Schools (including independent schools and non-maintained special schools) and Further Education (FE) institutions should give effect to their duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of their pupils (students under 18 years of age in the case of FE institutions) under the Education Act 2002 and, where appropriate, under the Children Act 1989 (see paragraph 2.5 of Working Together 2010) by:
- creating and maintaining a safe learning environment for children and young people; and
- identifying where there are child welfare concerns and taking action to address them, in partnership with other organisations where appropriate.
Schools also contribute through the curriculum by developing children’s understanding, awareness and resilience. Ofsted inspect against the extent to which schools and colleges fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities. In Schools and FE colleges, how effectively the safeguarding of learners is promoted, is a limiting grade on overall effectiveness.
Creating a safe learning environment means having effective arrangements in place to address a range of issues. These include child protection rrangements, pupil health and safety, and bullying (including cyberbullying). Others include arrangements for meeting the health needs of children with medical conditions, providing first aid, school security, tackling drugs and substance misuse, having arrangements in place to safeguard and promote the welfare of children on extended vocational placements and ensuring support and planning for young people in custody and their resettlement back into the community.
Education staff have a crucial role to play in helping identify welfare concerns, and indicators of possible abuse or neglect, at an early stage. They should refer those concerns to the appropriate organisation, normally local authority children’s social care, contributing to the assessment of a child’s needs and, where appropriate, to ongoing action to meet those needs. When a child has special educational needs or is disabled, the school will have important information about the child’s level of understanding and the most effective means of communicating with the child. The school will also be well placed to give a view on the impact of treatment or intervention on the child’s care or behaviour. As the numbers of 14-16s in FE colleges for at least part of the week has increased, staff in this sector will need to be part of the arrangements for providing support for their role on safeguarding.
Schools and FE institutions should have a senior member of staff who is designated to take lead responsibility for dealing with child protection issues, providing advice and support to other staff, liaising with the authority, and working with other organisations as necessary. A school or FE institution should remedy without delay any deficiencies or weaknesses in its arrangements for safeguarding and promoting welfare that are brought to its attention.
Staff in schools and FE institutions should not themselves investigate possible abuse or neglect. They have a key role to play by referring concerns about those issues to local authority children’s social care, providing information for police investigations and/or enquiries under section 47 of the Children Act 1989, and by contributing to assessments.
Where a child of school age, including those attending FE institutions, is the subject of an inter-agency child protection plan, the school or FE institution should be involved in the preparation of the plan. The school’s role and responsibilities in contributing to actions to safeguard the child, and promote his or her welfare, should be clearly identified.
Special schools, including non-maintained special schools and independent schools, that provide medical and/or nursing care should ensure that their medical and nursing staff have appropriate training and access to advice on child protection and on safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.
Schools play an important role in making children and young people aware both of behaviour towards them that is not acceptable, and of how they can help keep themselves safe. The non-statutory framework for personal, social and health education (PSHE) provides opportunities for children and young people to learn about keeping safe. For example, pupils should be given information about:
- the availability of advice and support in their local area and online;
- recognising and managing risks in different situations, including on the internet, and then deciding how to respond;
- judging what kind of physical contact is acceptable and unacceptable; and
- recognising when pressure from others (including people they know) threatens their personal safety and wellbeing and develop effective ways of resisting pressure.
PSHE curriculum materials provide resources that enable schools to tackle issues regarding healthy relationships, including domestic violence, bullying and abuse. Discussions about personal safety and keeping safe can reinforce the message that any kind of violence is unacceptable, let children and young people know that it is acceptable to talk about their own problems, and signpost sources of help.
Corporal punishment is outlawed for all pupils in all schools, including independent schools, and FE institutions. The law forbids a teacher or other member of staff from using any degree of physical contact that is deliberately intended to punish a pupil, or that is primarily intended to cause pain or injury or humiliation.
Teachers at a school are allowed to use reasonable force to control or restrain pupils under certain circumstances. Other staff may also do so, in the same way as teachers, provided they have been authorised by the head teacher to have control or charge of pupils. All schools should have a policy about the use of force to control or restrain pupils. See The Use of Force to Control or Restrain Pupils for further guidance.