Last reviewed on 12 July 2021
School types: All · School phases: All
Ref: 4795

Read the key points in Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) 2021 and know where to look for information on specific areas of safeguarding in the statutory guidance.

A new version of Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) comes into force on 1 September 2021

We've updated this article in line with the new version. If you want to find out what's new for this year, read our summary of the changes.

You can easily use GovernorHub to upload KCSIE as a document for your board. Have your governors mark it as signed so you know they've read it.

GovernorHub is now included with your membership to The Key for School Governors. 


Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) is organised into 5 parts: 

  1. Safeguarding information for all staff (make sure all the staff in your school read at least this part, or the condensed version in annex A, see below)
  2. The management of safeguarding
  3. Safer recruitment
  4. Allegations of abuse made against teachers and other staff
  5. Child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment 

Part 1: safeguarding information for all staff

All school staff working directly with children are expected to read at least this section. Staff who don't work directly with children on a regular basis can instead read a condensed version of part 1 (located in annex A).

Staff roles and responsibilities

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is everyone's responsibility.

All staff should make sure that any decisions made are in the best interests of the child.

All staff should:

  • Provide a safe environment in which children can learn
  • Know about (and feel confident to use) school safeguarding systems, including:
    • Policies on child protection, pupil behaviour and staff behaviour (your code of conduct)
    • Your safeguarding response to children who go missing from education
    • The role and identity of your designated safeguarding lead (DSL) and any deputies

They need to know:

  • How to identify children who may benefit from early help, what your local early help process is and their role in it
  • How to make referrals to children's social care and for the statutory assessments that may follow a referral, and their role in these assessments
  • How to identify signs of abuse and neglect, and what to do if a child makes a disclosure
  • That safeguarding incidents and behaviours can happen between children outside school and be linked to factors outside school
  • That children can be at risk of abuse or exploitation in situations outside their families (e.g. sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation, sexual abuse, serious youth violence and county lines), and consider when this might be the case
  • How to maintain confidentiality by only involving those who need to be involved
  • That they should never promise a child confidentiality
  • That victims of abuse should know they'll be taken seriously, be supported and kept safe. They shouldn't be made to feel ashamed for making a report or that they're creating a problem

Your senior leaders should give all staff appropriate safeguarding and child protection training (including online safety) at induction, which is regularly updated. And they should receive safeguarding updates at least annually, for example via email or staff meetings.

If you're a member of our Safeguarding Training Centre, let your senior leaders know about our September 2021 INSET pack to help them meet these training duties. If you're not yet a member, you can find out more here.

The sections below go into more detail about what staff need to know and do:

How to respond to concerns

If staff have concerns about a child

They should:

  • Act immediately
  • Follow your child protection policy
  • Speak to your DSL (or deputy) as soon as they can

The DSL may then choose to:

  • Manage any support for the child internally using the school's pastoral support processes
  • Do an early help assessment
  • Make a referral for statutory services

If the DSL or deputy is not available, staff should:

  • Not delay taking action
  • Speak to a member of the senior leadership team (SLT)
  • Contact the local children's social care directly, if appropriate, and follow advice
  • Tell the DSL or deputy about any actions taken as soon as possible

If a child is in immediate danger or at risk of harm, staff should:

  • Make a referral to children's social care (and the police, if appropriate - get guidance on when to call the policeimmediately
  • Keep a log of all concerns, discussions and decisions made, and the reasons for those decisions (this information should be kept confidential and stored securely)
  • Discuss any uncertainties about recording requirements with the DSL or deputy

If staff have concerns about female genital mutilation (FGM) they need to speak to the DSL or deputy immediately. There's a specific legal duty on teachers – where a teacher discovers that FGM has been carried out on a girl under the age of 18, they must report this to the police

Staff should know what poor practice looks like

This includes:

  • Failing to act on the early signs of abuse and neglect
  • Poor record keeping
  • Failing to listen to the views of the child
  • Failing to reassess concerns where the situation does not improve
  • Not sharing information, or sharing it too slowly
  • Not challenging those who aren't taking action

Concerns about a staff member (including supply staff, volunteers and contractors) posing a risk of harm to children

You should have procedures in place to manage any safeguarding concerns about staff members. Staff should tell the headteacher immediately if they:

  • Have safeguarding concerns that a member of staff is posing a risk of harm to pupils
  • Are making an allegation against another member of staff

If the concerns relate to the headteacher, the staff member must tell the chair of governors.

