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Last reviewed on 25 June 2020
Ref: 4795
School types: All · School phases: All

Read our summary to find out about the main points in Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) 2020, and to know where to look for information on specific areas of safeguarding contained in the statutory guidance.

A new version of KCSIE came into force on 1 September 2020

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.


Keeping Children Safe in Education is organised into 5 parts: 

  1. Safeguarding information for all staff (make sure all the staff in your school read at least this part)
  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

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 and what your local early help process is
  • 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 and serious youth violence), 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

Your senior leaders should give all staff appropriate safeguarding and child protection training, 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 INSET pack to help them meet these training duties. If you're not yet a member, you can find out more here.

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
  • 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
  • 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 and volunteers) posing a risk of harm to children

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 (or volunteer)

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.

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. 

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

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 8 and 9 of KCSIE.

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

These include:

  • Drug use
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Deliberately missing education
  • Sexting

Staff should consider the local environmental factors and context when assessing children's safety. This is because safeguarding incidents can be associated with factors outside the school.

Peer-on-peer abuse

Staff must be aware that children can abuse other pupils, including through:

  • Bullying (including cyber-bullying)
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual violence and sexual harassment
  • Upskirting
  • Sexting
  • Initiation/hazing type violence and rituals

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 sexual or criminal activity. This power imbalance can be due to:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual identity
  • Cognitive ability
  • Physical strength
  • Status
  • Access to economic or other resources

Staff should know that the abuse can:

  • Be in exchange for something the child needs or wants
  • Be to the financial benefit or other advantage (e.g. increased status) of the perpetrator or facilitator
  • Be carried out by individuals or groups, males or females, and children or adults
  • Be one-off or a series of incidents over time, and range from opportunistic to complex organised abuse
  • Involve force and/or enticement-based methods of compliance
  • Involve violence or threats of violence
  • Be exploitative even if the activity appears to be consensual
  • Happen online as well as in person

Serious violence

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.

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

To help train staff on mental health awareness, see DfE guidance on preventing and tackling bullying and mental health and behaviour. See also Public Health England guidance on promoting children's emotional health and wellbeing, and lesson plans and teaching materials from Rise Above.

Part 2: the management of safeguarding

Governing boards (and proprietors of independent schools) are responsible for making sure their school's policies, procedures and training are effective and comply with legislation.

Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) will always report on whether or not your safeguarding arrangements are effective. 

Your board must:

  • Make sure your school's processes and practices are in line with KCSIE 
  • Appoint a board member responsible for the school's safeguarding arrangements

The board must also make sure that your school's DSL:

  • Is a senior staff member from the leadership team
  • Has the duty of lead responsibility for safeguarding explicitly in their job description

Annex B of KCSIE sets out more information on the DSL's role.

Safeguarding policies 

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

Headteachers should make sure that 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:

  • Describe procedures which are in accordance with government guidance
  • Refer to locally agreed multi-agency procedures put in place by the 3 safeguarding partners (see 'Multi-agency working' below)
  • Be updated every year, at least 
  • Be publicly available (e.g. via the school website)

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.

Statutory assessments

Under the Children Act 1989, LAs can undertake assessments of the needs of individual children to determine what services to provide and what action to take.

You can find information about the assessments on page 7 of KCSIE.

  • Section 17 assessment is for children in need
  • Section 47 assessment is for where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm 

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 (see grey box)

They'll need to work with your 3 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 3 safeguarding partners
  • Understand the local criteria for action and protocol for assessment, and make sure these are reflected in your policies and procedures

Share information to tackle abuse and neglect

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 General Data Protection Regulation 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

Your board should make sure that relevant staff:

  • Have due regard to the data protection principles, which allow them to share personal information
  • Are confident of the processing conditions which 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

Train staff in safeguarding, including online safety

Your school leaders should provide the training mentioned in section 1 of this article at induction, and make sure staff update it regularly. This should follow advice from your 3 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

Children need to be protected from harmful, inappropriate online materials

Your school leaders should make sure there are appropriate internet filters and monitoring systems in place to protect pupils from harmful and inappropriate content online.

