The DfE has finally published the ‘Keeping children safe in education’ statutory guidance. Michael Gove issued a statement on 3 April stating that the new guidance applies with immediate effect, replacing ‘Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education (2006)’. The initial draft guidance published in March 2013 was just 18 pages long. We have commented previously on the inadequacies of this draft and we are pleased that the new guidance is a more measured, detailed and practical document which runs to 49 pages. The format is very different from the initial draft. The guidance includes sections on:
- Safeguarding information for all staff including details of types of abuse and neglect and specific safeguarding issues (including sexting and teenage relationship abuse)
- The management of safeguarding including:
- A requirement for schools to have procedures in place for the handling of allegations
- against staff and allegations against other children
- A requirement for referrals to be made to the DBS – and a statement that a failure to refer to the DBS when the criteria are met is a criminal offence
- Safer recruitment including provisions relating to adults who supervise children on work experience
- Allegations of abuse made against teachers and other staff. This includes many of the provisions set out in the guidance entitled ‘Dealing with allegations of abuse against teachers and other staff’ issued in October 2012.
The guidance includes 5 appendices:
- Role of the designated safeguarding lead
- Special circumstances – including boarding schools and reference is made to the National Minimum Standards for Boarding Schools
- Statutory guidance – regulated activity
- DBS checks.
There is still a lack of clarity and imprecision in respect of some of the provisions. The guidance cross refers to other guidance and information including the DBS website. Significantly, the guidance states that where there is concern that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer harm, the ‘designated safeguarding lead’ or anybody with concerns may make a referral to children’s social care. We will be commenting in more detail on the new guidance at our Forum for Independent Schools on 29 April and giving practical advice on the application of the guidance for schools.
On a related matter, we note that Michael Gove’s view on mandatory reporting of allegations of abuse may have changed as he has stated, in response to a Parliamentary question:
"I had hitherto been concerned that mandatory reporting might create more work for children’s services departments than it would generate safety for children, but the specific case for reporting in regulated settings is one that we are actively reviewing."
We may yet see further measures that introduce a system of mandatory reporting backed up by criminal sanctions.