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New Draft Guidance for the Safeguarding of Children - Are You up to Date?

It replaces three documents:

  • The Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (2000)
  • Statutory guidance on making arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under section 11 of the Children Act (2007): and
  • Working Together to Safeguard Children (2010).

A formal consultation on replacement guidance to the ‘Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education 2007’ document has been launched. The new draft guidance is called ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ and can be found below.

The guidance is important  to everyone who works with children and it’s vital that you read and follow the guidance as it will help you to respond to the individual needs of children in your care, in the most appropriate way. 

Keeping Children Safe in Education

For too long, child protection policy has been developed in haste and in response to individual tragedies, with the well-intentioned though misguided belief that every risk could be mitigated and every loophole closed.  The pressure has been to prescribe and legislate more.  This has led to public confusion, mistrust between children and adults, and a culture of unnecessary checking and a tickbox approach to safeguarding.

This Government is taking a different approach. We start with a presumption of trust and confidence in those who work with children, and the good sense and judgement of their managers.  It is the firm view of the Government that children are best protected when professionals are clear about their responsibilities, understanding and accountability.  They should know what is required of them individually, and how they need to work together but have the autonomy to make decisions to protect children from harm.

The Government proposes to:

  • Issue new safeguarding guidance to schools and further education colleges to replace the current Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education; and
  • Remove the regulation which makes it a requirement for at least one member of a recruitment panel in a school to have undertaken training in safer recruitment approved by the Secretary of State

Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education came into force in 2007 and is currently 122 pages in length.  Since 2010, there has been a substantial reduction in guidance to schools overall, as part of this Government’s objective of placing more power in the hands of teachers and other front-line staff.  There has also been a review of vetting and barring arrangements leading to reforms to scale back checking to common sense levels, and consequent changes to legislation through the Protections of Freedoms Act.  Furthermore, this Government is taking a different approach to safeguarding, believing that the front line should be responsible for making sensible safeguarding arrangements, rather than relying on compliance with requirements which have been set centrally.  As a result the guidance to schools and associated regulations need replacing so that it provides more clarity on requirements.

This statutory guidance to be called Keeping Children Safe in Education (replacing Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education 2006) should be read and followed by maintained schools, independent schools (including Academies and Free Schools) and institutions in the further education sector in England.  It sets out the responsibility of all schools and further education colleges in England to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people.

Reducing prescription and the safeguarding guidance to schools

Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 requires the governing bodies of schools and further education colleges to make arrangements to ensure that their functions are carried out with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.  Regulations made under section 157 in relation to safeguarding pupils in independent schools (which include Academies and FreeSchools) require the same of proprietors.  Governing bodies should have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State in relation to safeguarding.

We propose to scale back the guidance significantly so that it provides schools and colleges with a minimal set of requirements and recommendations so they focus on what is essential and understand their responsibilities.  The draft on which we are consulting is deliberately concise, setting out clearly the statutory responsibilities for schools and further education colleges and making it clear that beyond that individuals should use their own judgement to take appropriate action to safeguard children.

The Department receives a significant amount of correspondence from people complaining that the current arrangements in some schools require a number of unnecessary, and sometimes duplicate, checks to be made.  The current detailed guidance has led to tick-box compliance and over-checking.  We know of examples of schools asking for checks when they should be confident they are not necessary, and believe that this checking happens because of a misplaced perception that they are required and that more checks lead to greater safety.  We want to enable front line professionals to focus on doing what is right for individual children rather than assuming that children will be safe if all the boxes in a checklist are ticked.  Schools must have confidence in their ability to use common sense when assessing whether or not a person entering a particular role needs checking.

The guidance also sets out the safeguarding arrangements that schools should have in place in addition to the pre-employment vetting requirements.  This includes, for example, the requirement for the school to have a safeguarding policy and procedures in place that are in accordance with locally agreed inter-agency procedures, a designated senior person to take lead responsibility for dealing with safeguarding issues and a single central record of checks.

Unlike Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education, this guidance does not attempt to cover all the safeguarding issues schools are likely to encounter.  The Government is proposing a different approach with guidance focused on the crucial aspects of safeguarding; the fundamental things which every school and further education college needs to do in order to keep children safe.  It will allow schools and further education colleges to exercise their own judgement on how to respond to safeguarding issues based on their assessment of the situation.  We feel that Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education is too detailed which has led to an assumption that the more checks are done, the better.  We want headteachers and other professionals to be more confident in their ability to use their common sense and professional judgement when dealing with safer recruitment and safeguarding. 

Removal of the regulation requiring safer recruitment training

Safer recruitment training became mandatory for the recruitment of school staff on 1 January 2010.  This means a recruitment panel must have at least one member who has completed mandatory training approved by the Secretary of State; or where an individual is in charge of recruitment, that individual must have completed the training.  In practice this means online training which, since April 2012, has been available from the Department for Education website.  The current requirement means that all schools have to undertake the same training in safer recruitment regardless of their individual circumstances or staff training needs.  Ministers want decisions on training to be taken locally by professionals, not imposed by Government.   The removal of the requirement will allow schools to tailor training to their staff needs in order to ensure they are competent in making safer recruitment decisions.

Safeguarding should be an ongoing process, built into routine procedures and practice.  We must move away from the tick-box culture whereby people think, as long as they have covered a course or kept an up to date record, nothing further needs to be done.  It is the Government’s intention to let professionals use their judgement rather than the Government being directive or prescriptive to schools on what training course will meet need.

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