In this article
On 6 June 2023, the Department for Education (DfE) published the latest updated version of the statutory safeguarding and child protection guidance for schools in England, Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) 2023. This 2023 guidance will replace Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) 2022 when it comes into force on 1 September 2023. The previous KCSIE 2022 is still being enforced until the 2023 guidance comes into effect in September.
While changes to this year’s KCSIE were minimal compared to those made in previous years, and there was no public consultation on the document this year, the 2023 update to official KCSIE safeguarding statutory guidance includes some new recommendations and clarifications that schools and colleges need to be aware of for September.
What is Keeping Children Safe in Education?
Keeping Children Safe in Education is statutory guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) issued under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002. It sets out the legal duties that govern all schools, colleges and other institutes of education in England when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under the age of 18. In order to safeguard children whilst in education, all staff, volunteers and governors are expected to comply with the requirements of the current Department for Education guidance which is reviewed and updated annually.
The original KCSIE document was published in March 2014, the aim being to ensure that education staff were included as an important part of the wider safeguarding system. The guidance was developed to provide relevant information to education staff in order that they fully understand their role in spotting the signs and reporting concerns about abuse to the designated safeguarding lead (DSL).
Under KCSIE the educational establishment’s governing body, proprietors and management committees have clear responsibilities to ensure that safeguarding systems, policies and practices are in place and are all effective. This includes ensuring that the DSLs and their deputies are trained to the same level relevant to their specialist role. They in turn are responsible for ensuring staff are trained at least annually and receive regular updates on safeguarding and child protection research findings, serious case reviews, studies etc. The educational establishment’s safeguarding training should be in line with the Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures and themes.
Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE), is organised into five parts:
- Safeguarding information for all staff – safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is everyone’s responsibility, all staff, supply teachers, volunteers and contractors. This part details what school and/or college staff should know and do in regard to safeguarding.
- The management of safeguarding – this part is for headteachers, designated safeguarding leads (DSL) and teams, and governors. It also outlines the responsibilities of governing bodies, proprietors and management committees.
- Safer recruitment – this part refers to the recruitment processes including:
– Pre-employment checks
– Record keeping.
- Safeguarding concerns raised about, and allegations made against, staff, also including supply teachers, volunteers and contractors.
- Child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment – this part should be read alongside the DfE’s advice on sexual violence and harassment between children.
There are also a number of annexes:
Annex A – is a condensed version of part 1 that can be read by staff who don’t work directly with children.
Annex B – includes detailed guidance on specific safeguarding issues, such as:
- Child abduction and community safety incidents
- Child criminal exploitation (CCE)
- Child sexual exploitation (CSE)
- County lines
- Children and the court system
- Children missing from education
- Domestic abuse
- Mental health
- Modern slavery and the national referral mechanism
- Preventing radicalisation
- Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children
- Serious violence
- So-called honour-based abuse.
Annex C – sets out the role of the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL).
Annex D – host families, homestay during exchange visits.
Annex E – statutory guidance, regulated activity (children), supervision of activity with children which is regulated activity when unsupervised.
Annex F – sets out substantive changes made by the new guidance.
Who does Keeping Children Safe in Education apply to?
Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) applies to all schools and colleges and other institutes of education in England. It sets out the legal duties that must be followed to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people under the age of 18 years, and applies to:
- Headteachers, teachers and all other staff including supply teachers, volunteers and contractors
- Governing bodies, proprietors and management committees.
What are the changes in the Keeping Children Safe in Education 2023 guidance?
The range of new changes and requirements for schools and colleges as part of their safeguarding duties made in the 2023 KCSIE guidance include:
- Clarification around the roles and responsibilities of education staff in relation to filtering and monitoring.
- Clarification that being absent, as well as missing, from education can be a warning sign of a range of safeguarding concerns, including sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or child criminal exploitation.
- Additional information on online pre-recruitment checks for shortlisted candidates.
- Information on responding to allegations related to organisations or individuals using school premises.
More specifically the key changes this year relate to:
Part one – Safeguarding information for all staff
Paragraph 13 – Updated link to Behaviour in Schools’ guidance.
Paragraph 14 – New text added to raise awareness of the existing expectation for relevant staff to understand filtering and monitoring.
Part two – The management of safeguarding
Para 103 – Added reference to filtering and monitoring.
Paragraph 124 – New text added to make clear staff training should include understanding roles and responsibilities in relation to filtering and monitoring.
Paragraph 138 – Reference to child protection policies and appropriate filtering and monitoring on school devices and school networks.
Paragraph 142 – Added new section referencing the new published filtering and monitoring standards. The standards are to support schools to meet their duty to have appropriate/effective filtering and monitoring systems in place; this is not a new burden.
