New schools safeguarding guidance reflects latest concerns

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The Government has updated its safeguarding guidance for schools to include the introduction of GDPR and tackle concerns about female genital mutilation and child-on-child sexual violence.

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The statutory guidance for schools and colleges, ‘Keeping children safe in education’, which was originally published in March 2015, has been amended throughout to reflect the ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018’ guide, published in July.

In a list of what staff need to know, the document now includes:

  • an understanding of the school’s behaviour policy
  • knowledge of the school’s safeguarding response to children missing education
  • awareness of the identity and role of the designated safety lead (DSL) and deputies

The safeguarding guidance has also been updated to reflect the Data Protection Act 2018 and the introduction of General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in May this year.

The document emphasises that fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote children’s welfare and protect their safety, and refers staff to Government guidance paper ‘Information sharing advice for safeguarding practitioners'.

Where reasonably possible, the updated statutory safeguarding guidance suggests it is good practice for schools to hold more than one emergency contact number for each pupil or student, above the legal minimum.

The amended document also includes information on the mandatory reporting duty on teachers in cases of female genital mutilation (FGM). While all staff should speak to the DSL or deputy about any concerns relating to FGM, there is a specific legal duty on teachers, who, if they discover FGM has been carried out on a girl under the age of 18, must report it directly to the police.

A new section covering child-on-child sexual violence and harassment has been added, with guidance on risk assessment, responding to a report, managing a report, and providing ongoing support and safeguarding to the victim.

The document also directs practitioners to the Government’s ‘Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges’ publication on how to prevent and respond to reports of child-on-child sexual violence and harassment.

Schools and colleges must have their own individual child protection policy to reflect local circumstances, according to the amendments. While this does not stop a proprietor of multiple schools from having an overarching child protection policy, the guidance suggests this should be built on locally to ensure local procedures and protocols can be reflected.

The guidance also now takes into account previously looked after children, highlighting that they remain vulnerable as well as the importance of agencies working together to safeguard them.

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