Keeping children safe in education: updated statutory 2023 guidance


14th September 2023

Keeping Children Safe in Education 2023 (“the 2023 guidance”) came into force on 1 September 2023 and applies to: schools, academies, including maintained nursery schools, non-maintained special schools and college settings,16-19 academies; special post-16 institutions; pupil referral units and independent training providers in England.

The guidance is split into five key parts, with six annexes:

  1. Safeguarding information for all staff;
  2. The management of safeguarding;
  3. Safer recruitment;
  4. Safeguarding concerns or allegations made about staff, including supply teachers, volunteers and contractors; and
  5. Child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment

Schools and colleges in England must have regard to the 2023 guidance when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, i.e. those aged under 18. The 2023 guidance should also be read alongside:

  • Statutory guidance – which can be found here; and
  • Department for Education (DfE) advice – which can be found here.

The key changes that have been made in the 2023 guidance are as follows:

Part One: Safeguarding information for all staff

All staff should continue to be aware of systems within their school or college which support safeguarding, and these should be explained to them as part of staff induction. This should include a behaviour policy (with measures to prevent bullying, including cyberbullying, prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying) and the 2023 guidance updates the link to the UK Government’s ‘Behaviour in schools guidance’ (full details can be found here).

New text has also been added to raise awareness of the existing expectation for relevant staff to understand filtering and monitoring, and is expanded upon in Part Two.

Part Two: The Management of Safeguarding

Clarification around the roles and responsibilities of education staff in relation to filtering and monitoring

The 2023 guidance confirms that all staff should receive training on the expectations, applicable roles and responsibilities in relation to filtering and monitoring. This focuses on online safety and ensuring that staff and governors understand what filtering and monitoring is, and that it is in place to prevent children accessing inappropriate and harmful content online.

It is made clear that the DfE sees this as a clear safeguarding and welfare concern. A designated safeguarding lead (DSL) should take responsibility for understanding the filtering and monitoring systems in place at the school. In addition, these systems should be covered in the school’s safeguarding policy and also its safeguarding and child protection training to staff.

Schools and colleges are directed to have regard to the DfE’s latest filtering and monitoring standards and cyber security standards when assessing whether their filtering and monitoring systems are appropriate.

There are changes on this topic throughout the 2023 guidance, but note in particular paragraphs 103, 124, 138, 142 and 144.

Clarification that being absent, as well as missing, from education can be a warning sign of a range of safeguarding concerns, including sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or child criminal exploitation.

The 2023 guidance confirms that children who are absent from education for prolonged periods and/or on repeat occasions, may act as a warning sign to a range of safeguarding issues including neglect, sexual and child criminal exploitation.

It is important that the response to persistently absent pupils helps prevent them becoming a child missing education in the future. This includes when problems are first emerging but also where children are already known to local authority children’s social care and need a social worker. Being absent from education may increase known safeguarding risks within the family or in the community (set out in changes at paragraph 175).

Part Three: Safer Recruitment

Additional information on online pre-recruitment checks for shortlisted candidates

As part of the shortlisting process, schools and colleges should consider carrying out an online search as part of their due diligence on shortlisted candidates.

The 2022 version of the guidance introduced this initially and the 2023 version states that this 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.

It is good practice for schools to inform shortlisted candidates that online searches will be carried out and to set criteria for the searches (see paragraph 221).

Part Four: Safeguarding concerns or allegations made about staff, including supply teachers, volunteers and contractors

Information on responding to allegations related to organisations or individuals using school premises

A new heading and paragraph have been added entitled ‘organisations or individuals using school premises’. This covers what schools and colleges should do when they receive an allegation relating to an incident that happened when an individual or organisation was using their school premises for the purposes of running activities for children (for example community groups, sports associations, or service providers that run extra-curricular activities). As with any safeguarding allegation, schools and colleges should follow their safeguarding policies and procedures, including informing the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).

Part Five: Child on child sexual violence and sexual harassment

Throughout the 2023 guidance, the wording child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment, as opposed to peer-on-peer abuse has been revised to reflect the wording in the UK Government’s ‘Behaviour in schools guidance’.

Annexes

The following changes have also been made to the Annexes in the guidance:

  • Annex A (Safeguarding information for school and college staff) has also been revised to reflect the changes in Part One);
  • Annex B (Further information) has been revised to reflect the following:
    • The difference between children absent from education and children missing education;
    • Change in the law on forced marriage from February 2023. Any conduct where the purpose is to cause a child under 18 to marry; even if no violence, threats or other forms of coercion are used; is now a crime;
    • New reference to multi-agency practice principles in regard to child exploitation.

Summary of changes

A full list of changes can be found in Annex F of the Keeping children safe in education. This can be accessed here.

If you need any safeguarding advice, policy reviews or have training needs in relation to any of the aspects discussed above, please get in touch with Eve Piffaretti or Trish D’Souza.

This article had been co-written by Eve Piffaretti, Trish D’Souza and Charles Collar.

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