COVID-19 - Updated Safeguarding Guidance

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Article

06 April, 2020

The Department for Education ("DfE") has published updated safeguarding guidance for schools, colleges and other education providers in light of the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The guidance is applicable to all schools, academies, independent schools, maintained nursery schools and pupil referral units as well as FE colleges, sixth-form colleges and other further education sector institutions, including those designated as such and funded by the EFSA.

The guidance highlights that it is likely that education provider's existing child protection policies do not accurately reflect the new guidance and therefore existing procedures will need to be kept under review and revised as necessary as circumstances change and evolve. It is also clear that, although these circumstances are unprecedented, education providers are still required to have regard to their statutory obligations under Keeping Children Safe in Education and must continue to operate in line with key safeguarding principles.

The most effective way for education providers to ensure their policies and procedures are up to date is to create an addendum to their existing child protection policy to cover how their standard procedures will be amended for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic, and this is the approach suggested by the DfE. Thereafter, the new addendum in place should be clearly communicated to staff and a mechanism put in place to ensure staff are made aware of any revisions down the line.

The DfE recommend that as a minimum the addendum should include:

  • any updated advice received from the provider's local 3 safeguarding partners
  • any updated advice received from local authorities regarding children with education, health and care (EHC) plans, the local authority designated officer and children's social care, reporting mechanisms, referral thresholds and children in need
  • what staff and volunteers should do if they have any concerns about a child
  • the continued importance of all staff and volunteers acting and acting immediately on any safeguarding concerns
  • DSL (and deputy) arrangements - in particular this should cover who staff can contact on any given day and how to contact them, plus arrangements if no DSL (or deputy) can be physically present onsite.
  • the continued importance for school and college staff to work with and support children's social workers and the local authority virtual school head (VSH) for looked-after and previously looked-after children
  • any revised process which may be required for managing reports of peer on peer abuse and supporting victims
  • what staff and volunteers should do if they have concerns about a staff member or volunteer who may pose a safeguarding risk to children
  • any arrangements to support children the school or college are concerned about who do not meet the 'vulnerable' definition (which includes those who have a social worker, children looked after by the local authority and those children and young people up to the age of 25 with EHC plans).
  • what arrangements are in place to keep children not physically attending the school or college safe, especially online and how concerns about these children should be progressed.

It will also be important for providers to keep this addendum under regular review to ensure that it is up to date with government, local authority and safeguarding partner guidance issued from time to time.

Click here for the full updated DfE guidance

We will provide further updates as matters develop, however if you have any queries arising as a result of this briefing, or you require any advice on the above, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our Education team on 0333 207 4462. or send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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