Keeping Children Safe in Education (England)

Introduction
Latest changes to the KCSIE guidance
Summary of changes
NASUWT’s concerns regarding the latest KCSIE guidance
Next steps
Additional information - Operation Encompass
 

Introduction

Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) is statutory guidance from the Department for Education (DfE). It sets out the legal duties that govern all schools and colleges in England when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under the age of 18.

The latest version of the guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021, comes into force on 1 September 2021. The guidance applies to headteachers, teachers and staff, as well as governing bodies, proprietors and management committees.

For the first time in its publication history, the guidance makes it clear that KCSIE now applies to providers of post-16 education, as set out by the Education and Training (Welfare of Children) Act 2021.

Alongside the updated KCSIE, the DfE has published an updated version of the Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Between Children in Schools and Colleges guidance. This also comes into force on 1 September 2021. It covers important information that links directly to safeguarding, including schools’ and colleges’ legal responsibilities and how to respond to reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment.

Latest changes to the KCSIE guidance

The new version of the guidance for use from September 2021 was published following a consultation process led by the DfE. Respondents were asked to comment on proposed revisions made across all parts of the KCSIE guidance.

The latest version of the guidance reflects some of these comments and feedback; the changes are summarised in the section below. They have been divided up to align with the relevant sections of the KCSIE guidance. A list of the substantive changes can be found at Annex G of the published 2021 guidance.

The NASUWT recommends that this briefing is read alongside the updated guidance.

The NASUWT remains concerned that a number of outstanding issues raised by the Union have not been addressed in the latest version of the guidance. These are set out in a later section of this briefing.

Summary of changes

About the guidance

The guidance remains clear that governing bodies and proprietors should ensure that all staff who work directly with children read at least Part One of KCSIE. Part One must also be read by those staff who do not work directly with children. A new paragraph, however, has been added to explain that there is a condensed version of Part One, which forms Annex A of the guidance and is an alternative for those staff who do not work directly with children.

The onus is on the school or college to determine which area of the guidance - the full Part One or the condensed version at Annex A - these staff should read to fulfil their legal obligations.

Part One - Safeguarding information for all staff
  • KCSIE now sets out that child protection policies should also include procedures for dealing with peer-on-peer abuse. Linked to this, a new paragraph has been added to make it clear that victims should be taken seriously, kept safe and never be made to feel that they are creating a problem for reporting abuse, sexual violence or sexual harassment.

  • A section on all staff being aware of the safeguarding issues that can put children at risk of harm has been updated to reflect the new UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) guidance on the sharing of nude and semi-nude images, which has replaced their sexting advice.

  • Elsewhere in the section, new information has been added on child criminal exploitation (CCE) and child sexual exploitation (CSE).

  • Additional links to resources to help staff identify children and young people who need extra mental health support have been added.

  • The guidance for peer-on-peer abuse has been strengthened, as has the information on risk factors associated with serious violence.

  • A new paragraph has been added to highlight that children’s social care assessments should consider where children are being harmed outside of the home. Therefore, it is important that schools and colleges provide as much information as they can as part of the referral process.

  • Additional information has been added to make it clear what information child protection records should include.

Part Two - The management of safeguarding
  • A paragraph has been added relating to schools or colleges with charitable status with a link to Charity Commission guidance on charity and trustee duties to safeguard children.

  • A new section has been added on ‘whole-school and college approach to safeguarding’, stating that safeguarding and child protection should be at the forefront of, and underpin, all relevant aspects of process and policy development. All systems, processes and policies should put the best interests of the child first.

  • The guidance on systems that enable children to confidently report abuse has been strengthened to ensure a focus on a more child-centric approach.

  • Additional information has been added to the list of information that schools and colleges should have in their child protection policy, including their approach to peer-on-peer abuse and their reporting systems.

  • Clarity that schools and colleges have clear powers to share, hold and use information to identify and tackle abuse and neglect and promote children’s welfare has been added.

  • New paragraphs have been added on the importance of online safety training for staff and the requirement to ensure children are taught about safeguarding, including online safety.

  • A link to a bank of resources for teachers on Gov.uk, focused on teaching about relationships, sex and health education (RHSE), has been added, which includes teacher training modules on RSHE topics.

