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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The residential schools Investigation Report

Contents

Annex 3: Structure of safeguarding in schools

Introduction

1. There are a number of bodies responsible for ensuring that safeguarding in schools is effective. Safeguarding responsibilities in schools encompass a broad range of issues.

2. The overarching statutory framework for safeguarding children in England and in Wales is the child protection procedure set out in section 47 of the Children Act 1989. However, each country produces its own statutory guidance concerning safeguarding children.

Safeguarding children in schools in England

3. A number of different government agencies and public bodies are involved in the system of safeguarding children in schools in England. In addition, staff in schools with specific safeguarding or leadership and management roles have responsibilities for the pupils. Safeguarding in schools also involves other agencies whose remit extends beyond the education sector, such as the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

4. There must be cooperation and information-sharing between all the different bodies to ensure the system works efficiently. Statutory guidance published by the Department for Education sets out how this multi-agency working must operate to safeguard children and promote their welfare.

Department for Education

5. Since 2003, the Department for Education has had legislative responsibility for the system of both children’s social care and education.[1] The Secretary of State for Education (Secretary of State) has a general duty to promote the well-being of children.[2]

6. The Department for Education produces policies, procedures and guidance related to child sexual abuse and safeguarding in schools. The two most significant pieces of guidance since 1988 in respect of safeguarding children in schools have been:

  • Working Together to Safeguard Children: first produced in 1988 and last updated in December 2020;[3] and
  • Keeping Children Safe in Education: introduced in 2014 and regularly updated, with the latest version coming into force in September 2021 after a consultation process.[4]

7. The Secretary of State has oversight of all academy schools. Day-to-day responsibilities lie with the regional schools commissioners, a group of civil servants who make decisions on behalf of the Secretary of State. Academies’ responsibilities are set out in a funding agreement between the academy and the Secretary of State and any legislation which expressly applies to academies, which includes safeguarding legislation and guidance. Under powers set out in the funding agreements, the Secretary of State can intervene where academies are ‘causing concern’, which would include failures in safeguarding. Academies are run by a trust (a single academy trust or multi-academy trust). If an academy school is judged to be inadequate, it can be transferred to another academy trust via an administrative process.

8. Where maintained schools are judged to be inadequate, whether through failures of safeguarding or otherwise, the Secretary of State has the power to make an academy order, converting a maintained school into an academy.[5]

9. The Secretary of State is responsible for holding a register of independent schools and it is a criminal offence for anyone to operate an independent school without registration.[6] Since 2003, the Department for Education has provided a set of standards which all independent schools must meet – the Independent School Standards (ISS)[7] – and has also set national minimum standards (NMS) for residential schools (whether state-funded or independent) and for residential special schools.[8] These standards all include the requirement for schools to have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. There are enforcement powers which the Secretary of State can use against independent schools which are not meeting the standards, including those in respect of safeguarding. Enforcement powers include requiring a school to submit an action plan as to how it will meet the relevant standards, restricting the admission of pupils or removing the school from the register.[9]

Inspection

10. All schools in England, whether day or boarding, are inspected by either the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) or the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI). Ofsted inspects all state-funded schools and ‘non-association’ independent schools. ‘Association’ independent schools (that is, members of the Independent Schools Council) are inspected by the ISI.

11. Inspections include an assessment of the safeguarding arrangements of the school. Ofsted inspects state-funded schools against a common inspection framework, which includes requirements for effective safeguarding arrangements. Where Ofsted finds safeguarding to be ineffective, this results in an overall judgement of inadequate, and the school will be ordered to become an academy by the Secretary of State.[10]

12. Independent schools are inspected against the ISS and boarding schools (whether independent or state-funded) and residential special schools are inspected against the relevant NMS. If independent schools are found not to meet safeguarding standards, the inspectorate will notify the Department for Education, which can issue the school with a notice to improve or take other enforcement action.

13. If schools provide accommodation for children for over 295 days per year, they are considered to be children’s homes.[11] Children’s homes must be registered with Ofsted, which is the regulator and inspector of these services.[12] Children’s homes are inspected and judged against ‘quality standards’, including those relating to the protection of children and their care and well-being.[13] Ofsted has the power to issue a ‘compliance notice’ and to suspend or remove a children’s home from the register where it considers that a children’s home is not safe or of a good enough quality.[14]

Local authorities

14. Local authorities are responsible for overseeing the safety of children in their area and for investigating alleged abuse if there is a reasonable suspicion that a child was or may be suffering significant harm.[15] They are also under a duty to promote the welfare of children in their area and to cooperate with other statutory bodies to improve the well-being of children.[16]

15. The local authority has no day-to-day oversight over safeguarding in schools in its area, except as one of the partners in the local children’s safeguarding partnership set out below.