If the headteacher is also the sole proprietor of an independent school, the staff member must tell the local authority designated officer (LADO). 

If you have concerns or an allegation is made about another staff member and there's a conflict of interest in reporting to the headteacher, this should also be directly reported to the LADO.

Concerns about safeguarding practice

Staff should follow your whistle-blowing procedures if they're worried about poor or unsafe practice so these concerns can be raised with the senior leadership team (SLT).

They can contact the NSPCC whistle-blowing helpline if they:

  • Are unable to talk to the headteacher or chair of governors
  • Feel that their genuine concerns aren't being addressed

What staff need to be alert to

Staff should know the indicators of abuse and neglect ...

Abuse is a form of maltreatment of a child and can take the form of:

  • Physical abuse - involving hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. This can also be caused by a parent or carer fabricating the symptoms of, or deliberately inducing illness in a child
  • Emotional abuse - persistent emotional maltreatment, which causes severe and adverse effects on the child's emotional development
  • Sexual abuse - forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving high levels of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening

Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of their health or development.

This is explained further on pages 10 and 11 of KCSIE.

... and about behaviours linked to issues that can put children in danger

These include:

  • Drug use
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Deliberately missing education
  • Consensual and non-consensual sharing of nudes and semi-nude images and/or videos

Peer-on-peer abuse

All staff should be aware that children can abuse other pupils, both inside and outside of school, including through:

  • Bullying (including cyber-bullying, prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying)
  • Intimate personal relationships 
  • Physical abuse (which may include an online element)
  • Sexual violence and sexual harassment (which may include an online element)
  • Sexual harassment, including online harassment
  • Causing someone to engage in sexual activity without consent
  • Consensual and non-consensual sharing of nudes and semi-nude images and/or videos (also known as 'sexting')
  • Upskirting (which typically involves taking a picture under a person’s clothes without their permission)
  • Initiation/hazing type violence and rituals, which may include an online element

Child criminal exploitation (CCE) and child sexual exploitation (CSE)

Staff should know that CCE and CSE:

  • Are forms of abuse where a person or group takes advantage of an imbalance in power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child into taking part in sexual or criminal activity:
    • In exchange for something the child needs or wants and/or;
    • For the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator(s) or facilitator(s) and/or;
    • Through violence or the threat of violence
  • Can affect children, both male and female, and can include children who have been moved (commonly referred to as trafficking) for the purpose of exploitation

In relation to CCE, staff should also know:

  • The common forms it can take (including drug trafficking through county lines, working in cannabis factories, shoplifting or pickpocketing, and committing vehicle crime or threatening/committing serious violence)
  • Children may become trapped as they or their families may be threatened with violence and they may be trapped or coerced into debt or carrying weapons, or they carry them as a form of protection
  • Children involved in criminal exploitation need to be treated as victims themselves (particularly older children), even though they may commit crimes themselves
  • Girls are at risk of criminal exploitation too, even though their experience may be different 
  • It can be exploitative even if the activity appears to be consensual
  • It can happen online, as well as in person

In relation to CSE, staff should also know:

  • The types of activities that it covers, including physical contact and non-contact activities
  • Which pupils it can affect
  • That some children may not realise they've been exploited (e.g. they may believe they're in a romantic relationship)
  • It can be a one-off or a series of incidents over time and may happen without the child knowing (e.g. through the sharing of images of them on social media)

Serious violence

All staff should also be aware of the indicators that children may be at risk from, or are involved in, serious violent crime. These may include:

  • Increased absence from school
  • Changing friendships, or forming friendships with older individuals or groups
  • Significant decline in performance
  • Signs of self-harm or assault, or unexplained injuries
  • Significant change in wellbeing
  • Unexplained gifts or possessions

They should also know the associated risks and the measures in place to manage these.