  • A section has been added covering online safety, remote learning, filters and monitoring, information security, cybercrime, reviewing online safety provision and information and support. This section identifies that online safety and the school or college’s approach to it should be reflected in the child protection policy.

  • In regard to children being asked to learn online at home, the KCSIE guidance links to advice to support schools and colleges to do so safely.

  • A new paragraph has been added to clarify that where a teacher is dismissed because of serious misconduct, the employer, including an agency, must consider whether to refer the case to the Secretary of State via the Teaching Regulation Authority (TRA).

  • Further guidance has been included on peer-on-peer abuse, with a focus on making sure there is a zero tolerance approach to abuse. This section also sets out what information about this issue should be included in a school or college’s child protection policy.

  • A section has been added to set out the actions that governing bodies and proprietors should take to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to keep children safe when school or college premises are used for non-school/college activities.

Two new paragraphs have been included in KCSIE on alternative provision, making clear that governing bodies and proprietors of these settings must be aware of the additional risk of harm their pupils may be vulnerable to. Two pieces of statutory guidance that commissioners of Alternative Provision should have regard to have been included: Alternative Provision - DfE Statutory Guidance and Education for Children With Health Needs Who Cannot Attend School - DfE Statutory Guidance;

  • New paragraphs to reflect elective home education have been added, recognising that while most home-educated children have a positive experience, it can for some children mean they are less visible to the services that exist to keep them safe and supported.

  • Additional information has been added about the DfE’s programme to help schools to prevent and tackle bullying, while supporting children with mental health and behavioural issues. Adding to this, from September 2021, up to 7,800 schools and colleges will be able to access senior mental health leads training. Settings will have the opportunity to opt in for a fixed value grant and will be supported to choose from a list of quality-assured courses. More details on this will be provided by the DfE in due course.

Part Three - Safer recruitment
  • The entirety of Part Three has been restructured to align with the chronological stages of the recruitment process.

  • Information has been added on the Education and Training (Welfare of Children) Act 2021 which extends safeguarding provisions to post-16 education, 16-19 Academies, Special Post-16 institutions and Independent Training Providers.

  • Guidance on verifying a candidate’s identify through their birth certificate has been added.

  • An explanation has been added to the guidance about the circumstances in which separate barred list checks must be carried out.

  • Clarification on section 128 directions has been added.

  • Clarification has been added on using the TRA’s Employer Access service to make prohibition, direction, restriction and children’s barred list checks.

  • More information on checks for individuals who have lived or worked outside of the UK has been added, including what these further checks could include.

Part Four - Allegations made against/Concerns raised in relation to teachers, including supply teachers, other staff, volunteers and contractors
  • Part Four has been separated into two sections. Section one covers allegations that may meet the threshold for harm. Section two is a newly added section focusing on allegations/concerns that do not meet the threshold, i.e. low-level concerns.

  • Section two therefore sets out information about concerns that do not meet the harm threshold, including what a low-level concern is; making the link between low-level concerns, staff code of conduct and safeguarding policies; and recording and sharing information with relevant parties, including whether this information should be included in references.

  • The section makes it clear that the term ‘low-level concern’ does not mean that it is insignificant; it means that the behaviour towards a child does not meet the threshold set out in section one of Part Four.

  • This new section outlines that governing bodies and proprietors should have policies and processes in place to deal with low-level concerns and allegations that don’t meet the harm threshold.

  • It gives examples of low-level concerns, including:

    • being overfriendly with children;

    • having favourites;

    • taking photographs of children on their mobile phone;

    • engaging with a child on a one-to-one basis in a secluded area or behind a closed door; or,

    • using inappropriate sexualised, intimidating or offensive language.

  • To help prevent low-level concerns, the governing body or proprietors should ensure their staff code of conduct, behaviour policies and safeguarding policies and procedures are implemented effectively and ensure appropriate and timely action is taken when dealing with any concerns.

  • The guidance states that all low-level concerns should be recorded in writing and should include details of the concern, the context in which the concern arose and the action taken. Records should be reviewed so that potential patterns of concerning or problematic or inappropriate behaviour can be identified.

