The government plans to look at how it can strengthen the role of designated safeguarding leads in schools to ensure vulnerable children “achieve and attend”.
A consultation due to launch later today will propose changes to the role so the leads have a “greater focus” on improving the academic achievement of children on the edge of care.
The Department for Education said the plans would specifically help children that experience challenges outside of school. The proposals include sharing information about how children’s circumstances are impacting on their education and supporting staff to find “effective ways of teaching … and maintaining a culture of high aspiration”.
The consultation follows the ‘children in need’ review into improving outcomes for the 1.6 million children known to social services.
These pupils lag behind their less vulnerable peers at GCSE, even if they are no longer classed as ‘in need’, and are also three times more likely to be persistently absent from school and up to four times more likely to be excluded.
Children’s minister Vicky Ford said she does not want “any child to slip through the cracks, which is why we are consulting on having a dedicated senior leader in schools to make sure schools know who their vulnerable children are, set high aspirations for them and put in place the right support so they can achieve.”
Safeguarding leads are currently responsible for co-ordinating the safeguarding of children, making sure staff across a school understand signs of child abuse and neglect, as well as referring concerns to children’s social care when appropriate.
The government said it will consult on what is needed to provide this help, in terms of resources, training and support. The changes will be introduced from September.
The children in need review found safeguarding leads played a “vital role in promoting educational outcomes, improving visibility of children, and working in support of other school staff to help them find effective ways of engaging and teaching these children”.
In the review, the government promised to “look to understand the capacity needed to strengthen the role”, by consulting as part of changes to the statutory guidance ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’.
The government added: “We recognise that schools are facing pressures, and any changes to the role will not be fully effective without the right support to deliver this.”
Former education secretary Damian Hinds also previously pledged to amend school admissions to “accelerate” the process of moving vulnerable children between school.
Schools Week had revealed some pupils were waiting up to ten and a half months for a school place.
Schools inconsistent in safeguarding investigations
A research report also published today found inconsistencies with how schools deal with allegations made against adults.
Schools varied in when they contacted the local authority designated officer and parents following an allegation, plus researchers also found differences in how schools deal with allegations against a staff member not directly employed.
The study, based on interviews with 32 schools and colleges last year, found schools would welcome a chart stating the steps to be taken if an allegation is made.