguarding Lead, but there is extra information on the importance of clear record-keeping in this regard in order to spot patterns of abuse. (For more information on this, read our article Why Children Keep Quiet About Abuse).
The importance of the Designated Safeguarding Lead having good record-keeping is brought up again within the new section on malicious or false reporting, but also to consider the reasons behind this potential behaviour. There is also more information (as well as links to resources) on how to support a victim: there may be more complex needs as a result of their assault, including mental health, sexual health and physical health needs.
- Annex A: as mentioned above, this is the new condensed version of Part One.
- Annex B: the previous Annex A. There is some added information on exploitation, modern slavery, county lines, preventing radicalisation, child abduction, cybercrime, and child-on-child abuse. There is also some updated information on Domestic Violence, due to the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 stating that the children within a home where there is domestic violence, are themselves victims of domestic violence, by witnessing or hearing domestic violence on another, whether that be physical, sexual, emotional, financial or coercive.
- Annex C: within this, there is a greater definition of the Designated Safeguarding Lead in terms of their professional and supportive relationships within the wider school or college community. It also has further information about the storing of information on children, both when in the school or college, and when they leave. This is now explicitly part of the Designated Safeguarding Lead’s role, as is understanding the importance of information sharing, as well as the legislation around that. There is also a section that impresses the importance for the Designated Safeguarding Lead in relation to listening, making disclosure an easier process for children.
- Annex D: this previously was about online safety, which has now been put into the main document, and as such this is a source of useful resources to support this.
- Annexes E and F: no changes.
- Annex G: this is a list of the changes brought in.
The main changes within this document have been the focus on child-on-child abuse, what that constitutes, and what schools should be doing in terms of policy. There is also a greater focus on the victims of abuse, and the fact that policies and procedures should be there to protect them. As well as this, the widening of the scope of this document, to include colleges and further education providers, means that the role of safeguarding all children is shown to be a focus of the government.