Schools have been told to review their child protection policies and warned they may have to rely on other schools’ safeguarding leads in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
New guidance on safeguarding during COVID-19 has been issued by the Department for Education.
It comes as schools are grappling with a new way of working, providing childcare only to the most vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.
All schools are required to have a written child protection policy, but the new guidance states that it is “likely” a school’s existing policy “will not accurately reflect new arrangements in response to COVID-19”.
It is therefore important that schools review and revise their policy and “keep it under review as circumstances continue to evolve”, the guidance says.
However, in some cases, an annex or addendum on COVID-19 “might be more effective” than re-writing and re-issuing the whole policy.
“It is important that all staff and volunteers are aware of the new policy and are kept up to date as it is revised. The revised policy should continue to be made available publicly.”
Schools could share safeguarding leads
Although having a trained designated safeguarding leave or deputy available on site is the “optimal scenario”, the government has accepted that this “may not be possible”.
If a DSL isn’t available, schools could consider either having their trained DSL or deputy available by phone or online video, or sharing DSLs or deputies with other schools and colleges, who would be available by phone or video.
“Where a trained DSL or deputy is not on site, in addition to one of the above options, the department recommend a senior leader takes responsibility for co-ordinating safeguarding on site.
“This might include updating and managing access to child protection files, liaising with the offsite DSL (or deputy) and as required liaising with children’s social workers where they require access to children in need and/or to carry out statutory assessments at the school or college.”
Regardless of which scenario they adopt, schools should ensure all their staff and volunteers known “on any given day” who their available DSL or deputy is, and how to speak to them.
The government has also clarified that DSLs or deputies who have been trained will continue to be classed as a trained DSL (or deputy), even if they miss their refresher training.
Provide all relevant info, schools urged
Any school whose children are attending another setting should do “whatever they reasonably can” to provide the new school with “any relevant welfare and child protection information”, the guidance states.
For looked-after children, changes should be led and managed by the local authority virtual school head who has responsibility for the child.
“As a minimum the receiving institution should, as appropriate, have access to a vulnerable child’s EHC plan, child in need plan, child protection plan or, for looked-after children, their personal education plan and know who the child’s social worker (and, for looked-after children, who the responsible virtual school head is).
“This should ideally happen before a child arrives and, where that is not possible as soon as reasonably practicable.”