Part 2 on Safeguarding policies and procedures refers to peer on peer abuse on a governance level. It makes clear that a school’s child protection policy ought to reflect the “whole school/college approach on peer on peer abuse” as introduced in paragraph 145; amongst others requiring governing bodies to ensure procedures to minimise peer on peer abuse are in place, and that the systems in place enable children to confidently report instances of abuse. There should further be a zero-tolerance approach to abuse.
Part 5 on Child on child sexual violence and sexual harassment has also been substantially reworked. Much in the same grain as the above, it now includes new paragraphs on the importance of acknowledging and understanding the scale of sexual harassment and abuse; the need to be aware that children may not tell staff directly but rather staff may overhear or deduce concerns from behavioural changes; and repeats again the zero tolerance approach and list. Part 5 also recognises that a school’s response to an incident will impact future victims of sexual violence or harassment. Finally, it includes a new section on unsubstantiated, unfounded, false or malicious reports providing a reminder about reporting concerns as well as guidance on what to do when reports are found to be unsubstantiated.
Other changes made to KCSIE 2021 Part 1 include:
- KCSIE now also covers 16-19 academies (and apprenticeships).
- Special remarks on the Covid-19 pandemic have been removed. Instead, any guidance that was previously in a Covid Appendix should now be included in the main body of the school’s document. Covid guidance should enable the school to deal with (part and whole) closures and contain clear directions for staff. To this end, there is a new paragraph (127) on remote learning referring to further guidance and advice.
- Additions have also been made to the paragraphs on Child Criminal Exploitation, including information on how children may be exploited and highlighting that experiences of girls being criminally exploited can be very different to those of boys. Further information is added on Child Sexual Exploitation as a form of child sexual abuse. This includes a list of examples when children may become victims of Child Sexual Exploitation as well as a reference to children who are victims of human trafficking (paragraph 32-39).
- A series of risk factors increasing the likelihood of involvement in serious violence have been added to paragraph 51 and 52; including “being male, having been frequently absent or permanently excluded from school, having experienced child maltreatment and having been involved in offending, such as theft or robbery.” Staff are expected to be aware of these risk factors.
- Paragraph 63 introduces a new paragraph highlighting the importance of social care assessments considering children being harmed outside the home. It is therefore important that schools provide as much information as possible in order to allow any assessment to take a contextual approach to safeguarding and addressing harm.
- Paragraphs 71-72 expand the section on record keeping by including a list of what information ought to be recorded. This spans a clear comprehensive summary of the concern, details of how the concern was followed up and resolved, and a note of actions taken, decisions reached and the outcome.
KCSIE 2021 Part 2 on the management of safeguarding has been updated to highlight the importance of safeguarding, including through strengthened systems and child-centricity. Post-pandemic life appears to have been integrated into this part by adding extensively to online safeguarding. Paragraphs 117-119 highlight the importance of online safety training for staff, and the requirement to ensure children themselves are taught about safeguarding and online safety. Paragraphs 123-135 on online safety now include, amongst others, references to the risk posed by a school’s IT system, the appropriateness of the use of filters, as well as monitoring and an annual review of a school’s online safety approach.
Still perhaps in the post-pandemic spirit, paragraph 155-156 span new paragraphs on the use of school premises for non-school activities, and the additional risk this may pose to children. Finally, paragraph 164 covers children missing from education and the warning signs and risks associated thereto; while paragraphs 165-168 provide guidance on elective home education.
Part 3 on safer recruitment has not changed in terms of the duties covered but has been restructured in its entirety.
Part 4 on allegations made against staff has been separated out into two sections in order to distinguish between two “levels of allegation/concern”. This new split covers, first, allegations that may meet the “harms threshold” and sets out how to deal with those. Section two relates to ‘low level concerns’. The guidance specifies that “low level” does not mean that the concern is insignificant and that indeed any concern should be dealt with promptly and appropriately. Examples of possible low level concerns include instances of staff being overly friendly with children, having favourites, taking photographs on staff members’ mobile phones or engaging with a child one-to-one in a secluded area or behind closed doors. Low level concerns should also be recorded and should be responded to in accordance with the school’s policy and procedures.
What does this mean in practice?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this and schools and governing bodies should approach their advisors to assist them with the implementation of KCSIE 2021. However, a few points to take away are:
- 16-19 academies need to be aware that KCSIE now applies to them.
- Staff can no longer just read Part 1 of KCSIE: staff members need to satisfy themselves that they understand what their duties are.
- Governing bodies in turn will need to make sure they enable their staff to understand. This may mean that sending one email to ask staff to read Part 1, for instance, may no longer do the trick. There may need to be follow-ups and checks as appropriate.
- New guidelines on online safeguarding may be a welcome reason to systematically review systems, policies and procedures put in place during the pandemic, often on an ad-hoc basis.
- And, returning to the headline topic of peer-on-peer abuse, schools and governing bodies will want to ensure they engage with the subject matter and their staff so as to satisfy themselves that they are up to speed with the very wide-ranging changes. This means including procedures to deal with instances of peer on peer abuse in child protection policies; but implementation in practice may well require a review of the school’s current approach and whether it still is fit for purpose in light of ‘Everyone’s Invited’ and KSCIE 2021.