In line with the duties as set out in Keeping Children Safe In Education 2019 (KCSIE), now is a timely reminder that schools must ensure that safeguarding remains at the forefront of everyone's mind in this particularly unusual time.

For many primary schools, this week will see the return to school for those eligible pupils in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, whilst secondary schools are due to open their doors on 15 June to Years 10 and 12, on a limited basis.

The DfE updated their COVID-19: safeguarding in schools, colleges and other providers on 20 May, to reflect the greater number of pupils that will now be on school premises, as part of the phased re-opening. The guidance has been updated to ensure that schools review their child protection and safeguarding policy, designated safeguarding lead (DSL) arrangements and their arrangements for continuing to protect vulnerable children, as well as the mental health of their whole school community.

We have set out below the actions that schools are required to take.

Safeguarding Policy

All schools should be updating their child protection and safeguarding policy or have produced an annex to reflect the school's response to coronavirus. School should also consider revisions to reflect:

  • new safeguarding concerns and risks
  • updated advice from the local safeguarding partners
  • how DSLs will support staff and children regarding new concerns (and referrals if appropriate) as more children return
  • the school's approach to protecting vulnerable children
  • support in place to promote the mental health of pupils

We recommended that all schools, even those not planning for re-opening, consider reviewing their policies and procedures to ensure that they have regard to the statutory guidance and KCSIE.

Other Relevant School Policies

In addition to updating the annex to the child protection and safeguarding policy, schools should also review the following policies:

  • risk assessment policy for pupil welfare
  • mental health policy (if a school has one)
  • online safety and acceptable use
  • anti-bullying and behaviour and discipline policies (to ensure the school can effectively manage any incidences of peer-on-peer bullying)
  • missing pupil policy

This review will be to ensure that they reflect any amendments to the School's child protection and safeguarding policy, as well as any updated processes and procedures put in place as part of the remote education offerings.

Changes in Pupil Circumstances

As part of the return to school, schools should ensure that all relevant safeguarding and welfare information remains up to date for pupils, both for those who will be attending, and those continuing to access remote education. We recommend that schools consider asking parents and carers to advise them of changes to a child's welfare, health and wellbeing before their return, in order that schools can ensure that appropriate support can be put in place for those pupils.

The DSL and Deputy

The 20 May guidance also confirms that the Government now expects all schools to have a trained DSL or deputy on site. If this will not be possible, due to staffing arrangements, then a member of the senior leadership team should be on site to co-ordinate safeguarding. All staff and volunteers, should at all times, have access to a trained DSL or deputy, either by telephone or video call.

Mental Health and Wellbeing of All Pupils

The guidance also places particular emphasis on the mental health and wellbeing of pupils and staff at this difficult time. Schools should be alert and considering what support will be appropriate for all pupils on site, as well as those continuing with remote education.

Staff Training

Schools should consider whether it is appropriate to provide refresher training to staff who are transitioning from teaching remotely to returning to the classroom.

Originally published 02 June 2020

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.