Local councils, health services and police forces will have to involve schools in their safeguarding work from now on, the government has announced.
Updated statutory guidance on ‘Working together to safeguard children’ will include an expectation that all schools be “given a voice” in the work of those who set local safeguarding policy.
However, the government has rejected calls for schools to become a “fourth safeguarding partner” alongside local government, health services and the police, because it can’t easily change the law that sets out who is in charge. This is despite requests from “a significant number of respondents”, including many schools, that they be elevated to a partnership position.
Although schools have a legal duty to keep all their pupils safe, they do not currently have to be consulted on how other agencies deal with safeguarding.
The change to the guidance means those agencies will now be expected to make an “explicit reference” to how they plan to involve and “give a voice to” local schools in their safeguarding work.
Of 600 respondents to a question about the change in a recent consultation on the issue, 569 organisations agreed with the proposal to beef up the guidance.
Some groups, including the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and the NSPCC, “highlighted the crucial importance of the need for strong relationships between schools and the safeguarding partners”, the Department for Education said.
Those that disagreed “tended to do so on the basis that the expectation should be widened, to encompass other important safeguarding settings”.
“Through the events held across England in recent months, as well as through this consultation, we have heard that the involvement and voice of early years settings and colleges should be included in this specific expectation,” the DfE added in its statement.
As a result, the government will now “clarify the guidance further to stress the importance of all relevant education establishments and early-years settings”.