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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-safeguarding-in-schools-colleges-and-other-providers/coronavirus-covid-19-safeguarding-in-schools-colleges-and-other-providers
This guidance is relevant to all schools, whether maintained, non-maintained or independent (including academies, academy trusts, free schools and alternative provision academies), maintained nursery schools and pupil referral units.
Where the guidance refers to ‘colleges’ this includes all of the following:
- further education colleges
- sixth-form colleges
- institutions designated as being in the further education sector
- other further education providers, funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, such as 16 to 19 academies and independent learning providers, including special post-16 institutions
This is interim safeguarding guidance, it is under review and will continue to be updated as required.
Help and support
Advice for the education sector is being updated regularly.
DfE coronavirus helpline
If you have a query about coronavirus (COVID-19) relating to schools and other educational establishments, and children's social care, in England contact our helpline.
Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm
Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm
If you work in a school, please have your unique reference number (URN or UK PRN) available when calling the helpline.
From the week commencing 1 June, we expect to be able to welcome back more children to early years, school and further education settings. See guidance on actions for education and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020 for more details. The department has also published guidance on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings to support this.
We have updated this safeguarding guidance to support schools and colleges plan for this return.
Each school and college’s circumstances will be slightly different. Any school or college that cannot achieve the small groups necessary at any point should discuss options with their local authority or trust. This might be because there are not enough classrooms/spaces available in the setting or because they do not have enough available teachers/staff to supervise the groups.
Whilst the ages and number of children returning will vary from institution to institution, the safeguarding principles to protect those children from harm and abuse will remain broadly the same.
Role of the local authority
The department is working closely with all local authorities and safeguarding partners to ensure that more children can attend childcare, school or college from 1 June. The department will, via regional school commissioners, continue to support local authorities’ crucial responsibilities in maintaining effective safeguarding and child protection services in this challenging time to ensure schools and colleges can access the support they need.
Keeping children safe in schools and colleges
Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) is statutory safeguarding guidance that schools and colleges should continue to have regard to as required by legislation and/or their funding agreements.
Whilst acknowledging the pressure that schools and colleges are under, it remains essential that they continue to be safe places for children. As more children are welcomed back to school and college, this guidance:
- supports governing bodies, proprietors, senior leadership teams and designated safeguarding leads (DSLs) so they can continue to have appropriate regard to KCSIE and keep their children safe
- suggests where schools and colleges might consider safeguarding policy and process differently when compared to business as usual
The way schools and colleges are operating in response to coronavirus continues to be different to business as usual. However, as more children return, a number of important safeguarding principles remain the same:
- the best interests of children must always continue to come first
- if anyone in a school or college has a safeguarding concern about any child they should continue to act and act immediately
- a DSL or deputy should be available
- it is essential that unsuitable people are not allowed to enter the children’s workforce and/or gain access to children
- children should continue to be protected when they are online
Schools and colleges should, as far as is reasonably possible, take a whole institution approach to safeguarding. This will allow them to satisfy themselves that any new policies and processes in response to coronavirus are not weakening their approach to safeguarding or undermining their child protection policy. It will be especially important that wider opening risk assessments (as set out in action or education and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June) and related Health and Safety risk assessments are appropriately linked into a school or colleges approach to safeguarding and child protection policy. For information on health and safety and advice linked to coronavirus see managing school premises during the coronavirus outbreak and coronavirus information and advice from Health and Safety Executive.
The department has also published information on prevent management support for schools and colleges who have pupils/students receiving Channel support. Prevent is a vital part of our work to safeguard children from radicalising influences, and it remains in operation in local authorities during this challenging time.
