On the 27th March, the DfE published their interim safeguarding guidance ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): safeguarding in schools, colleges and other providers’ in response to the current coronavirus outbreak.
Who is the guidance for?
In simple terms, pretty much every school, college and education provider in England. This includes all local-authority-maintained schools, nurseries, academies, PRUs, independent schools, colleges and further education (FE) providers.
Why has there been new safeguarding guidance published?
We are in unprecedented times which have led to an unprecedented set of circumstances. School closures and children learning from home means that current safeguarding guidance isn’t likely to reflect the current reality and, whilst many of the principles will remain the same, policies may need reviewing.
This new guidance published by the DfE acts to provide interim assistance and advice and will remain under constant review in line with developments around COVID-19.
Is current KCSiE guidance still relevant?
Yes. Absolutely. This guidance published by the DfE is only interim and is reflective of the fact that the current situation is temporary, and schools will eventually open again.
The DfE make it clear that schools and colleges must ensure they are meeting their statutory requirements outlined in KCSiE as far as possible. They must remain as safe a place as possible and continue to employ key safeguarding principles, such as safer recruitment policies and reporting immediate concerns.
It’s also important to note that schools and colleges should also, “as far as is reasonably possible, take a whole institution approach to safeguarding.” This is key. And is more important that ever given the more fragmented, remote approach to learning schools find themselves having to adopt.
Trying to maintain a whole school approach means that any new policies and processes in response to COVID-19 are not weakening a school’s current approach to safeguarding nor undermining their child protection policy.
What is different in the new interim guidance then?
The focus of the new guidance is not to implement new safeguarding or child protection policies but more to “review and revise” existing ones. This makes sense given that the situation is so fluid and there may be further changes required.
The interim guidance provides a number of points for schools and colleges to consider around updating their current child protection policy, including, for example, any advice received from the 3 safeguarding partners, DSL arrangements and the provisions in place to keep remote learners safe at home.
It also recognises the importance of a DSL and provides advice to schools on how to access a DSL if nobody is immediately available. Further advice on how vulnerable children should be supported, procedures around safer recruitment and support for pupils who may be experiencing mental health issues is also covered.
What about online safety?
The DfE state that providing a safe environment for children now is more important than ever. This includes online.
Having appropriate filters and monitoring systems in place is essential, particularly when children are online on the school or college’s IT systems or recommended resources. However, for those children who are away from school and are remote learners, there is a greater need to ensure they are safeguarded online.
The guidance touches on how schools should consider the safety of children if employing online teaching. For instance, behaviour, acceptable use, staff/pupil relationships and communication.
It emphasises the importance of staff vigilance when interacting with children in recognising signs that children may be at risk and also ensuring that clear reporting routes are available for children to raise any concerns.
From classroom to living room
However, and possibly, most importantly of all, it encourages parents and carers to feel supported in order to establish safe online practice at home.
With the majority of children spending more time at home rather than at school, it’s crucial that parents and carers are confident in tackling online safety – this goes back to taking a ‘whole school approach’ as mentioned earlier.
Whether through contact with the school or through a reputable online safety provider, the guidance encourages parents and carers to be involved in keeping their children safe online.
And in taking a more collaborative approach with the school, there is no reason why this can’t happen.
Learn what the COVID-19 interim safeguarding guidance means for you
At National Online Safety, we are one-step ahead of the curve.
Our ‘DfE KCSiE Remote Safeguarding Guidance: Online Safety for DSLs, Teachers and Parents’ course will provide you with an in-depth review of the interim guidance and what this means for you.
Click here to book you place on the course now.