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Keeping Children Safe in Education: summary

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Last updated on 26 April 2018
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Can you summarise Keeping Children Safe in Education? This article summarises the government's updated statutory guidance on safeguarding. It outlines what staff should know and do. It also looks at procedures for managing safeguarding, safer recruitment and handling allegations against staff.

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  1. 1 Statutory safeguarding guidance 
  2. 2 Part 1: safeguarding information for all staff
  3. 3 Part 2: the management of safeguarding
  4. 4 Part 3: safer recruitment
  5. 5 Part 4: allegations of abuse against staff
  6. 6 Annexes

Article features

  • 5 external links

This article refers to the 2016 version of Keeping Children Safe in Education, which schools must follow until 3 September 2018. Read about the changes from September 2018 here. 

Statutory safeguarding guidance 

The Department for Education (DfE)'s most recent statutory guidance on safeguarding is Keeping Children Safe in Education, which came into force from 5 September 2016.

It should be read and followed by all schools and further education (FE) colleges. This includes maintained and independent schools, academies and alternative provision academies, free schools and pupil referral units (PRUs).

The updated guidance makes it clear that it also applies to maintained nursery schools. This is set out on pages 3 and 4. 

The guidance is organised into four main parts covering:

  • Safeguarding information for all staff
  • The management of safeguarding
  • Safer recruitment
  • Allegations of abuse made against teachers and other staff

You will find the content of each of these sections summarised under the headings later in this article.

It should be read alongside the government’s inter-agency safeguarding guidance, Working Together to Safeguard Children, and its departmental advice on what to do if you are worried a child is being abused.

Part 1: safeguarding information for all staff

All school staff must read part 1 of the guidance, as a minimum. Part 1 outlines what school and college staff should know and do in relation to safeguarding.

Safeguarding is defined in paragraph 4 as:

... protecting children from maltreatment; preventing impairment of children’s health or development; ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care; and taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.

The definition of 'children' includes everyone under the age of 18.

Role of school and college staff

Paragraphs 6-20 explain the role of school and college staff in safeguarding, and what they need to know and look out for.

In particular, it says all school and college staff have a responsibility to provide a safe environment in which children can learn. They should also:

  • Be aware of systems within their school which support safeguarding and have these explained to them during induction. This includes the child protection and staff behaviour policies, and the role of the designated safeguarding lead (DSL)
  • Be aware of the early help process and be prepared to identify children who may benefit from early help
  • Be aware of the process for making referrals to social services
  • Be aware of the signs of abuse and neglect, and of what to do if a child makes a disclosure
  • Receive appropriate child protection training which is regularly updated
  • Always act in the best interests of the child

Actions to take where staff have concerns

The updated version of the guidance makes a distinction between action to be taken where a member of staff has concerns about a child, and action to take where a child is in immediate danger or at risk of harm.

Where a staff member has concerns about a child, they will make a decision on how to act. This would usually involve a conversation with the DSL about what action to take, including whether a referral needs to be made, though any member of staff can make a referral to social services. Page 10 features a diagram illustrating this process.

However, if the staff member believes a child is in immediate danger or at risk of harm, they should make a referral to children's social care and/or the police immediately.

If a referral is made without the DSL's knowledge, they should be informed as soon as possible. All concerns, discussions and decisions made, and the reasons for those decisions, should be recorded in writing.

The guidance also explains that where a teacher discovers that female genital mutilation (FGM) has been carried out on a girl under the age of 18, they must report this to the police.

Paragraphs 31-34 set out what staff should do where they have concerns about another staff member (including the headteacher) or the school’s safeguarding practices.

Poor practice

Examples of poor practice are outlined in paragraph 30, and include:

  • Failing to act on 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
  • Sharing information too slowly
  • Failing to challenge those who are not taking action.

Types of abuse and neglect

Paragraphs 35-40 define:

  • Abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Neglect

Specific safeguarding issues

All staff are expected to be aware of safeguarding issues such as drug use, child sexual exploitation and radicalisation.

Staff should also know that safeguarding issues can manifest via peer-on-peer abuse, including bullying and sexual assault.

Links to advice on specific safeguarding issues are set out in paragraph 43, and further guidance on particular issues is set out in annex A (pages 51-57).

