Updated: Feb 8, 2022
Discussions on new safeguarding rules for schools are being held
Proposals include checking a candidate’s online history before hiring and regular safeguarding training for all governors
Schools must be given time to adopt any processes that will be required
In January, the Department of Education began a consultation on updating safeguarding rules in education, with a review into the Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) guidance.
While any changes to improve safeguarding processes in schools are always welcome, it is important schools know what is likely to come out of these consultations.
The Key Proposals
1. Safeguarding training for governors
Many schools already have their governors conduct some form of safeguarding training, but the latest proposals are likely to make the need for a training process explicit and mandatory, with training as part of the induction, with regular updates during their time as governor.
According to the documents on the consultation, this is so schools can ‘…ensure new governors/trustees understand their roles and responsibilities… [especially in] taking a strategic rather than an operational approach”.
2. Online Search in the Recruitment Process
The early-stage guidance also recommends adding a check of a candidate’s online history to the pre-employment vetting process already in place when hiring teachers. This check of a candidate’s previous online activity, including social media presence, will compliment other pre-employment checks that currently occur in the employment process for teachers, such as an Enhanced DBS Check and a Right to Work Check. The proposal explains that this well benefit schools by enabling them to ‘…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.’
3. Statutory guidance on child-on-child abuse
At present, guidance on abuse and violence between children is non-statutory. In order to bring the issue to the forefront following a major Ofsted review into the subject last year, the proposal outlines the desire for the non-statutory guidance into the KCSIE guidance to be removed and replaced with clearer, legally enforceable guidance.
The planned changes also place a greater emphasis on victim support, saying that children may not necessarily be ready to discuss incidents of abuse or neglect, or they may not recognise that what they are experiencing can be classified as such.
What This Means
While any measure to ensure the safety of students in schools is to be welcomed, it is imperative that any new rules that are adopted in September 2022 as a result of this consultation are announced in good time. Staff shortages in schools are going to hinder operations in education for the foreseeable future, so schools must be given as much time as possible to adopt any procedures necessary to ensure compliance with new rules.
However, many schools already have such processes in place, and it is pleasing to see a greater emphasis on a candidate’s digital history in the hiring process. The upcoming adoption of IDVT (Identity Document Validation Technology) (Digital ID Technology) should make the more rigorous vetting process simpler for schools, and provide them with a way of properly vetting their staff without the need for considerable resources and funds.
As long as schools are notified of the new rules far enough in advance so they can adapt to them, these changes can only have a positive impact on the welfare and safeguarding of students in schools and colleges.
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