Staff should also know the risk factors that increase the likelihood of involvement in serious violence, such as:

  • Being male
  • Having been frequently absent or permanently excluded from school
  • Having experienced child maltreatment
  • Having been involved in offending, such as theft or robbery

Mental health 

Staff should be aware:

  • That mental health problems can be an indicator that a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering abuse, neglect or exploitation
  • That experiences of abuse, neglect and other traumatic adverse childhood experiences can have a lasting impact
  • How these experiences can affect children's mental health, behaviour and education

Staff should know that only trained professionals should attempt to make a diagnosis of a mental health problem, but that all staff should:

  • Observe children day-to-day and identify those whose behaviour suggests that they may be experiencing a mental health problem or be at risk of developing one
  • Report a mental health concern about a child (that's also a safeguarding concern) by following your school's child protection policy and speaking to the DSL or deputy

Let your leaders know about our pupil mental health resources in Safeguarding Training Centre. If your school is not yet a Safeguarding Training Centre member, find out more here


Part 2: the management of safeguarding

This part is for headteachers, designated safeguarding lead (DSL) teams and governors.

Governing boards (and proprietors of independent schools) have strategic leadership responsibility for your school's safeguarding arrangements. 

Your board must:

  • Make sure they comply with their duties under legislation
  • Make sure your school's policies, procedures and training are effective, comply with legislation and are in line with KCSIE

And should:

  • Appoint a board member responsible for the school's safeguarding arrangements
  • Facilitate a whole-school or college approach to safeguarding - safeguarding and child protection to be "at the forefront" and underpin all relevant aspects of process and policy development
  • Make sure your DSL:
    • Is from the SLT
    • Has the duty of lead responsibility for safeguarding explicitly in their job description
  • Make sure children are taught about safeguarding, including online safety, and where necessary teaching is adapted for vulnerable children, victims of abuse and some pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and/or disabilities
  • Ensure any systems and processes have the pupil's best interests at heart

The sections below go into detail about each of your responsibilities:


You must have effective safeguarding policies in place, which you should give to all staff at induction.

Headteachers should make sure all staff follow these policies, especially those on how to make referrals for cases of suspected abuse and neglect.

Your school should have its own child protection policy. (Trusts can have overarching policies, but these must reflect local procedures and protocols.)

Your child protection policy should include:

  • Your whole-school approach to peer-on-peer abuse
  • Procedures to minimise the risk of peer-on-peer abuse and processes as to how victims and perpetrators will be supported
  • Reporting systems in place for pupils for reporting abuse (which should be well promoted, easily understood and easily accessible)
  • Procedures that are in accordance with government guidance
  • Locally agreed multi-agency procedures put in place by the safeguarding partners (see 'Multi-agency working' below)
  • Recognition that peer-on-peer abuse may be taking place, even if not reported
  • A statement outlining a zero-tolerance approach to abuse and recognition that all peer-on-peer abuse is unacceptable and will be taken seriously
  • The different forms of peer-on-peer abuse
  • Online safety, including the use of the internet on mobile phones due to its role in peer-on-peer abuse
  • Serious violence and sexual harassment, where appropriate
  • Additional barriers when recognising abuse for pupils with SEN and/or disabilities

And it should be: 

  • Updated at least every year
  • Publicly available (e.g. via the school website)

Your behaviour policy should include measures to prevent bullying, including cyberbullying, prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying

Your staff behaviour policy or code of conduct should cover at least:

  • Acceptable use of technologies
  • Relationships between staff and pupils
  • Communications including the use of social media

School leaders will actually write the policies, but you can download model versions from our policy bank so you know what to look for.

Multi-agency working

Your school leaders need to work with other agencies, as set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children.

This includes:

  • Providing a co-ordinated offer of early help where needs are identified
  • Contributing to inter-agency plans to support children who are subject to child protection plans
  • Allowing access for children’s social care to conduct section 17 or 47 assessments

They'll need to work with your safeguarding partners:

  • Local authority (LA)
  • Clinical commissioning group
  • Chief office of police 

If the safeguarding partners have named your school as a 'relevant agency' your school leaders have a statutory duty to co-operate with their published arrangements. 