Part 2: the management of safeguarding

Part 2 of the guidance outlines the duties and responsibilities of governing boards of schools and colleges (and proprietors of independent schools) in relation to safeguarding.

It explains that governing boards must have regard to the guidance to ensure that the policies, procedures and training in their schools "are effective and comply with the law at all times".

Safeguarding leadership


Schools must appoint a senior member of staff as the DSL. This person has lead responsibility for safeguarding, and this duty should be explicit in their job description. The DSL, or a deputy DSL, must always be available to staff during school hours.

Annex B of the document (pages 59-61) includes more extensive guidance on the role of the DSL. It outlines a number of specific duties relating to managing referrals, training and raising awareness.

Another article from The Key has more information about the responsibilities of the DSL

Board level lead for safeguarding

As well as the DSL, who is the professional lead for safeguarding, schools should have: 

...  a senior board level (or equivalent) lead to take leadership responsibility for the organisation’s safeguarding arrangements.

This requirement is also set out on page 53 of Working Together to Safeguard Children, linked to above. 

A representative from the DfE confirmed that this can be a member of staff, but that person must be a member of the board as well (for example, the headteacher or a staff governor).

This must be a separate person from the DSL, in order to ensure there is sufficient challenge to the organisation's safeguarding arrangements and performance.   

Safeguarding policies

Governing boards should ensure that an effective child protection policy and a staff behaviour policy or code of conduct is in place.

These policies should be provided to all staff on induction. Headteachers should ensure their policies and procedures are followed by all staff, particularly concerning referrals of cases of suspected abuse and neglect.

The child protection policy should:

  • Describe procedures which are in accordance with government guidance
  • Refer to locally agreed inter-agency procedures put in place by the local safeguarding children’s board (LSCB)
  • Be updated annually
  • Be publicly available via the school website or other means

The staff behaviour policy or code of conduct should cover relationships and communication between staff and pupils, including the use of social media.

The guidance also highlights other safeguarding policies and procedures schools should have in place, relating to:

  • Whistle-blowing (paragraph 33)
  • Peer-on-peer abuse (paragraphs 42 and 76)
  • Children who go missing from education (paragraph 51 and page 51)
  • Recruitment and selection (paragraph 71)
  • Allegations against staff and volunteers in school (paragraph 73)
  • Making referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) (paragraph 74)
  • Work experience (paragraph 139)
  • Radicalisation (pages 56-57)
  • The use of mobile technology in school (pages 62-63)

The DfE confirmed that schools do not need to have separate written documents covering these issues, but can include them within their child protection policy or other policies.

Inter-agency working

Schools should work with other agencies, such as social care, the police and health services, as part of safeguarding efforts and as set out in Working Together to Safeguarding Children.

This work 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
  • Ensuring safeguarding arrangements take into account the procedures and practices of the LA

Statutory assessments

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

A full list and explanation of the different types of assessment is featured on pages 18-19. These include:

  • Section 17 assessment: for children in need
  • Section 47 assessment: where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm
This is explained on page 17 of Working Together to Safeguard Children. 

Staff training

All staff members must undergo safeguarding training at induction and this training should be updated regularly. Staff should also receive regular updates on safeguarding as required, but at least once a year, via for example email and staff meetings.

The DSL and any deputy DSLs should undertake training on their role that is updated at least every two years, and should also undertake training on their duties under the government's anti-radicalisation strategy, Prevent.

In addition to this formal training, the DSL and deputies should have their knowledge and skills refreshed regularly, but at least once a year, via for example e-bulletins, meeting other DSLs or spending time reading and digesting safeguarding developments.

Online safety

Schools must put appropriate internet filters and monitoring systems in place, to protect pupils from harmful and inappropriate content online. Further information on this is provided in annex C (pages 62-63).

Teaching pupils about safeguarding

Pupils need to be taught about safeguarding, including staying safe online, as part of a broad and balanced curriculum. This information could be provided through, for example, personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education or sex and relationships education (SRE).


Information about the inspection of safeguarding is included in paragraph 70. It explains that Ofsted inspectors "will always report on whether or not arrangements for safeguarding children and learners are effective", and that other inspectorates will also report on safeguarding arrangements.

