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Safeguarding in schools: KCSIE changes and Ofsted’s approach

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Safeguarding children is an increasingly pertinent topic and a huge undertaking.

Since the pandemic, it has become ever more evident that schools and educational establishments play a vital role in protecting young people.

DfE research (State of the Nation 2022) has proved a link between regular attendance at school/college and positive wellbeing, highlighting the positive impacts of face-to-face learning. However, schools also hold very clear responsibilities to protect their pupils from harm within their school environment.

The quality of a school’s safeguarding can impact upon its ability to work with other agencies, its reputation, its attraction and retention of quality staff, its legal compliance and increasingly it is impacting its inspection grading.  

A growing number of previously ‘Outstanding’ schools are now failing, on inspection, to maintain their grading, not due to poor educational attainment, but due to poor procedures and processes when addressing behaviour management, attitudes and overall school culture.

The KCSIE guidance is clear. Harmful sexual behaviours are not to be tolerated. Safeguarding needs to be a priority adopted across the whole piece and at all levels. Recruitment processes need to be robust. Allegations and disclosures require expert handling. Teaching staff, leadership, Governors and Trustees need relevant training, and specific safeguarding practitioners need to have the role explicitly defined in their job description and given sufficient time, funding, supervision and support to fulfil their child welfare and safeguarding responsibilities effectively.

Staff need to be able to evidence appropriate knowledge and application of KCSIE. Inspectors will declare safeguarding to be ineffective where there are...

  • serious or widespread failures in the school setting that give cause for concern because children are not being protected
  • statutory requirements are not being met
  • Insufficient action is being taken to remedy weaknesses

Getting it wrong can be costly attracting widespread criticism and media coverage.

A raft of new or revised DfE guidance was published in the summer including KCSIE, exclusions and suspensions, behavioural policy and search/screen and confiscation guidance. This highlights the renewed emphasis on safeguarding pupils.

Navigating this area requires time and skill, and promoting a preventative agenda comes with its own challenges. Looking ahead we are likely to see greater emphasis on managing school absenteeism in the fight to improve pupil wellbeing.

The messaging is clear. Safeguarding needs to be prioritised within the education sector to achieve and maintain a ‘whole school’ approach.

Lucy Harris is a Partner in the Social Services and Abuse Team (Insurance) at Forbes Solicitors. Forbes Solicitors are a provider on the CPC Legal Services Framework. To find out more about the framework and support available, click here.

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