30 June, 2023
On 6 June 2023, the Department for Education (DfE) published an updated version of statutory safeguarding guidance for schools and colleges. The newest edition of Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) is set to come into effect on 1st September 2023. At present, KCSIE 2022 remains in place until 31st August 2023, though this update will highlight the changes implemented by KCSIE 2023 and the steps we recommend schools and colleges take to prepare.
KCSIE is statutory guidance produced by the DfE, issued under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002. The guidance sets out legal duties that all schools, colleges, and other institutions within England and Wales must adhere to when performing their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of those children under the age of eighteen.
KCSIE applies to schools, including maintained, non-maintained and independent schools (which is intending to include academies, free schools, and alternative provision academies), maintained nursery schools and pupil referral units. Colleges are also subject to the KCSIE guidelines, and the term 'college' is used by KCSIE to encompass further education colleges and sixth-form colleges. The term 'college' can also mean providers of post-16 education.
Since implementation, the KCSIE guidance demands that schools and colleges are proactive in identifying safeguarding risks and promoting the welfare of the children in their care. Non-compliance with KCSIE can cause schools and colleges to incur significant liability, including criminal and civil liabilities for negligence, as a result of a school or college breaching the duty of care owed to pupils and students whilst under, their supervision.
Major changes in the guidance relate to the increased expectations and responsibilities with regards to the school's filtering monitoring systems for IT which can be found here.
Relevant changes include:
Governing boards to review the DfE's filtering and monitoring systems. Boards are encouraged to discuss with IT staff and service providers to establish what the school and colleges must do to ensure they are compliant. These changes are significant as they reinforce the importance of providing a safe environment for pupils to learn and work online. Filtering and monitoring are both integral parts of safeguarding pupils and members of staff from potentially harmful online material. To ensure schools and colleges are meeting this obligation we recommend reviewing safeguarding and training policies, to ensure that effective filtering and monitoring procedures are reflected within them. Guidance by the DfE states schools and colleges should review their filtering and monitoring systems on an annual basis.
When schools shortlist potential candidates the school should now inform those who have been shortlisted that online searches maybe conducted as part of the due diligence checks.
Schools should ensure that they review their job candidate privacy notes and recruitment policies to ensure that potential candidates are aware that online searches may be conducted as part of due diligence checks. Moreover, schools and colleges should satisfy themselves that they have clearly communicated the lawful basis on which this personal information will be collected.
KCSIE 2023 provides that if your school or college receives an allegation relating to an incident where an organisation or individual operates on the school premises to run activities for children, they should seek to comply with the school or colleges safeguarding policies and procedures. It is also now clarified that the local authority designated officer should be informed, as a matter of course, in cases where safeguarding incidents of this kind occur.
This clarification within KCSIE 2023 should encourage schools and colleges to look at their current pre-existing contractual arrangements with providers they hire their premises to and determine whether they are obliged to comply with relevant policies and procedures as a condition of their hire of the premises. If not, schools and colleges should consider the benefit of implementing this as a condition for hire, moving forwards.
Annex B of the KCSIE 2023 guidance contains further guidance in relation to forced marriage :'[S]ince February 2023 it has also been a crime to carry out any conduct whose purpose is to cause a child to marry before their eighteenth birthday, even if violence, threats or another form of coercion are not used. As with the existing forced marriage law, this applies to non-binding, unofficial 'marriages' as well as legal marriages.'
Considering this, schools and colleges should ensure that forced marriage is adequately referred to within their safeguarding and child protection policies, to reflect the changes in law.
Schools should ensure that they have read the updated statutory guidance and ensure they have reviewed their safeguarding and child protection policies in readiness for the 1st September 2023. Failure to do so can, in some circumstances, can lead to a prison sentence of up to five years and/or a fine for the individual who failed to safeguard. Schools and organisations (under the Care Act 2014) may also face disciplinary action for failing to adequately safeguard their pupils.
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