You as a governing board should:

  • Make yourselves aware of, and follow, the new arrangements
  • Be prepared to supply information requested by the safeguarding partners
  • Understand the local criteria for action and protocol for assessment, and make sure these are reflected in your policies and procedures

Information sharing

Governing boards, proprietors and staff need to make sure that:

  • Arrangements are in place to allow the school to share information with the safeguarding partners
  • School staff are proactive in sharing information as early as possible to help identify and respond to concerns about the safety and welfare of children
  • Staff are aware of their obligations under the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018
  • Staff are aware that data protection regulations do not prevent information sharing for the purpose of keeping children safe
  • Staff are aware that they have the power to withhold information to promote children’s welfare, as well as share it
  • Child protection files are maintained in line with the guidance in annex C

Your board should make sure that relevant staff:

  • Have due regard to the data protection principles, which allow them to share, and withhold, personal information
  • Are confident of the processing conditions that allow them to store and share information for safeguarding purposes
  • Are aware that, if they need to share ‘special category personal data’, the DPA 2018 contains ‘safeguarding of children and individuals at risk’ as a processing condition that allows them to share information
  • Are aware you can refuse to share pupils' personal data if a serious harms test is met

Training for staff

Your school leaders should provide the training mentioned in section 1 of this article at induction, and make sure staff update it regularly. They should follow advice from your local safeguarding partners. Staff should also receive regular safeguarding and child protection updates at least annually, via email, staff meetings, etc. 

Your DSL and any deputies should undertake training on their role, and update this every 2 years. The DSL should also undertake Prevent awareness training.

Your DSL and deputies should refresh their knowledge and skills at least once a year through:

  • E-bulletins
  • Meeting other DSLs
  • Reading about safeguarding developments

Online safety

Your school leaders should: 

  • Consider the 4 areas of online safety risks when developing your online safety policy: content, contact, conduct and commerce
  • Consider how online safety is reflected in all relevant policies, the curriculum, teacher training and the role of the DSL
  • Have a clear policy on the use of mobile and smart technology in-school, which reflects how you manage online peer-on-peer abuse
  • Make sure there are appropriate internet filters and monitoring systems in place to protect pupils from harmful and inappropriate content online
  • Make sure you have appropriate security measures in place to protect your systems, staff and pupils
  • Review your approach annually, including a risk assessment that considers and reflects the risks your pupils face

Safer recruitment and allegations against staff

Make sure people who pose a risk of harm are prevented from working with children

As part of your safer recruitment duties, you as a governing board should make sure the school:

  • Adheres to statutory responsibilities to check staff who work with children
  • Takes proportionate decisions on whether to ask for any checks beyond what is required
  • Makes sure volunteers are appropriately supervised
  • Has written recruitment and selection policies and procedures in place

If you're in a maintained school you must make sure at least 1 of the people conducting interviews has completed safer recruitment training.

Part 3 of KCSIE has more information about requirements for safer recruitment.

Make sure you have procedures for allegations of abuse against staff

This includes supply staff, volunteers and contractors. 

You should refer to your LADO any allegations against staff that might indicate they pose a risk of harm to children.

You should follow procedures set out in part 4, section 1 of the guidance for addressing allegations that may meet the harms test and part 4, section 2 for lower level concerns. 

Your procedures must include how to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) if a member of your staff in regulated activity has been dismissed or removed for safeguarding reasons. 

Part 4 of KCSIE has more information about this.

Making referrals to the DBS

Your school has a legal duty to make a referral to the DBS where a person in regulated activity has been dismissed or removed due to safeguarding concerns or would have been had they not resigned. 

Part 3 of KCSIE includes more details on when to make a referral to the DBS.

Children potentially at greater risk of harm

Children who need a social worker 

Children may need a social worker due to abuse, neglect and complex family circumstances. Experiences of adversity and trauma can leave children vulnerable to further harm, as well as potentially creating barriers to attendance, learning, behaviour and mental health.