Child protection policy
Schools and colleges will have an effective child protection policy in place reflecting business as usual. This should already have been updated to reflect the response to coronavirus. The planned return of more children is an appropriate time to consider a further review (led by a DSL or deputy, wherever possible). In some cases, a coronavirus annex/addendum that summaries any key coronavirus related changes might be more effective than re-writing and re-issuing the whole policy. The revised child protection policy should reflect the return of more children from 1 June and this might include, but should not be limited to:
- reflecting that staff and volunteers may identify new safeguarding concerns about individual children as they see them in person following partial school closures
- what staff and volunteers should do if they have any concerns about a child, including new concerns where children are returning
- the continued importance of all staff and volunteers acting and acting immediately on any safeguarding concerns, including new concerns where children are returning
- reflecting (where resources allow) that DSLs (and deputies) will have more time to support staff and children regarding new concerns (and referrals as appropriate) as more children return
- reflecting the importance of ensuring relevant safeguarding and welfare information held on all children (including returning children) remains accurate. Schools and colleges (led by the DSL or deputy) should be doing all they reasonably can to ask parents and carers to advise them of any changes regarding welfare, health and wellbeing that they should be aware of before a child returns
- DSL (and deputy) arrangements
- peer on peer abuse - given the different circumstances schools and colleges are operating in, a revised process may be required for managing any report of such abuse and supporting victims (the principles as set out in part 5 of KCSIE should continue to inform any revised approach)
- what staff and volunteers should do if they have concerns about a staff member or volunteer who may pose a safeguarding risk to children (the principles in part 4 of KCSIE will continue to support how a school or college responds to any such concerns)
- the approach to protecting vulnerable children (see below for further details on vulnerable children)
- what arrangements are in place to keep children not physically attending the school or college safe, especially online and how concerns about these children should be progressed (see below for further details covering online safety)
- any updated advice received from the local safeguarding partners. DSLs (or deputies) should be leading the school or college’s input into the local arrangements
- any updated advice received from local authorities regarding children with education, health and care (EHC) plans, the local authority designated officer and children’s social care, reporting mechanisms, referral thresholds and children in need
- the continued importance for school and college staff to work with and support children’s social workers, the local authority virtual school head for looked-after and previously looked-after children and any other relevant safeguarding and welfare partners
It is important that all staff and volunteers are aware of the new policy and are kept up to date as it is revised. The revised policy should continue to be made available publicly.
Designated safeguarding leads (DSLs)
As more children return, it is expected that schools and colleges will have a trained DSL (or deputy) available on site. However, it is recognised that in exceptional circumstances this may not always be possible, and where this is the case there are two options to consider:
- a trained DSL (or deputy) from the school or college can be available to be contacted via phone or online video - for example working from home
- sharing trained DSLs (or deputies) with other schools or colleges (who should be available to be contacted via phone or online video)
Where a trained DSL (or deputy) is not on site, in addition to one of the above options, a senior leader should take responsibility for co-ordinating safeguarding on site. This might include updating and managing access to child protection files, liaising with the offsite DSL (or deputy) and as required liaising with children’s social workers where they require access to children in need and/or to carry out statutory assessments at the school or college.
Whatever the scenario, it is important that all school and college staff and volunteers have access to a trained DSL (or deputy) and know on any given day who that person is and how to speak to them.
The DSL (or deputy) should provide support to teachers and pastoral staff to ensure that contact is maintained with children (and their families) who are not yet returning to school or college. Where possible staff should try and speak directly to children to help identify any concerns. Staff should be encouraged (where possible) to make calls from the school or college site via school or college phones and devices. Where staff use personal phones to make calls, they should withhold their personal number.
It is acknowledged that DSL training is unlikely to take place during this period (although the option of online training can be explored). For the period coronavirus measures are in place, a DSL (or deputy) who has been trained will continue to be classed as a trained DSL (or deputy) even if they miss their refresher training.
DSLs (and deputies) should continue to do what they reasonably can to keep up to date with safeguarding developments, such as via safeguarding partners, newsletters and professional advice groups.
Every school and college will face unique challenges at this time, including as they welcome back more children. Where reasonably possible and where relevant, the DSL (or deputy) should consider these challenges in a child protection context and reflect them in the child protection policy as appropriate.
Identification of vulnerable children
Vulnerable children for the purposes of continued attendance during the coronavirus outbreak are those across all year groups who:
- are assessed as being in need under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, including children who have a child in need plan, a child protection plan or who are a looked-after child
- have an education, health and care (EHC) plan and it is determined, following risk assessment (risk assessment guidance), that their needs can be as safely or more safely met in the educational environment
- have been assessed as otherwise vulnerable by educational providers or local authorities (including children’s social care services), and who could therefore benefit from continued attendance. This might include children and young people on the edge of receiving support from children’s social care services, adopted children, those at risk of becoming NEET (‘not in employment, education or training’), those living in temporary accommodation, those who are young carers and others at the provider and local authority’s discretion
Read more in the guidance on vulnerable children and young people.
Local authorities have the key day-to-day responsibility for delivery of children’s social care. Social workers and virtual school heads will continue to work with vulnerable children in this difficult period. School and college staff (supported by the DSL or deputy) should continue to work with and support children’s social workers, virtual school heads and any other relevant safeguarding and welfare partners to help protect vulnerable children.
