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School reopening safeguarding guidance: what you need to do
Know what actions you'll need to take to keep everyone safe as you prepare to open to all pupils in September.
Updates to this article
24 August: we updated the article with guidance on safeguarding pupils from September, both in school and at home.
- Follow KCSIE from September
- Keep your child protection policy up to date
- Get back to the statutory DSL requirements
- Resume standard procedures for recording attendance
- Provide staff with training and induction
- Make sure all adults are suitable to work with children
- Support children's mental health
- Maintain online safety in school
- Promote online safety outside school
Follow KCSIE from September
However, you may still find some areas of the withdrawn guidance useful for September – for example, for safeguarding pupils that have to learn from home because of coronavirus (such as in the case of a local lockdown or if they need to self-isolate).
We've therefore still referred to parts of the withdrawn guidance in the following sections below:
- 'Keep your child protection policy up to date'
- 'Get back to the statutory DSL requirements' (in particular, the sub-section on DSLs supporting teachers and pastoral staff)
- 'Support children's mental health'
- 'Promote online safety outside school'
Keep your child protection policy up to date
Your existing child protection policy will apply in September, but you should also cover any coronavirus-related changes or new arrangements – for example, how you'll safeguard pupils learning at home. You could do this in an addendum to your existing policy (download and adapt our model here).
It should cover:
- Any updated advice you've got from your 3 local safeguarding partners
- Any updated advice you've got from local authorities about:
- Children with EHC plans
- The local authority designated officer and children's social care
- Reporting mechanisms
- Referral thresholds
- Children in need
- That staff and volunteers may identify new safeguarding concerns about individual children as they start to see them in person
- The importance of all staff and volunteers acting immediately on any safeguarding concerns, including new concerns for returning children
- What staff and volunteers should do if they have any concerns about a child, including new concerns for returning children
- DSL (and deputy) arrangements, including that DSLs will have more time, especially in the first few weeks of term, to support staff and children regarding new concerns (and referrals as appropriate). DSLs should also work with agencies and services to actively look for signs of harm
- The importance of ensuring relevant safeguarding and welfare information held on all children remains accurate, doing all you reasonably can to ask parents and carers to advise you of any changes regarding welfare, health and wellbeing before a child returns
- The continued importance of staff working with:
- Children's social workers
- The virtual school heads (VSH) for looked-after and previously looked-after children
- Any other relevant safeguarding and welfare partners
- Any revisions to your process for managing reports of peer-on-peer abuse and supporting victims (use the principles set out in part 5 of Keeping Children Safe in Education to guide your approach)
- What staff and volunteers should do if they have any concerns about a staff member, supply teacher or volunteer who may pose a safeguarding risk to children (use the principles set out in part 4 of Keeping Children Safe in Education to guide your approach)
- The approach to protecting vulnerable children
- What arrangements you have to keep children not physically attending school safe and how to act on concerns about these children
- What arrangements you have in place to keep children safe online at home
Make staff and volunteers aware of changes to your policy, and keep them up to date on any further changes. Make sure your policy is available publicly, for example by uploading it to your school website.
Get back to the statutory DSL requirements
The DfE told us you'll need to follow KCSIE in full from September, which means you'll no longer be able to share a DSL or deputy with another school.
However, you'll still have the option for your DSL or deputy to be available via phone or video call if, in exceptional circumstances, they're not able to be on site (as this is set out in KCSIE – page 101 in the 2020 version that applies from 1 September).
In this case, it'll still be good practice to also appoint a senior leader to co-ordinate safeguarding on site (as advised in the withdrawn guidance), to liaise with your off-site DSL/deputy, update and manage access to child protection files, liaise with children's social workers, etc. as necessary.
Reverting back to following KCSIE in full will also mean that DSLs and deputies will need to keep their training up to date.
The DSL should provide support to teachers and pastoral staff
They should make sure these staff maintain contact with children (and their families) who remain at home because they're following clinical and/or public health advice (e.g. if they're self-isolating).
Where possible, staff should try and speak directly to children to help identify any concerns. And where possible, calls should be made from the school site on school phones and devices – if calls need to be made from personal phones, the number should be withheld.