Your LA should tell you if a child has a social worker, and the DSL should hold and use this information in the best interests of the child's safety, welfare and educational outcomes, such as when decisions are made on:

  • Responding to unauthorised absence or missing education where there are known safeguarding risks
  • The provision of pastoral and/or academic support

Children missing from education 

You must provide your LA with certain information when removing a child from your school roll. This is because children missing from education, particularly persistently, can be an indicator of a range of safeguarding issues including neglect, sexual abuse, and child sexual and criminal exploitation.

Your response to this happening should aim to identify any abuse and limit the risk of them going missing in the future.

Elective home education (EHE)

If a parent/carer requests their child is educated at home, you should work with your LA and other key professionals to co-ordinate a meeting with parents/carers where possible. This is to ensure the decision is made in the best interests of the child. 

This is particularly important where a child has SEN and/or disabilities, is vulnerable, and/or has a social worker.

Looked after children (LAC) and previously LAC

The most common reason for children becoming 'looked after' is as a result of abuse and/or neglect.

Make sure:

  • Your staff have the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to keep LAC and previously LAC safe
    • This includes information regarding the legal status and parental responsibility arrangements for the child
  • Your governing board appoints a designated teacher to promote the educational achievement of these children
    • This person should be appropriately trained
  • The DSL has details of the child’s social worker and the name of the virtual school head (VSH) in the authority that looks after the child
  • The designated teacher for LAC works with the VSH to discuss how best to use funding to support the progress of LAC
    • They should also work with the VSH to promote the educational achievement of previously LAC

Children needing mental health support 

Governing boards should make sure there are:

  • Clear processes for identifying mental health problems 
  • Routes to escalate concerns 
  • Clear referral and accountability systems

The DfE will be supporting the costs of:

  • A training programme for senior mental health leads to develop a whole-school approach to mental health (this should be available by 2025)
  • The national roll-out of the Link Programme

The senior mental health lead role isn't compulsory, but it's expected that the individual taking up this position would be a member of, or supported by the SLT, and could be the pastoral lead, special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) or DSL.

Care leavers

Your LA appoints personal advisers for young people who become care leavers.

Your DSL should:

  • Have details of the personal adviser appointed to support a care leaver
  • Liaise with the personal adviser regarding any concerns affecting the care leaver

Children with special educational needs (SEN) and/or disabilities

These children can face additional safeguarding challenges.

Make sure your child protection policy reflects that children with SEN and/or disabilities are more prone to:

  • Assumptions being made that possible indicators of abuse relate to the child's disability, without further exploration
  • Peer isolation
  • Being disproportionately more affected by issues such as bullying
  • Communication barriers and difficulties in overcoming those

Pupils in alternative provision

These pupils often have complex needs and as a result, they may be more at risk of harm. 

Page 40 of KCSIE includes links to guidance for alternative provision settings.

Use of reasonable force

In some circumstances, it's appropriate for your staff to use reasonable force to safeguard children.

The decision on whether or not to use reasonable force to control or restrain a child:

  • Is down to the professional judgement of the staff concerned
  • Should always depend on individual circumstances

If you need to use reasonable force to respond to risks presented by incidents involving children with SEN, disabilities or medical conditions, you should consider the risks. This includes:

  • Carefully recognising the additional vulnerability of these groups
  • Considering your duties under the Equality Act 2010 

Part 3: safer recruitment

Recruitment processes  

  • Adverts should:
    • Include details on your commitment to safeguarding
    • Make it clear that safeguarding checks will be carried out
    • Outline whether the post is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
  • Application forms should: 
    • Explain that it's an offence to apply for a role involving regulated activity with children if the applicant is barred from this type of activity
    • Include a copy of your child protection policy and policy on employment of ex-offenders, or refer to a link on your website
  • When shortlisting, you should:
    • Ask shortlisted candidates to complete a criminal offences self-declaration form
    • Have at least 2 people shortlisting candidates  
    • Consider any inconsistencies and look for gaps in employment and reasons given
    • Explore all potential concerns
  • When seeking references, you should:
    • Obtain these before the interview 
    • Obtain a reference from the candidate’s current employer and a reference from the relevant employer from the last time they worked with children (if not currently working with children)
    • Verify information to ensure it's legitimate and clarify any concerns with the employer or candidate 
  • When selecting candidates, you should use: 
    • A range of selection techniques to identify the most suitable person for the post
    • Interviews to explore potential areas of concern to determine the applicant’s suitability to work with children

Go to pages 47 to 52 of KCSIE for more detailed guidance on the above.

