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Schools are an important part of the wider system for safeguarding children in England and are in a position to identify concerns early and prevent them from escalating. Under the Education Act 2002, maintained schools have a duty to carry out their functions with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of their pupils. A similar requirement is placed on independent schools (which includes academies and free schools) by the Independent School Standards Regulations.

Statutory guidance published by the Department for Education, Keeping children safe in education, provides information on what schools are required to do to meet their safeguarding responsibilities. In large part, this briefing summarises the guidance. It should not, however, be considered a substitute for it, or for professional legal advice, when looking for detailed guidance on specific cases.

Responsibilities of governing bodies and school staff

As part of their safeguarding responsibilities, the governing bodies of maintained schools and the proprietors of independent schools are, among other things, responsible for ensuring that:

  • There are appropriate safeguarding policies and procedures in place, including a child protection policy. Head teachers are responsible for ensuring that these policies are adopted and followed by all staff.
  • A senior staff member is appointed as the designated safeguarding lead to take responsibility for safeguarding and child protection.
  • All staff undergo safeguarding and child protection training at induction and that they receive regular updates.

School staff are expected to know about the systems in place in their school to support safeguarding, and to be aware of the types of abuse to look out for so that they can identify where action, including a referral to children’s social care, may be needed. Section two of the briefing provides further information on the safeguarding responsibilities of governing bodies and school staff.

Safe recruitment

Schools are required to adopt recruitment practices that help deter, reject or identify people who might abuse children. They should act reasonably when deciding on the suitability of new employees based on a range of information, including criminal record checks, barred list checks and prohibition checks, together with references and interview information. Section three provides more detail on the checks that should be carried out.

Allegations against school staff

Section four provides information on how schools should manage allegations against a member of staff that might indicate that they pose a risk to children. The procedure followed will depend heavily on the circumstances of a particular case and can range from no action being taken, to a multi-agency strategy discussion, a criminal investigation and/or dismissal of the staff member concerned.

The briefing relates to the situation in England only.

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