Resume standard procedures for recording attendance
The government expects all pupils to attend school in the autumn, unless they have a statutory reason not to, e.g. if they:
- Have been granted a leave of absence
- Are unable to attend because of sickness
- Are unable to attend because they're complying with clinical and/or public health advice given to them (e.g. if they're self-isolating and waiting for a test result)
- Are absent for a necessary religious observance
Find out how to record attendance from September here.
Provide staff with training and induction
Run safeguarding INSET training as usual. If you're a member of Safeguarding Training Centre from The Key, download and deliver our INSET presentation and resources, all fully in line with the 2020 Keeping Children Safe in Education and optimised for remote delivery.
Make your existing staff aware of any changes to local arrangements, so they can act if they're worried about a child, and make sure you give any new staff and volunteers a safeguarding induction.
Make sure all adults are suitable to work with children
Recruiting new staff:
- Follow your safer recruitment processes
- Do your usual checks and risk assessments for new volunteers – don't leave volunteers unsupervised or let them work in regulated activity if they haven't been checked
From September, you'll need to conduct safeguarding checks for new staff in person again (e.g. validating proof of identify documents to apply for a DBS check), rather than carrying them out remotely.
Make referrals to the DBS and TRA
You still have a legal duty to refer anyone who has harmed or poses a risk to a child or vulnerable adult to the DBS (as per paragraph 179 of the 2020 version of KCSIE).
You should also make referrals to the Teaching Regulation Agency about potential teacher misconduct. The DfE told us that from September you can still make referrals via the email email@example.com.
Support children's mental health
Make sure your staff are aware of the possible effects that the coronavirus period may have had on pupils’ mental health. When pupils return to school, staff will need to look out for behavioural signs, including pupils being fearful, withdrawn, aggressive, oppositional or excessively clingy, to help identify where support may be needed.
All staff should also be aware that mental health problems can, in some cases, be an indicator that a child has suffered, or is at risk of suffering, abuse, neglect or exploitation. Only trained professionals should attempt to diagnose a mental health problem, but staff are well placed to observe children day-to-day and identify any potential problems (as explained on page 11 of the 2020 version of KCSIE).
If you're a member of Safeguarding Training Centre, deliver our 40-minute presentation on reintegrating pupils following closure to help you do this.
Report mental health concerns about pupils at home too
Continue to provide support for pupils who have to stay at home, by e.g. delivering support over the phone or getting help from relevant specialist support services.
If staff have a mental health concern about a child at home, they should follow your child protection policy and speak to your DSL.
Maintain online safety in school
Make sure there's someone available to maintain safe arrangements for your IT systems (like filtering and monitoring systems), and have contingency arrangements in case your IT staff are unavailable.
You can use these questions from the UK Council for Internet Safety to ask yourself whether your arrangements continue to effectively safeguard children online (they're aimed at governors but will be useful for you).
Promote online safety outside school
See our tips for safeguarding during remote learning for help with this, and the steps below for what procedures you should have in place.
Staff should follow your policies
Staff should continue to look out for signs that a child is at risk while they're not at school, including when interacting with them online.
They should follow your policy for reporting concerns, and make referrals to children's social care and the police as needed.
Review whether your staff behaviour policy/code of conduct is still relevant
Your staff behaviour policy or code of conduct still applies to any remote learning you do. This should already cover acceptable use of technologies, staff/pupil relationships and communication, including the use of social media.
If your current policy doesn't reflect the new remote learning situation well enough, adapt and use our model behaviour policy addendum – it summarises key changes due to COVID-19.
Make sure children know where to go with concerns
Let them know how to report back to your school, and make them aware of further sources of support, such as:
Communicate with parents and carers about online safety too
Use your communications with parents and carers to reinforce the importance of children being safe online. Make sure they're aware of:
- What you're asking their children to do online and what sites they'll be using
- Who from your school will be interacting with their children online, if anyone
- The importance of using reputable organisations or individuals if parents/carers are getting additional support for their children (e.g. through online companies or tutors). They should be able to provide evidence of being safe to work with children
- Resources that can help them keep their children safe online, like:
If you're a member of Safeguarding Training Centre from The Key, take a look at our parent factsheets.
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