Paragraph 144 – Reference to cyber security standards.
Paragraph 167 – Updated to reference keeping children safe in out-of-school settings.
Paragraph 175 – Clarification provided on the difference between children missing education and children absent from education.
Paragraph 202 – Additional signpost to specialist organisations for children with special educational needs and disabilities.
Part three – Safer recruitment
Paragraph 221 footnote – Clarification that it is good practice for schools to inform shortlisted candidates that online searches will be carried out.
Paragraphs 276–277 – Paragraphs re-ordered to flow better.
Part four – Allegations / concerns
Paragraph 377 – New heading and paragraph “Organisations or individuals using school premises”.
Part five – Child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment
Throughout the guidance – Revised to reflect wording in behaviour guidance.
Annex A – Safeguarding information for school and college staff
Revised to reflect changes in Part One.
Annex B – Further information
Children absent from education – Revised to reflect the difference between children absent from education and children missing education.
Forced Marriage – Reflects the change in law from February 2023.
Child Exploitation – New reference to multi-agency practice principles.
As we have seen, this year’s changes to KCSIE were minimal compared to those made in previous years.
The key changes this year relate to:
Filtering and monitoring
This is a focus on online safety and ensuring that staff and governors understand what filtering and monitoring is, and that it is in place to prevent children from accessing inappropriate and harmful content online while pupils are in school/college. It is clear from this update that the DfE see this as a clear safeguarding and welfare concern and not just a matter for the IT team.
The DSL should take lead responsibility for understanding the filtering and monitoring systems in place at the school/college and it should be covered in the safeguarding policy as well as in the safeguarding and child protection training which all staff must receive.
KCSIE 2023 signposts schools and colleges to the DfE’s latest filtering and monitoring standards and cyber security standards for schools and colleges, which schools/colleges should read and have regard to when assessing whether their filtering and monitoring systems are appropriate. Safeguarding governors should add this to their list to include in their annual audit and ensure that they are aware of any breaches or incidents from which lessons can be learnt. Measures to mitigate known risks can then be put in place. Changes on this topic are throughout KCSIE 2023, but see in particular paragraphs 103, 124, 138, 142 and 144.
Use of school sites by other organisations
There is new guidance on responding to allegations relating to incidents taking place when a third-party organisation (or individual) is using the school’s or college’s premises. In short, the school/college’s usual safeguarding policies and procedures should be followed and appropriate referrals to external agencies made. See the new section in Part Four at paragraph 377.
There are also a number of smaller changes. For example, there is some further clarificatory wording that children absent (rather than missing) from education can be a warning sign of safeguarding concerns (including of child criminal exploitation and sexual exploitation), see paragraph 175.
On safer recruitment there has also been an update to say that if schools/colleges are going to run online searches against shortlisted candidates, they should inform these candidates that online searches may be done as part of due diligence checks, see paragraph 221.
One small change apparently introduced to avoid confusion among schools is found in paragraph 276, which states: “Schools and colleges do not have to keep copies of DBS certificates in order to fulfil the duty of maintaining the single central record.” This is not new wording but the bolding of those three words is new and suggests that schools and colleges were unclear before whether this was required or not.
There have also been a few changes to terminology used in the 2023 KCSIE; these include:
- Updated throughout to include “pupils or students”
- Reference to teachers can “discipline” have been replaced with teachers can “sanction”
- Replaced children may be “vulnerable” with children may be “susceptible”.
There remain many references to Working Together to Safeguard Children (July 2018) in KCSIE 2023, and schools and colleges should refer to this document when working with local statutory agencies and safeguarding partners.
Schools and colleges play an essential role in keeping children safe. This is of crucial importance as worrying statistics from a recent survey of 8,329 teachers and senior leaders across the UK by the NSPCC and the teaching union NASUWT have highlighted that safeguarding referrals have risen.
Key findings from the survey were:
- 93% of teachers said that, over the last year (2022), the number of safeguarding referrals made within their school had increased.
- 87% of teachers reported an increase in the number of neglect referrals.
- 84% have seen an increase in emotional abuse referrals.
- 67% have seen an increase in physical abuse referrals.
- 50% have seen an increase in sexual abuse referrals.
The survey results echo government data, that shows that between 2020-21 and 2021-22, schools in England saw a 59% increase in the number of safeguarding referrals and re-referrals made to children’s services.
The publication of the new 2023 KCSIE guidance is an opportunity for schools and colleges to ensure that the core elements of the statutory guidance, including the more recent additions, for example around child-on-child abuse, addressing sexual harassment and sexual violence, and low-level concerns are properly understood and embedded, not just in the policies but also in training and in practice.