Part five - Child on child sexual violence and sexual harassment
  • A reminder has been included that staff should read Part Five alongside the DfE advice on Sexual Violence and Harassment between Children in Schools and Colleges.

  • The early part of this section urges schools and colleges to maintain an attitude that child-on-child sexual violence and harassment can happen in any setting. The guidance makes it clear that incidents can happen inside and outside schools and colleges, as well as online.

  • New paragraphs have been added to highlight the importance of schools and colleges acknowledging and understanding the scale of harassment and abuse.

  • The section on responding to a report of abuse has been bolstered with new text to highlight that children may not find it easy to tell staff directly about their abuse verbally. Staff should still act immediately if they have any concerns over a child’s welfare, including an indirect report of abuse such as overhearing a conversation. In addition, a new paragraph highlights the importance of a school or college’s initial response to a report from a child, as this can encourage or undermine the confidence of future victims of sexual violence and harassment to report or come forward.

  • Clarification has been made about recording concerns, discussions and decisions made in response to a report, with these records being reviewed to look for patterns of concerning behaviour.

  • A new section has been added on unsubstantiated, unfounded, false or malicious reports, which provides a reminder about recording concerns and what actions can be taken when a report reaches one of these outcomes.

  • A reminder to schools and colleges has been added that sexual assault can result in a range of health needs including physical, mental and sexual health problems. More sources of support for victims have been added to the KCSIE guidance.

  • Further information has been added about safeguarding and supporting children who have displayed harmful sexual behaviour, including links to a range of resources and sources of support.

Annexes

Annex A contains the condensed version of Part One of Keeping Children Safe in Education. It can read as an alternative to Part One by those staff who do not work directly with children if the governing body or proprietor think this will better enable these staff to promote the welfare and safeguarding of children.

Further information has been added to Annex B on:

  • Child criminal exploitation (CCE)

  • Child sexual exploitation (CSE)

  • Modern slavery and the national referral mMechanism

  • County lines

  • Cybercrime

  • Domestic abuse to reflect the Domestic Abuse Act 2021

  • Peer-on-peer abuse

  • Preventing radicalisation

Additional information has been added into Annex C on the expectations of keeping a child protection file and information sharing.

Annex D is now a more extensive list of resources to support schools, colleges and parents/carers to keep children safe online.

NASUWT’s concerns regarding the latest KCSIE guidance

The NASUWT welcomes the addition of information, advice and, where appropriate, resources to KCSIE, as it is vital that those governed by statutory guidance are provided with as much detail as possible.

Part Five, in particular, has been significantly updated in response to Ofsted’s Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges. The section now reflects the recommendation of the Ofsted review that schools, colleges and multi-agency partners should act as though sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are happening even when there are no specific reports.

This aside, the NASUWT remains concerned that there are a number of elements of the guidance that are lacking clarity or omitting information that we feel is key.

The Condensed version of Part One

The NASUWT does not support the provision of a condensed version of Part One of the KCSIE guidance. The Union believes it is hard to define those staff who do not regularly work with children. Both the terms ‘regularly’ and ‘directly’ present challenges as to how these are determined and are open to different interpretations. If the onus is put on schools and colleges to decide who should read the condensed version of Part One, a situation will inevitably ensue where there is a lack of consistency amongst educational establishments.

It is also unclear how it has been determined what are, and are not, the core messages that need to be included in the condensed version.

Given these concerns, the NASUWT is recommending that members read the full Part One rather than the condensed version in Annex G.

No standardisation of appropriate training

As with previous iterations of KCSIE, the guidance refers to the requirement of ‘appropriate training’ being provided to all staff in schools and educational settings. However, there still remains no detail in the guidance on how this training can be standardised across all settings to ensure consistency and effectiveness. The NASUWT would argue that it is unreasonable for schools to have to source this training on an individual basis, as opposed to a national provision, given the nature of the issues the training is expected to cover.

Lack of child protection policy template

The NASUWT has consistently argued that as all employers should have a child protection policy and it is disappointing that the DfE continues to fail to provide a template to aid consistency and ensure that any such policy is fit for purpose.

