By Rachael Smurthwaite, an education law solicitor at Irwin Mitchell

The Department for Education (DFE) has launched a consultation on proposed changes to statutory safeguarding guidance.  If approved the proposed changes will come into force in September.

The substantive changes proposed by the DFE are in relation to:

  • Consider conducting online searches (including social media) of shortlisted candidates;
  • Ensuring governors receive safeguarding and child protection training;
  • Incorporating the non-statutory child-on-child abuse guidance into the KCSIE so that it becomes statutory guidance; and
  • Including reference to the fact that students may not feel ready to speak about abuse or recognise that they are being abused.

Consideration of conducting online searches on shortlisted candidates

 The DFE proposes that conducting online searches of shortlisted candidates “may help identify any incidents or issues that have happened, and are publicly available online, which the school or college might want to explore with the applicant at interview”.

Ensure governors receive safeguarding and child protection training

The DFE proposes that safeguarding and child protection training for governors is to be provided at induction and updated regularly thereafter in order to ensure they understand their roles and responsibilities, particularly from a strategic rather than an operational stance.

Incorporating child-on-child abuse into KCSIE statutory guidance

Following the OFSTED review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges which was published in June 2021, the DFE is proposing to withdraw its non-statutory guidance on child-on-child abuse and incorporate it into the statutory KCSIE guidance.

The DFE consider that incorporating it into the KCSIE will “give the issue the prominence it deserves in statutory guidance”.

The DFE also considers that it will reduce duplication, as a significant portion of Part Five of the KCSIE is made up of the non-statutory guidance.

The DFE also proposes to replace ‘peer-on-peer abuse’ with ‘child-on-child abuse’ and to use the terms ‘victims’ and ‘perpetrators’ throughout the guidance, so as to provide consistency and clarity.

Students may not feel ready to speak about abuse or recognise they are being abused

Following the OFSTED review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges, the DFE proposes to include in the section on ‘what school and college staff need to know’, that staff need to be aware that students may not feel ready to report abuse, they may not know how to tell someone that they are being abused or that they may not recognise that they are being abused.

Get involved

You can access the consultation to take part by visiting the Keeping children safe in education - schools and colleges - proposed revisions 2022 - Department for Education - Citizen Space and selecting ‘Give us your views: Online Survey’. 

Schools and Colleges are strongly encouraged to take part in the consultation to ensure their views on the proposed changes are heard. The consultation is open until 8 March, 2022.

More information can be found on the DFE's Keeping children safe in education: proposed revisions 2022 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) web page.

Irwin Mitchell's education law team has experts from all different areas of law coming together to provide educational institutions with support and advice around all possible areas of law, and regularly advise schools and colleges on safeguarding issues. 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding safeguarding and child protection in education please contact the Public Law Team at Irwin Mitchell via our website.