Vulnerable children attendance is expected, where it is appropriate for them (that is, where there are no shielding concerns for the child or their household, and/or following a risk assessment for children with an EHC plan), so that they can gain the educational and wellbeing benefits of attending. Vulnerable children – regardless of year group – that have not been attending in the recent period are expected to return to nursery, early years, school or college provision where this would now be appropriate for them to do so. We expect educational providers and other relevant partners to work with and support the relevant families and pupils to return to school or college, where attendance is appropriate. A brief summary of attendance expectations across the different groups of vulnerable children is as follows:
- for vulnerable children who have a social worker, attendance is expected unless the child/household is shielding or clinically vulnerable (see the advice set out by Public Health England on households with possible coronavirus infection and shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as clinically extremely vulnerable
- for vulnerable children who have an education health and care (EHC) plan, attendance is expected where it is determined, following risk assessment, that their needs can be as safely or more safely met in the educational environment
- for vulnerable children who are deemed otherwise vulnerable, at the school, college or local authority discretion, attendance is expected unless the child/household is shielding or clinically vulnerable (see the advice set out by Public Health England on households with possible coronavirus infection and shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as clinically extremely vulnerable
Read more in the guidance on vulnerable children and young people.
Schools and colleges should continue to notify social workers where children with a social worker do not attend. They should also continue to follow up with any parent or carer whose child has been expected to attend and doesn’t. To support the above, schools and colleges should take the opportunity when communicating with parents and carers to confirm emergency contact numbers are correct and ask for any additional emergency contact numbers where they are available.
Parents and carers will not be penalised if their child does not attend educational provision.
Schools and colleges should resume taking their attendance register from 1 June and continue to complete the online Educational Setting Status form which gives the Department for Education daily updates on how many children and staff are attending.
Staff training and safeguarding induction
All existing school and college staff will already have had safeguarding training and have read part 1 of KCSIE. The important thing for these staff will be awareness of any new local arrangements, especially if these are being reviewed/changed as a result of more children returning, so they know what to do if they are worried about a child.
Where new staff are recruited, or new volunteers enter the school or college, they should continue to be provided with a safeguarding induction. An up to date child protection policy (described above) will support this process as will part 1 of KCSIE.
The existing school and college workforce may continue to move between schools and colleges on a temporary basis in response to coronavirus. The receiving school or college should judge, on a case-by-case basis, the level of safeguarding induction required. In most cases, the existing workforce will already have received appropriate safeguarding training and all they will require is a copy of the receiving setting’s child protection policy, confirmation of local processes and confirmation of DSL arrangements.
Children moving schools and colleges
It will be important for any school or college whose children are attending another setting to continue to do whatever they reasonably can to provide the receiving institution with any relevant welfare and child protection information. This will be especially important where children are vulnerable. For looked-after children, any change in school should be led and managed by the virtual school head with responsibility for the child. The receiving institution should be aware of the reason the child is vulnerable and any arrangements in place to support them. As a minimum the receiving institution should, as appropriate, have access to a vulnerable child’s EHC plan, child in need plan, child protection plan or, for looked-after children, their personal education plan and know who the child’s social worker (and, for looked-after children, who the responsible virtual school head is). This should ideally happen before a child arrives and, where that is not possible as soon as reasonably practicable. Any exchanges of information will ideally happen at DSL (or deputy) level, and likewise between special educational needs co-ordinators/named individual with oversight of special educational needs (SEN) provision for children with EHC plans. However, it is acknowledged this may not always be possible. Where this is the case senior leaders should take responsibility.
Whilst schools and colleges must continue to have appropriate regard to data protection law, that does not prevent the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. Further advice about information sharing can be found at paragraphs 76 to 83 of KCSIE.
Safer recruitment/volunteers and movement of staff
It remains essential that people who are unsuitable are not allowed to enter the children’s workforce or gain access to children. Schools and colleges should use their judgement on whether recruitment is needed and how this can best be done given the circumstances. If schools and colleges are recruiting new staff, they should continue to follow the relevant safer recruitment processes for their setting, including, as appropriate, relevant sections in part 3 of KCSIE. In response to coronavirus, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has made changes to its guidance on standard and enhanced DBS ID checking to minimise the need for face-to-face contact. The Home Office and Immigration Enforcement have also temporarily adjusted the right to work checks due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Where schools and colleges are utilising volunteers, they should continue to follow the checking and risk assessment process as set out in paragraphs 167 to 172 of KCSIE. Under no circumstances should a volunteer who has not been checked be left unsupervised or allowed to work in regulated activity.
