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Keeping Children Safe in Education – top tips

19 May 2014

Keeping Children Safe in Education is now in force, replacing Safeguarding Children in Education.

Expert safeguarding lawyer, Dai Durbridge, offers eight top tips to ensure you understand the requirements of Keeping Children Safe and can navigate your way around the trickier parts.

1. Don’t throw away Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education

This may sound like an odd top tip for Keeping Children Safe, but just because Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education has been replaced, it doesn’t mean it was wrong, unhelpful or completely out of date.

At 40 pages of core guidance, Keeping Children Safe is less than half the size of its predecessor and part of the reduction came at the expenses of helpful explanations and useful detail. For example, Annex A and Appendix 14 of Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education offered nine pages of advice on work placements; Keeping Children Safe has less than one page. I am not suggesting you revert to the old guidance – far from it – but it is worth keeping it on a shelf for days when a little more detail is required.

2. Understand different information on the three types of DBS check

Paragraph 51 of Keeping Children Safe sets out the three types of DBS check - Standard, Enhanced and Enhanced with barred list information. Understanding what they do and when to request them is crucial.

Within an education setting only Enhanced and Enhanced with barred list information are used and, as the names suggest, the difference between the two is barred list information. You can only request barred list information for those staff and volunteers (more on them at tip 3) who are engaging in Regulated Activity. Review pages 18-21 of Keeping Children Safe to make sure you understand which checks are required in particular circumstances.

3. You can (but don’t have to) request a DBS check on staff moving within the education sector

It is certainly common practice in schools to request an updated enhanced DBS with barred list check for all newly appointed staff. However, this is not a requirement if, in the three months before taking up the role with you, the applicant has worked:

  • in a school in England in a post which brought them into regular contact with children or in any post in a school since 12 May 2006; or
  • in a college in England in a position which involved the provision of education and regularly caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of children or young people under the age of 18.

Keeping Children Safe makes it clear (see paragraph 60) that whilst you don’t have to request a check in these circumstances, you may do so if you have concerns about the applicant.

Obtaining an updated check on all new starters is likely to remain common practice. However, be prepared for the DBS to challenge you on why you believe the check is required. We have not seen a great deal of challenge in these circumstances to date, but as the government seeks to reduce the number of unnecessary checks I expect to see more challenge in the future. If you intend continuing with checks in these circumstances, be prepared with your reasons.

4. Make a policy decision on your volunteers

The law now distinguishes between supervised and unsupervised volunteers (see our Keeping Children Safe Q&A for more information). Unsupervised volunteers are in Regulated Activity whereas supervised volunteers are not. The definition of ‘supervised’ is not as clear as I would have expected, adding a further layer of complication.

This distinction can make it hard for you to manage your volunteers. If you have supervised volunteers then they must remain supervised at all times as if they are not, they are suddenly engaging in Regulated Activity and you will not have carried out a barred list check (as the guidance prohibits you from doing so on supervised volunteers).

To make life easier for you and to ensure your volunteers are appropriately checked for the roles they are to carry out, you may want to consider having a policy that says all of your volunteers are to act as unsupervised volunteers at various times. That way, you can ensure you obtain the appropriate checks and make the management of your volunteers more straightforward.

5. Know what checks are required of your governors

Illogical distinctions are not limited to volunteers – governor checks have them too. The checks that are required differ between academy and maintained school governors.

Make sure you know what checks you need to carry out. There is no duty for governors of maintained schools to obtain a DBS check but maintained schools do have the power to request one as part of the appointment process.

If you’re an academy, the Chair must first have a DBS check carried by the DfE. After that, the Chair must obtain enhanced DBS checks on all governors. 

6. Appreciate the outcomes required for managing allegations against staff and review your policy

Part four of Keeping Children Safe incorporates the allegations guidance. Whilst it is more or less a word for word copy of the existing 2012 guidance entitled “Dealing with allegations of abuse against teachers and other staff”, there is one important change.

The 2012 guidance asked you to reach one of five outcomes following an investigation. Part four of Keeping Children Safe reduces the outcomes to four, removing “unfounded”. This is not a major change, but now that it is in force it is worth checking your policy and, if it refers to five outcomes, amending it. Ensuring that those who work with the policy know of the change is the obvious next step.

7. Start planning your staff training now

Whether you’re planning an inset day in September, a staff room briefing or something in between, now Keeping Children Safe is in force you need to ensure the whole school understands the differences. To help you, we will be releasing a few training videos around different aspects of Keeping Children Safe in the next few weeks which will be a good starting point for you. As all of our training material is on our website and free to use, any of your staff can access it. Our Keeping Children Safe training videos will be no longer than 15 minutes each – nice bite size chunks.

8. Keep yourself up to date

Under this administration, all guidance is getting shorter. Detail has been removed and the DfE have made it clear that they expect you, as experts, to make more of your own decisions. So with guidance decreasing and expectation increasing, keeping your knowledge up to date is even more important now.

There are various ways to do this and our training videos on Keeping Children Safe and other safeguarding topics like your legal duty to refer conduct to the DBS and managing disclosures of abuse, are a good place to start.

After that, keep match fit by attending national conferences, fully utilising free and subscription websites, signing up for webinars and receiving articles and bulletins from practitioners and expert lawyers like us.

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