Another article from The Key has more information on Ofsted inspection of safeguarding.

Safer recruitment

Paragraph 71 makes it clear that governing boards and proprietors should prevent people who pose a risk of harm from working with children by:

  • Adhering to statutory responsibilities to check staff who work with children
  • Taking proportionate decisions on whether to ask for any checks beyond what is required
  • Ensuring volunteers are appropriately supervised

Maintained schools must ensure at least one person on any appointment panel has undergone safer recruitment training.

Further requirements for safer recruitment are set out in more detail in part three of the guidance, summarised in section 4 of this article.

Allegations of abuse against members of staff

Paragraphs 73-75 look at how to handle allegations of abuse against staff. They explain that allegations against staff should be referred to the designated officer(s) at the LA.

Further guidance on handling allegations against staff is set out in part four of the guidance, summarised in section 5 of this article.

Making referrals to the DBS

Statutory icon

Schools and colleges 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. Referrals should be made as soon as possible after the resignation or removal of the individual.

Peer-on-peer abuse

School child protection policies should cover peer-on-peer abuse. They should include information on:

  • Procedures to minimise the risk of peer-on-peer abuse
  • Dealing with allegations of such abuse
  • The different forms peer abuse can take
  • Supporting the victims of peer abuse
  • Sexting
  • Gender issues that can be part of peer-on-peer abuse

Schools should make clear that peer abuse will never be tolerated or passed off as 'banter' or 'part of growing up'.

The child's wishes

When determining what action to take in response to a safeguarding concern, schools should ensure the pupil's wishes and feelings are taken into account.

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

Looked after children

Paragraphs 81-84 outline specific responsibilities in relation to looked after children (LAC). They explain that:

  • Staff should have the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to keep LAC safe, including regarding the legal status and parental responsibility arrangements for LAC
  • Schools must appoint a designated teacher to promote the educational achievement of LAC, and should ensure this person is appropriately trained and able to access the necessary information, such as details of social workers and virtual school heads, to support LAC
  • The designated teacher for LAC should work with the virtual school head at the LA to discuss how best to use funding to support the progress of LAC

Children with special educational needs

Child protection policies should reflect the fact that there can be additional barriers to recognising abuse and neglect in children with special educational needs.

Part 3: safer recruitment

Part 3 of the document covers safer recruitment procedures.

Different DBS checks 

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Enhanced DBS check

  • Checks for spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings
  • Asks local police for any additional information that is reasonably considered relevant to the workforce being applied for

Enhanced DBS and barred list check

  • Includes the same checks as an enhanced DBS
  • Also checks whether someone is included on the national DBS ‘barred lists’ of individuals unsuitable for working with children or adults

Regulated activity

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

Individuals will be considered to be in 'regulated activity' where they:

  • Will be responsible, on a regular basis in a school or college, for teaching, training, instructing, caring for or supervising children; or
  • Will carry out paid, or unsupervised unpaid, work regularly in a school or college where that work provides an opportunity for contact with children; or
  • Engage in intimate or personal care or overnight activity, even if this happens only once

Pre-appointment checks

All appointments must be subject to the satisfactory completion of pre-employment checks.

When appointing new staff, schools and colleges must:

  • Verify identify
  • Obtain a certificate for an enhanced DBS check (including barred list information, for those in regulated activity)
  • Obtain a separate barred list check if an individual will start work in regulated activity before the DBS certificate is available
  • Verify the candidate’s mental and physical fitness to carry out the work
  • Verify the person’s right to work in the UK
  • If the person has lived or worked outside the UK, carry out any other checks deemed necessary
  • Verify professional qualifications
  • Carry out a section 128 direction check (for anyone taking up a management position in an independent school or academy)
  • Check that a candidate to be employed as a teacher is not subject to a prohibition order

Checks on those who have worked or lived outside the UK should include a check for information about any teacher sanction or restriction that a European Economic Area (EEA) professional regulating authority has imposed. This can be carried out via the National College for Teaching and Leadership's (National College's) Teacher Services system.

There is no requirement to obtain an enhanced DBS check or checks for events that have occurred outside the UK for appointees who, in the previous three months, have worked in a school or FE college in England in a post which brought them into regular contact with children. However, all other pre-appointment checks must still be carried out, including a separate barred list check for those in regulated activity.