Regarding members of the school or college workforce already engaging in regulated activity and who already have the appropriate DBS check, there is no expectation that a new DBS check should be obtained where that member of the workforce temporarily moves to another school or college to support the response to coronavirus. The type of setting on the DBS check, for example a specific category of school, is not a barrier. The same principle applies if childcare workers move to work temporarily in a school setting. The receiving institution should risk assess as they would for a volunteer (see above). Whilst the onus remains on schools and colleges to satisfy themselves that someone in their setting has had the required checks, including as required those set out in part 3 of KCSIE, in the above scenario this can be achieved, if the receiving institution chooses to, via seeking assurance from the current employer rather than requiring new checks.
There is no requirement to obtain a new DBS check for returning staff who have continued to be employed but have not been working in regulated activity during partial school closures. If for any reason the school or college have concerns about the individual, they may obtain a new check in the usual way.
Schools and colleges must continue to follow their legal duty to refer to the DBS anyone who has harmed or poses a risk of harm to a child or vulnerable adult. Full details can be found at paragraph 163 of KCSIE.
Schools and colleges should continue to consider and make referrals to the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) as per paragraph 166 of KCSIE and the TRA’s advice for making a referral. During the coronavirus period all referrals should be made by emailing email@example.com. All referrals received by the TRA will continue to be considered. Where referrals on serious safeguarding matters are received and it is deemed that there is a public interest in doing so consideration will be given as to whether an interim prohibition order (IPO) should be put in place. The TRA will continue to progress all cases but will not schedule any hearings at the current time.
Whilst acknowledging the challenge of the current environment, it is essential from a safeguarding perspective that any school or college is aware, on any given day, which staff/volunteers will be in the school or college, and that appropriate checks have been carried out, especially for anyone engaging in regulated activity. This will be more important than ever as more children and staff return. As such, schools and colleges must continue to keep the single central record (SCR) up to date as outlined in paragraphs 148 to 156 in KCSIE. The SCR can, if a school or college chooses, provide the means to log everyone that will be working or volunteering in a school or college on any given day, including any staff who may be on loan from other institutions. The SCR can also, if a school or college chooses, be used to log details of any risk assessments carried out on volunteers and staff on loan from elsewhere.
Negative experiences and distressing life events, such as the current circumstances, can affect the mental health of children and their parents. Where they have children of critical workers and vulnerable children on site, and/or more children returning to school from 1 June onwards, schools and colleges should ensure appropriate support is in place for them.
Our guidance on mental health and behaviour in schools (which may also be useful for colleges) can help schools to identify children who might need additional support, and to put this support in place. The guidance sets out how mental health issues can bring about changes in a child’s behaviour or emotional state which can be displayed in a range of different ways, all of which could be an indication of an underlying problem. This can include for example being fearful or withdrawn; aggressive or oppositional; or excessive clinginess. Support for pupils and students in the current circumstances can include existing provision in the school or college (although this may be delivered in different ways, for example over the phone for those children still not attending provision) or from specialist staff or support services.
Teachers should be aware of the impact the current circumstances can have on the mental health of those students/pupils (and their parents) who are continuing to work from home, including when setting expectations of childrens’ work. The department has provided separate guidance on remote education practices during the coronavirus outbreak.
Online safety in schools and colleges
As more children return it will be important that schools and colleges continue to provide a safe online environment for those who remain at home. Schools and colleges should continue to ensure that appropriate filters and monitoring systems (read guidance on what “appropriate” looks like) are in place to protect children when they are online on the school or college’s IT systems. Schools and colleges should consider who in their institution has the technical knowledge to maintain safe IT arrangements. Schools and colleges should also consider what their contingency arrangements are if their IT staff become unavailable.
The UK Council for Internet Safety provides information to help governing bodies and proprietors assure themselves that any new arrangements continue to effectively safeguard children online.
Internet Matters vulnerable children in a digital world-report may help governing bodies, proprietors, senior leaders and DSLs understand more about the potential increased risks some groups of children can face online.
The UK Safer Internet Centre’s professional online safety helpline, email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0344 381 4772 provides support for the children’s workforce with any online safety issues they face.
The NSPCC Learning website also provides useful support and training opportunities for professionals.
Local authorities may also be able to provide support.
