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Keeping Children Safe in Education – Overview Q&A

19 May 2014

Keeping Children Safe in Education was released by the DfE on 3 April 2014 and replaces Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education. At less than half the size of its predecessor, Keeping Children Safe is succinct but does cut out a little too much useful guidance for the sake of brevity. Expert safeguarding lawyer, Dai Durbridge, explains the key changes below and suggests some next steps for you and your school.

1. Is Keeping Children Safe now in force?

Indeed it is. Keeping Children Safe in Education came into force the day it was released – 3 April 2014. As well as replacing Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education it also incorporates guidance on managing allegations against staff in part four of Keeping Children Safe.

Keeping Children Safe is statutory guidance, which means that as a school or a college you must have regard to it when carrying out your duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. It applies to all schools – maintained, independent, academies, free schools and PRUs.

2. Are there many changes compared to the previous guidance?

Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education was in force from 2007 and so by the time Keeping Children Safe was eventually released, it was somewhat out of date. Therefore the difference between the two documents is marked.

As well as terminology changes – for example, DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) instead of CRB and Children’s Barred List instead of List 99 – the guidance is a lot shorter. So some significant change is fitted into less space, meaning that some areas are a little light on guidance.

Guidance on safeguarding checks for contractors, work placements, volunteers and host families are particularly thin and whilst child sexual exploitation and female genital mutilation now get a mention, the one paragraph devoted to each topic mean it really is little more than a mention.

For more information on these areas, check back soon to read our ‘mind the gaps in Keeping Children Safe’ article.

3. Do I need to carry out DBS checks on new staff joining my school?

Thankfully, Keeping Children Safe makes a far better job of explaining Regulated Activity than was managed by the draft upon which we were consulted. As well as setting out the pre-appointment checks that you must be undertake (paragraphs 56 and 57), Keeping Children Safe spends seven paragraphs clearly setting out how Regulated Activity applies to schools and colleges.

Those paragraphs make it clear that you do need to get an enhanced DBS with barred list check for all staff who engage in Regulated Activity – which for schools and academies, is all staff. Therefore you do need to ensure check is carried out.

Do note paragraph 59 of Keeping Children safe which makes it clear that you do not have to get a new check done where staff are moving school to school without a break in employment. This exception also appeared in Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education, though most schools chose to get a check done anyway. You still have this power, so if you want to get an enhanced DBS with barred list check done for all new recruits, you can.

4. What about governors, do I need to get them DBS checked?

Oddly, that depends if you are a maintained school or an academy. There is an unnecessary difference in how we approach them which has come about by virtue of academies being classed as independent schools.

So, there is no duty for governors of maintained schools to obtain a DBS check. However, maintained schools do have the power to request one as part of the appointment process. You cannot obtain a barred list check, though.

For academies, the Chair must first have a DBS check carried out on him or her by the DfE following which the Chair must obtain enhanced DBS checks on all governors. For further detail on DBS checks for academy governors, please see our briefing note.

5. What about volunteers?

This is a little tricky. The law has made something of an illogical distinction between supervised and unsupervised volunteers. We can argue about the sense of doing so for hours, but the reality is that the position is fixed so we are best to focus on what we need to do to manage volunteers. So what checks can/must you carry out?

New supervised volunteers

  • You should obtain an enhanced DBS check
  • You cannot obtain a barred list check
Existing supervised volunteers

  • No requirement to request an enhanced DBS check, but you can do so if you think one is necessary
  • You cannot obtain a barred list check
New unsupervised volunteers

  • You must obtain an enhanced DBS with barred list check
Existing unsupervised volunteers

  • You should not request an enhanced DBS check (because the volunteer should have already been checked) unless there is cause for concern
  • You cannot obtain a barred list check.

Annex D to the guidance provides a copy of the statutory guidance issued to explain the difference. However, in my view it offers little clarity and the case studies serve to muddy the water further. Understand the bullet points above and you should be ok.

6. You mentioned the allegations against staff guidance earlier, has that changed?

The allegations against staff guidance now forms Part 4 of Keeping Children Safe. Save for one key change, Part 4 is more or less a word for word copy of the existing allegations guidance. The change relates to the outcomes the guidance expects you to reach following an investigation into the allegation. The 'unfounded' outcome has been removed, leaving us with four outcomes to choose from: substantiated, malicious, false, unsubstantiated.

7. As a designated safeguarding lead, what do I need to do now?

First off, I recommend reading the guidance cover to cover. As it is only 40 pages long, you should be able to get through it in about two or three hours. After that, consider what policies you may need to change and what training you need to provide to the SLT or all staff.

The final point (and perhaps most important) is to keep yourself up to date. Make the most of national conferences, local networks, webinars and articles like this one to keep you up to date with Keeping Children Safe in Education. 

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