See annex C of KCSIE for more information on keeping children safe online (including when they're online at home). 

Children should be taught about safeguarding

This includes staying safe online.

Your school leaders can do this through, for example, personal, social, health and economic education or relationships and sex education (RSE).

There's new RSE guidelines that you'll need to follow by (at the latest) the start of summer term 2021. Find out more about these new requirements here.

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 that 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. 

Making referrals to the DBS

You have a legal duty to make a referral to the DBS where:

  • An individual has harmed, or poses a risk of harm, to a child or vulnerable adult;
  • The harm test is satisfied in respect of that individual;
  • The individual has received a caution or conviction for a relevant offence, or if there is reason to believe that individual has committed a listed relevant offence; and
  • That individual has been removed from working (paid or unpaid) in regulated activity, or would have been removed had they not left
The DBS will then consider whether to bar the person. You should make a referral as soon as possible and ordinarily on conclusion of an investigation, when an individual is removed from working in regulated activity (see pages 26 and 48 to 49).

Make sure you have procedures for allegations of abuse against staff

This includes supply staff and volunteers. 

You should refer to your local authority designated officer (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 of the guidance for addressing allegations that may meet the harms test. 

Your procedures must include what to do 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.

Your child protection policy should cover peer-on-peer abuse

It should include information on:

  • Procedures to minimise the risk of peer-on-peer abuse
  • Recording, investigating and dealing with allegations of such abuse
  • The different forms peer abuse can take
  • Processes for supporting the victims and perpetrators of the abuse, and any other children affected by it
  • The gendered nature of peer-on-peer abuse, and that any type is unacceptable 

Make sure you always take the child's wishes into account

This is important when responding to a safeguarding concern.

Pupils should have the opportunity to make their views heard. Make sure any systems and processes have the pupil's best interests at heart. 

Have clear processes for identifying mental health problems 

Governing boards should make sure that there are: 

  • 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

Children who need a social worker 

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

Your local authority 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

Looked after children (LAC)

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

Make sure that:

  • 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
  • The 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 in the authority that looks after the child
  • The designated teacher for LAC works with the virtual school head to discuss how best to use funding to support the progress of LAC
    • They should also work with the virtual school head to promote the educational achievement of previously LAC

LA personal advisers for 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 disability 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

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

Teacher prohibition orders and section 128 directions 

  • Teacher prohibition orders prevent a person from teaching in schools and colleges
  • Section 128 directions prohibit or restrict a person from taking part in the management of an independent school, including academies and free schools. This would include staff management positions, academy trustees and local governors in academies that have been given management responsibilities 
  • Section 128 directions also disqualify a person from holding or continuing to hold office as a governor of a maintained school
  • Where the person will be engaging in regulated activity, a DBS barred list check will also identify any section 128 direction (provided that ‘children’s workforce independent schools’ is specified in the parameters for the barred list check)

Pre-appointment checks

The majority of staff will require an enhanced DBS check with barred list information, as they will be engaging in regulated activity. 

Other pre-appointment checks your school will carry out for new school staff and governors include verifying their:

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

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

  • prohibition from teaching order
  • A Section 128 order 
    • Section 128 checks are for management positions in independent schools, including academies and free schools, plus governors or trustees in all types of schools. Read our article on section 128 checks to learn who needs them

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, 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.

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

We're in the process of updating our model policy on allegations against staff. Click 'Save for later' in the top-right corner of the policy to be notified when we've done this. 

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

This part summarises more detailed DfE guidance on how to manage a report of sexual abuse between children.

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. Read our summary article on sexual violence and sexual harassment between children for more information.


Annexes A to H set out information supplementing the main parts of the guidance. They cover topics such as:

  • Specific safeguarding issues, including information on:
    • Child criminal exploitation (CCE)
    • Child sexual exploitation (CSE)
    • County lines 
    • Domestic abuse 
    • Preventing radicalisation 
    • Upskirting 
    • Honour-based abuse
  • Role of the DSL
  • Online safety
  • DBS checks and regulated activity

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