Pre-employment checks

Your school will need to carry out an enhanced DBS check with barred list information for all staff engaging in regulated activity (most of your staff will fall into this category).

Your school will also need to carry out the other necessary pre-employment checks, including verifying their:

  • Identity
  • Mental and physical fitness to carry out their work responsibilities
  • Professional qualifications
  • Right to work in the UK - if your staff member has lived or worked outside of the UK, you'll need to make further 'appropriate checks'
  • Employment history and references

Depending on their role, your school will also need to check that they're not subject to:

  • A prohibition from teaching order
  • A Section 128 order 

Read our cheat sheet to understand the difference between the key recruitment checks and why they're important.

Single central record

Your school must keep a single central record (SCR) to demonstrate it has carried out the mandatory pre-appointment checks referred to above. It can be in paper or electronic format.

Your school's SCR must cover:

  • All staff (including supply and agency staff, and trainee teachers on salaried routes) 
  • If you're in an independent school, all members of the proprietor body (for academies and free schools this means members and trustees)

For each staff member, school leaders must record:

  • Which checks they've carried out
  • What date they carried out the checks 

You're not required to include details of any other checks on the SCR. 

If you're in a multi-academy trust (MAT), your leaders can hold this centrally but they need to make sure they can separate out the information on your SCR for each school in the trust, without delay, to inspectors.

As a governor, you need to make sure the SCR is being monitored rather than checking it yourself. You'll do this by asking the right questions about how complete the record is, how frequently it's reviewed and how it's stored. Find out more in our article.

Making referrals to the DBS

Your school must make a referral to the DBS if it's removed someone from regulated activity and you believe they have: 

  • Engaged in relevant conduct with children and/or adults 
  • Satisfied the harm test in relation to children and/or vulnerable adults; or
  • Been cautioned or convicted of a relevant (automatic barring either with or without the right to make representations) offence

Part 4: allegations of abuse made against teachers and other staff

Use this guidance when a member of staff or volunteer has allegedly:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child
  • Committed a criminal offence against or related to a child
  • Behaved in a way that indicates they would pose a risk of harm to children
  • Behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children

Part 5: child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment 

These reports are complex and require difficult professional decisions, which you often have to make quickly and under pressure. Pre-planning, effective training and effective policies will help you to make calm, considered and appropriate responses.

When developing your policies and procedures, keep in mind that:

  • All staff need to maintain an attitude of "it could happen here"
  • Addressing inappropriate behaviour can help prevent abusive/violent behaviour
  • Victims of this abuse will likely find the experience distressing, which can affect their progress in school. This can be made worse if the alleged perpetrator(s) attends the same school
  • All victims should know they'll be taken seriously, be supported and kept safe. They shouldn't be made to feel ashamed for making a report or that they are causing a problem by reporting sexual violence or sexual harassment

Part 5 should be read alongside the DfE's advice on sexual violence and harassment


  • Annex A - is a condensed version of part 1 (that can be read by staff who don't work directly with children on a regular basis)
  • Annex B - includes detailed guidance on specific safeguarding issues, such as:
    • Child abduction and community safety incidents
    • Child criminal exploitation (CCE)
    • Child sexual exploitation (CSE)
    • County lines 
    • Domestic abuse 
    • Preventing radicalisation 
    • Upskirting 
    • Honour-based abuse
    • Modern slavery
    • Cybercrime 
  • Annex C - sets out the role of the DSL


The DfE's statutory safeguarding guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) 2021