As well as bringing with it some wetter days and clock changes, this month has seen some significant changes regarding the OFSTED Update to Inspecting Safeguarding briefing. Several new issues have been identified, whereas also emphasis has been placed on other areas. This article gives you an outline of the most important points raised and is designed as an accompaniment to the National Curriculum Guide to Keeping Children Safe.
Previously when it came to monitoring attendance of students, Ofsted tried to show leniency: we’re all human, and make mistakes. In the past, schools were granted four types of ‘administrative errors’ that anyone could fall victim to, as long as they were corrected before the end of the inspection. From October 2014, only three types of error are allowed, and are defined as:
- failure to record one or two dates
- individual entries that are illegible
- one or two omissions where it is clear that the information is already held by the school but the school has failed to transfer over the information in full to the single central record
Where an exception was previously allowed for ‘failing to record the name/s or person/s that carried out Single Central Record checks, the new legislation quotes ‘this must now be checked and is a legal requirement’.
It has been stipulated that the actual name of the checker must be included, not just initial, which can lead to confusion.
Some schools may need to adjust their processes in order to carry this out; hence it is an important issue.
In cases where students are missing out on education for the variety of known reasons, a school now has a higher responsibility in taking charge of that given situation. They therefore now have a:
- duty to monitor attendance
- duty to investigate unexplained absences
- duty to ensure children have access to education immediately from the sixth day of a fixed-term exclusion from education
- to highlight and identify children at risk of missing education, prior to the event
Essentially, the key point is that Ofsted have evaluated outcomes from previous serious case reviews. This has directly influenced the way safeguarding will be handled within schools, and subsequently inspected by Ofsted.
Duty of care now requires teachers to focus on identifying children at risk of losing out on education, due to personal circumstances; prior to this happening. There is also a focus on developing a team approach to safeguarding; alleviating the pressures of decision making from just being a one-person job.
A safe and holistic culture where staff are ‘confident to challenge senior leaders’ over safeguarding concerns needs to embedded within schools’ practises. This means questioning decision making, and evaluating it, should become a moral responsibility for all staff. A feature of this newly fostered culture is to highlight an awareness of the ‘managing allegations against staff’ procedures. However, it also requires a more active involvement in whistle-blowing against staff conducting bad practice.
An issue clearly stated in Keeping Children Safe in Education is the need for timely record-keeping. Recent guidelines have reiterated the importance of this key factor; which must be shared across the board with other service providers, such as social workers and agencies monitoring healthcare; whilst considering the need for necessary consent.
Schools will still have a designated safeguarding lead. Their responsibility will remain to be the key person to ensure that any concerns raised are immediately shared with the local authority; a record of the referral is kept; and that there is rapid follow-up to be sure action is taken to protect the child from further harm.
This implies there will need to be yet more paperwork completed for schools, and those involved in any safeguarding issues. This can leave us with a bitter taste in our mouths about Ofsted’s clumsy attitude to bureaucracy. However, all of us wish to be good at our jobs and do the very best by the children in our care.
The implications of these changes are that the day-to-day response time from external stakeholders and services will need to gather speed, in order for these aims to be met. Essentially excellent communication needs to lead the way regarding this type of liaison.
With any introduction of new policy, the risk is that a culture of ambivalence towards raising concerns may come up. However, we wish to nurture a productive environment to engender safety for all of our students. Any incidents of any safeguarding issues must be reported and acted on immediately. To ensure this process runs smoothly, we forecast schools allocating time to improving relationships with associated service providers.
Overall, the inspection of safeguarding aims to embed an ethos wherein schools must not only respond to concerns; but demonstrate that they are actively identifying students who may be at risk from any safeguarding issue. This incorporates, but is not limited to: offending, drug or alcohol misuse, self-harming, going missing, being sexually exploited or FGM.
As soon as the children in risk categories have been identified, an individual plan needs to be created to ensure measures are being taken to reduce these risks for that specific child. Detailed incidents of liaising with relevant external services must be evidenced. From calling a Family Liaison Officer, to assessing a child’s requirements with an external healthcare provider; the focus is, as always, PROOF. Ultimately this demonstrates without any doubt to Ofsted that your school is doing everything in its power to protect and keep children safe.
Finally, the Ofsted document looking at eSafety has not been published this time, but the existing legislation within Keeping Children Safe in Education outlines best practices for dealing with this under current legislation, and we will be providing an update once it has been released by Ofsted.