Concerns over effectiveness of multi-agency working

The guidance makes regular references and referrals to the Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance. While the NASUWT agrees this is an appropriate referral and supports the principles of multi-agency working, the Union has significant concerns over the effectiveness of multi-agency working. It is widely recognised that multi-agency working is highly variable across different local authorities and, in many cases, falls short of acceptable standards.

This is in no small part due to systems and structures that were in place prior to the taking of office by the Coalition Government in May 2010, which supported and sustained impactful multi-agency working, having been dismantled and not effectively replaced. The NASUWT has raised these concerns in previous consultation responses and in our wider communications with the DfE and other government departments.

Unclear expectations over online safety in the curriculum

The guidance sets out that online safety should be considered whilst planning the curriculum, but does not make explicit recommendations as to how this could be achieved. While the introduction of statutory requirements in relation to relationship and sex education (RSE) and health education and accompanying guidance may be helpful, the DfE has not made clear its expectation is this respect.

No set allocations of leadership and management time for the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL)

The NASUWT has argued on a number of occasions that the KCSIE guidance needs to explicitly state the allocation of leadership and management time that needs to be given to the DSL in order to discharge their safeguarding responsibilities. As the guidance states that any deputies should be trained to the same standard as the DSL, an allocation of leadership and management time also needs to be set for this role.

Furthermore, the NASUWT is advocating that those undertaking the role of DSL are remunerated appropriately.

The exclusion of unsubstantiated allegations in employment references

The last version of KCSIE made it clear that a history of repeated concerns or allegations that have been found to be false, unsubstantiated or malicious should not be included in any employment reference. In the most recent publication, this wording has been removed, even though the importance of this has not diminished. The inclusion of any unsubstantiated allegation in a reference could significantly impact on the careers and future employment prospects of entirely innocent individuals.

Safeguarding and the specific issues of supply teachers

While some clarifications have been made in the KCSIE guidance to address specific issues facing supply teachers in relation to safeguarding issues, there are further matters that have not been considered.

NASUWT supply teachers often report that when undertaking an assignment at a school, they are often given very little or no time within the school day to read and become familiar with key safeguarding arrangements in the settings to which they are deployed or to be briefed accordingly by appropriate staff. In addition, supply teachers are often denied access to central school databases that contain important safeguarding information to which directly employed staff have access. The Union maintains that this is unacceptable and that specific requirements on settings in this respect should be set out in KCSIE.

Further, supply teachers typically work for a number of different agencies. It can often be the case that agencies insist on supply teachers accessing their own safeguarding training despite the fact that many will have received training from other agencies that addresses similar issues and is of a comparable standard. Given that supply teachers are often required to pay for such training, they are frequently subject to excessive and avoidable additional expense.

The introduction by the DfE of a common training programme for supply teachers would avoid the unnecessary duplication of training, reduce costs and give agencies confidence that the supply teachers they engage have accessed training that meets common DfE-set standards.

Next steps

The NASUWT will be raising with the DfE the concerns we have with the latest KCSIE guidance.

In particular, we will be seeking opportunities to engage directly with the DfE on the issue of correct remuneration for teachers and school and college leaders undertaking the role of DSL.

With regard to the introduction of a common safeguarding training programme for supply teachers, the NASUWT will engage with the DfE on ways in which such a scheme could be implemented.

NASUWT members should contact the Union if they have particular concerns about the KCSIE guidance or safeguarding issues, practice or policies in their school.

Furthermore, if any safeguarding concerns are raised about members or members are concerned that they might be, however minor these may seem, members must contact the NASUWT immediately for further advice and information. You should not try to address these issues without the support of the Union.

Operation Encompass

Operation Encompass is a scheme which helps police and schools work together to provide emotional and practical help to pupils that are affected by domestic abuse. The system ensures that the police report to schools before the start of the next school day when a child or young person has experienced a domestic abuse incident the previous day or evening.

Designated school staff will then be made aware and be able to support the child accordingly.

Operation Encompass does not replace statutory safeguarding procedures and, where appropriate, the police and/or schools should make a referral to children’s social care if they care concerned about a child’s welfare (as stipulated in the KCSIE statutory guidance).

All police forces in England and Wales now use Operation Encompass and the DfE is encouraging all schools to sign up the scheme.

The NASUWT recognises that it could be a useful tool for schools and colleges as part of their safeguarding procedures.