More details on the checks to be carried out on specific groups, including people who have worked outside the UK, contractors, visitors, governors, volunteers and agency staff, are set out in paragraphs 114-144.

You can find out more information about which individuals require DBS checks in another article from The Key. 

Teacher prohibition orders and section 128 directions 

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  • 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
  • Checks for teacher prohibition orders and section 128 directions can be carried out via the National College's Teacher Services system
  • Where the person will be engaging in regulated activity, a DBS barred list check will also identify any section 128 direction.

Obtaining references

Guidance on obtaining references and checking employment history can be found in paragraphs 108-111. Paragraph 109 says:

References should always be obtained [and] scrutinised, and any concerns resolved satisfactorily, before the appointment is confirmed.

Single central record

Schools must keep a single central record (SCR) to demonstrate they have carried out the mandatory pre-appointment checks, outlined above.

The SCR must cover:

  • All staff (including supply staff and trainee teachers on salaried routes) who work at the school or college; and
  • For independent schools, including academies and free schools, all members of the proprietor body

Where checks on volunteers are made, these should also be recorded.

For each check on each member of staff, the school must record whether it has been carried out and the date on which it was carried out (or the certificate received).

A further article from The Key has information on the requirements for the SCR.

Part 4: allegations of abuse against staff

Part 4 of the guidance outlines information about handling allegations against staff. This part of the guidance should be used in relation to cases in which it is alleged that a member of staff or volunteer has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child; or
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they would pose a risk of harm to children

Initial considerations when investigating an allegation

Paragraphs 148-157 contain guidance on how to investigate allegations of abuse by staff.

The headteacher or chair of governors (‘case manager’) should discuss any allegation that a member of staff has acted in a way described above with the designated officer at the LA immediately. The case manager and designated officer can then decide on a course of action.

One of the following terms should always be used when determining the outcome of an investigation of an allegation:

  • Substantiated
  • Malicious
  • False
  • Unsubstantiated

The additional term 'unfounded' may also be used.

The guidance explains that the case manager should inform the person accused about the allegation as soon as possible after consulting the designated officer, unless a strategy discussion is needed or other agencies need to be involved, in which the case manager should wait until these parties have been consulted before informing the accused. This also applies to informing parents or carers of children involved (paragraph 160).

The school should think carefully about whether to suspend the person accused or whether alternative arrangements can be put in place until the investigation is resolved. The guidance explains:

Suspension should not be the default position: an individual should be suspended only if there is no reasonable alternative.

Supporting those involved

Paragraphs 160-166 outline guidance on supporting all those involved in allegations of abuse.

Schools have a duty of care to employees and should support the accused to manage and minimise the stress resulting from the allegation. The accused should be advised to contact their union representative or a colleague for support, and be given access to welfare counselling or medical advice where available.

It is important that the school maintain confidentiality about the investigation and adhere to reporting restrictions that prohibit the publication of any material that may lead to the identification of the accused unless they are charged with an offence, has waived their right to anonymity, or information or a decision on the case is published by the secretary of state.

Managing the situation

Paragraphs 167-188 contain guidance on how allegation cases should be managed, including specific information about:

  • Resignations and ‘settlement/compromise agreements’
  • Record keeping
  • References
  • Timescales
  • Oversight and monitoring
  • Suspension
  • Information sharing

If the accused resigns, this should not prevent the allegation being followed up. The school must refer the accused to the DBS if the criteria set out in paragraph 120 are met.

Actions in specific circumstances

Paragraphs 189-195 give advice on specific actions to take in particular circumstances. These include actions following a criminal investigation or prosecution, on the conclusion of a case, and where a malicious or unsubstantiated allegation has been made.


Annexes A-H set out additional information supplementing the previous sections of the guidance. They cover topics such as:

  • Specific safeguarding issues
  • The role of the DSL
  • Online safety
  • DBS checks and regulated activity

The Key has taken great care in publishing this article. However, some of the article's content and information may come from or link to third party sources whose quality, relevance, accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability we do not guarantee. Accordingly, we will not be held liable for any use of or reliance placed on this article's content or the links or downloads it provides. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence.