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Keeping children safe in education: government publishes new consultation

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a consultation on proposed changes to statutory safeguarding guidance. If approved, the changes will come into force in September 2022.

It has proposed making the following substantive changes: 

1. Conducting online searches on shortlisted candidates

The DfE proposes that conducting online searches of shortlisted candidates “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”.

2. Ensuring governors receive safeguarding and child protection training

The DfE proposes that safeguarding and child protection training for governors should be provided at induction and updated regularly, in order to ensure they understand their roles and responsibilities, particularly from a strategic rather than an operational stance.

3. Incorporating child-on-child abuse into KCSIE statutory guidance

Following the OFSTED review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges which was published in June 2021, the DFE is proposing to withdraw its non-statutory guidance on child-on-child abuse and incorporate it into the statutory KCSIE guidance.

The DfE consider that incorporating it into the KCSIE will “give the issue the prominence it deserves in statutory guidance”. It also believes this will reduce duplication, as a significant portion of Part Five of the KCSIE is made up of the non-statutory guidance.

The DfE also proposes to replace ‘peer-on-peer abuse’ with ‘child-on-child abuse’ and to use the terms ‘victims’ and ‘perpetrators’ throughout the guidance, so as to provide consistency and clarity.

4. Acknowledging the fact that students may not feel ready to speak about abuse or recognise they are being abused

Following the OFSTED review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges, the DfE proposes to include in the section on ‘what school and college staff need to know’, a statement that staff need to be aware that students may not feel ready to report abuse, they may not know how to tell someone that they are being abused or that they may not recognise that they are being abused to raise awareness.

How to respond

You can access the consultation and respond using this link: Keeping children safe in education - schools and colleges - proposed revisions 2022 - Department for Education - Citizen Space and selecting ‘Give us your views: Online Survey’. 

We recommend that schools and colleges take part in the consultation to ensure their views are taken into consideration. The consultation is open until 8 March, 2022.

You can find more information on the DfE's Keeping children safe in education: proposed revisions 2022 - GOV.UK ( web page.

Need help?

Irwin Mitchell's education law team has experts from all different areas of law coming together to provide educational institutions with support and advice around all possible areas of law, and regularly advise schools and colleges on safeguarding issues. 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding safeguarding and child protection in education please contact the Public Law Team at Irwin Mitchell via our website.

This article was written by Rachael Smurthwaite, an education law solicitor at Irwin Mitchell.