Searching pupils and confiscation

The DfE's latest guidance on searching pupils and confiscation places a bigger emphasis on safeguarding. Understand the rules on when you can search pupils and what process you should follow.

Last reviewed on 9 August 2023
See updates
School types: All · School phases: All
Ref: 3747
  1. Changes to guidance from September 2022
  2. Prioritise safeguarding 
  3. Who can carry out a search and when
  4. What you can search for
  5. How to carry out a search
  6. How to record searches
  7. What you can confiscate
  8. Searching and confiscating electronic devices
  9. You can require pupils to be screened

Changes to guidance from September 2022

The DfE reviewed and updated its guidance on searching, screening and confiscation.  

This followed the publication of the Safeguarding Practice Review report on the case of Child Q, where a pupil was strip-searched without parental consent at school. The Safeguarding Practice Review highlighted the need to put safeguarding at the centre of every school's approach to handling searches.

The updated DfE guidance places a bigger emphasis on your safeguarding duty. This includes:

  • Which staff members can search pupils
  • Recording certain searches in your school’s safeguarding system
  • What you should do before, during and after a search
  • Guidance on strip searches and supporting the pupil afterwards
  • The importance of staff understanding the rights of the pupil being searched

See below for a summary of the guidance. 

Prioritise safeguarding 

The need to safeguard all pupils by confiscating harmful, illegal, or disruptive