Children and online safety away from school and college
All schools and colleges should be doing what they reasonably can to keep all their children safe. Whilst more children return to school and college, others will continue to stay at home and, in many cases, will be continuing to engage with their school or college online.
It is important that all staff who interact with children, including online, continue to look out for signs a child may be at risk. Any such concerns should be dealt with as per the child protection policy and where appropriate referrals should continue to be made to children’s social care and as required the police.
The department has provided guidance on safeguarding and remote education to support schools and colleges plan lessons safely. Case studies are available for schools to learn from each other’s emerging practice as they develop their approaches to providing remote education.
Virtual lessons and live streaming
There is no expectation that teachers should live stream or provide pre-recorded videos. Schools and colleges should consider the approaches that best suit the needs of their children and staff.
Guidance from the National Cyber Security Centre on which video conference service is right for you and using video conferencing services securely can help set up video conferencing safely, if you choose to use it.
In addition, guidance from the UK Safer Internet Centre on safe remote learning includes detailed advice for real time online teaching and the London Grid for Learning safeguarding advice includes platform specific advice.
Teaching from home is different to teaching in the classroom. Teachers should try to find a quiet or private room or area to talk to pupils, parents or carers. When broadcasting a lesson or making a recording, also consider what will be in the background.
All schools and colleges should continue to consider the safety of their children when they are asked to work online. The starting point for online teaching should be that the same principles as set out in the school’s or college’s staff behaviour policy (sometimes known as a code of conduct) should be followed. This policy should amongst other things include acceptable use of technologies, staff pupil/student relationships and communication including the use of social media. The policy should apply equally to any existing or new online and distance learning arrangements which are introduced.
Schools and colleges should, as much as is reasonably possible, consider if their existing policies adequately reflect that some children (and in some cases staff) continue to work remotely online. As with the child protection policy, in some cases an annex/addendum summarising key coronavirus related changes may be more effective than re-writing/re-issuing the whole policy.
The principles set out in the guidance for safer working practice for those working with children and young people in education settings published by the Safer Recruitment Consortium may help schools and colleges satisfy themselves that their staff behaviour policies are robust and effective. In some areas schools and colleges may be able to seek support from their local authority when planning online lessons/activities and considering online safety.
Schools and colleges should continue to ensure any use of online learning tools and systems is in line with privacy and data protection requirements.
An essential part of the online planning process will be ensuring children who are being asked to work online have very clear reporting routes in place so they can raise any concerns whilst online. As well as reporting routes back to the school or college this should also signpost children to age appropriate practical support from the likes of:
- Childline - for support
- UK Safer Internet Centre - to report and remove harmful online content
- CEOP - for advice on making a report about online abuse
Schools and colleges are likely to be in regular contact with parents and carers. Those communications should continue to be used to reinforce the importance of children being safe online. It will be especially important for parents and carers to be aware of what their children are being asked to do online, including the sites they will asked to access and be clear who from the school or college (if anyone) their child is going to be interacting with online.
Parents and carers may choose to supplement the school or college online offer with support from online companies and in some cases individual tutors. In their communications with parents and carers, schools and colleges should emphasise the importance of securing online support from a reputable organisation/individual who can provide evidence that they are safe and can be trusted to have access to children.
Support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online includes:
- Thinkuknow provides advice from the National Crime Agency (NCA) on staying safe online
- Parent info is a collaboration between Parentzone and the NCA providing support and guidance for parents from leading experts and organisations
- Childnet offers a toolkit to support parents and carers of children of any age to start discussions about their online life, to set boundaries around online behaviour and technology use, and to find out where to get more help and support
- Internet Matters provides age-specific online safety checklists, guides on how to set parental controls on a range of devices, and a host of practical tips to help children get the most out of their digital world
- London Grid for Learning has support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online, including tips to keep primary aged children safe online
- Net-aware has support for parents and carers from the NSPCC and O2, including a guide to social networks, apps and games
- Let’s Talk About It has advice for parents and carers to keep children safe from online radicalisation
- UK Safer Internet Centre has tips, advice, guides and other resources to help keep children safe online, including parental controls offered by home internet providers and safety tools on social networks and other online services
Government has also provided:
- support for parents and carers to keep children safe from online harms, includes advice about specific harms such as online child sexual abuse, sexting, and cyberbullying
- support to stay safe online includes security and privacy settings, blocking unsuitable content, and parental controls
The department encourages schools and colleges to share this support with parents and carers.