New school safeguarding rules: what you need to know

Consultation launched on changes to keeping children safe in education guidance

Consultation launched on changes to keeping children safe in education guidance

The government plans to encourage schools to trawl the social media of would-be employees and beef up training requirements for governors under proposed changes to safeguarding rules.

The Department for Education also wants child-on-child abuse guidance, which has been published separately since 2017, withdrawn and “incorporated throughout” its main statutory document for schools.

A consultation has been launched today on changes to the statutory keeping children safe in education (KCSIE) guidance. If approved, the changes would come into effect in September this year.

The consultation also seeks views on some changes enacted in 2021 and whether they have worked.

Many of the proposals are technical and involve moving guidance around the document itself.

But there are also several substantive changes proposed that will affect the way schools operate. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Consider ‘online search’ on shortlisted candidates

The DfE’s new draft guidance says that as part of the shortlisting process for new staff, schools “should consider carrying out an online search (including social media) as part of their due diligence on the shortlisted candidates”.

This “may help 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are publicly available online, which the school or college might want to explore with the applicant at interview”, the draft guidance states.

2. Ensure governors receive safeguarding training

Although the DfE said that evidence suggests the “majority of governors and trustees” already undertake “some form” of safeguarding training, they intend to make the need for it more explicit.

The new draft guidance states that governing bodies and school proprietors “should ensure that all governors and trustees receive appropriate safeguarding and child protection training at induction”.

This training “should be regularly updated”.

The consultation document states that training is “essential to ensure new governors/trustees understand their roles and responsibilities, particular in them taking a strategic rather than an operational approach”.

3. Child-on-child abuse guidance to become statutory

The DfE said it plans to withdraw its separate, non-statutory guidance on sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in school and colleges, which was first introduced in 2017 and last updated in 2021.

An Ofsted review into high-profile school sex abuse revelations last year on the Everyone’s Invited website referred several times to the DfE’s standalone guidance.

The DfE said making it “incorporated throughout KCSIE” would “give the issue the prominence it deserves in statutory guidance”.

This will also “remove duplication”, as “much of the content in the standalone advice was already in part five of KCSIE”, the department said.

The guidance will also be updated to use the phrase “child-on-child abuse”, rather than “peer-on-peer abuse”, and to use the terms “victims” and “perpetrators”. The DfE said this was done for “consistency”.

4. Children ‘may not feel ready’ to speak about abuse

In a section on “what school and college staff need to know”, the DfE has added a paragraph that states “all staff should be aware that children may not feel ready or know how to tell someone that they are being abused, exploited, or neglected, and/or they may not recognise their experiences as harmful”.

This article was amended to add the word “guidance” to the heading “Child-on-child abuse guidance to become statutory”.

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  1. Gary McVeigh-Kaye

    The suggestion for school leaders to look at a candidate’s social media pages is an incredibly dangerous precedent. This could act as a discriminatory measure against education staff who are seeking to change jobs.

    Unconscious bias would play a role in decision making that would not have a direct correlation to a person’s ability to undertake the job.

    This issue has been around for some time and I had to advise a headteacher on this very issue when the new teacher standards were introduced a few years ago. The headteacher was concerned as to what they might have to do to act if an issue arose about a member of staff’s conduct online. I explained that it was quite simple, if the member of staff in question had broken the law then the law would deal with the issue.

    Delving into a person’s social media profile, without full context, can in itself be a discriminatory act.