16. Maintained schools are funded by the local authority but are semi-autonomous. The local authority does not recruit school staff, other than the headteacher. The board of governors of a maintained school must include one governor nominated by the local authority. Local authorities may retain human resources functions for maintained schools and can also provide governor services (usually paid for by the school) such as clerks and training for governing bodies. Local authorities can provide advice and information to schools and can offer independent investigatory personnel in cases of complex safeguarding allegations against staff in maintained schools.[17]

The local authority designated officer

17. In 2004, Working Together to Safeguard Children created the role of the local authority designated officer (LADO). Each local authority should have designated a particular officer or team of officers to be involved in the management and oversight of allegations against people who work with children.[18] Keeping Children Safe in Education states that the LADO should be informed immediately of any allegations that an adult working in a school 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;
  • behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children; or
  • behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children.[19]

18. When a school makes a referral to the LADO, the LADO will manage and oversee the investigation. The relevant individual from the school (usually the headteacher) will discuss the case with the LADO, who may decide that no further action is necessary. However, if there is cause to suspect a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, the LADO will convene and coordinate strategy meetings with participants from the school and the other agencies involved in the investigation, such as the police and children’s social care, in accordance with the statutory guidance. If there is an allegation that a criminal offence may have been committed, the police will conduct an investigation and may refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider a prosecution. If the case does not require a police investigation, children’s social care may carry out an investigation under section 47 of the Children Act 1989. Police or social workers investigating the allegation report back to the strategy meeting. Once investigations are concluded, the LADO coordinates multi-agency decision-making processes regarding conclusions, outcomes or further actions.[20]

19. The LADO deals only with allegations against adults working with children, not allegations of harmful sexual behaviour between children. Where there are concerns that significant harm to a child has been caused by a child, the school should make a referral to children’s social care.

Local safeguarding children boards and local safeguarding partnerships

20. Local safeguarding children boards were set up in 2004 to provide a mechanism for strategic oversight of, and joint training and advice to, all bodies within a local authority area which make provision for children and young people.[21]

21. From September 2019, multi-agency arrangements were changed to local safeguarding partnerships (LSPs). Under this organisational framework the local authority, the chief officer of police and clinical commissioning groups are jointly responsible for making arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area.[22] Schools and colleges are required to contribute to multi-agency working, and to understand their role in safeguarding partnership arrangements.[23]

22. It is “expected” (but not compulsory) that the LSP will name schools in its area as “relevant agencies”, which places them under a statutory duty to cooperate with the published arrangements.[24] The LSP should also publish a document which sets out in clear terms the local criteria for action, including the criteria for when a case should be referred to children’s social care for an investigation under section 47 of the Children Act 1989.[25] This would include cases concerning harmful sexual behaviour between children or familial abuse. Governing bodies and schools should know about the local criteria for action and ensure that it is reflected in their own procedures.

Safeguarding roles within schools

Headteacher and designated safeguarding lead

23. Headteachers have day-to-day responsibility for a school, which includes responsibility for safeguarding. The headteacher also has a central role in managing referrals of allegations of abuse by staff to the local authority.

24. Schools must appoint a senior member of staff to oversee and manage child protection and safeguarding responsibilities (as set out in Keeping Children Safe in Education), including dealing with incidents of harmful sexual behaviour between children in school. This role was previously called the child protection officer or designated person and is now the designated safeguarding lead (DSL).

Governors, proprietors, trustees and boards of management

25. Most schools have a group of volunteers who oversee the management of the school. They are often called governors but sometimes they are known as trustees or boards of management. They play a central role in the oversight and management of a school, which includes ensuring that there is adequate scrutiny of safeguarding arrangements.

26. Each maintained school must have a governing body whose membership and responsibilities are set out in legislation.[26] Academies are not required by law to have governing bodies, although some choose to do so.[27] All academies are run by a trust and the trustees of an academy or a multi-academy trust have governance responsibilities.

27. Independent schools may be owned by a group (a proprietor body) or by an individual (sole proprietor). Independent schools are not required by law to have a governing body. If there is no governing body, it is the responsibility of the proprietor (whether a sole proprietor or a proprietor body) to oversee safeguarding in the school.

28. The safeguarding responsibilities of governors or proprietors of schools are set out in Keeping Children Safe in Education. These duties include:

  • ensuring that effective policies and procedures are in place;[28]
  • ensuring that adequate training is undertaken by staff;[29] and
  • giving guidance and oversight to the arrangements for child protection.[30]

29. Every school should have a designated governor for safeguarding to take responsibility for all child protection matters and ensure annual evaluation of policies and procedures.[31] If an allegation of abuse is made against the headteacher, the chair of governors or proprietor has a duty to refer the allegation to the LADO.[32] The governing body also has a role in exercising its disciplinary functions in respect of child protection allegations against a member of staff.

Vetting and barring

30. Schools have an obligation to comply with safer recruitment guidance, currently set out in Keeping Children Safe in Education. This means they must undertake criminal records checks and also, depending on the nature of the role, check whether the applicant has been barred from working with children or is disqualified from teaching or from holding a management role within a school. The DBS, an executive agency of the Home Office, provides these criminal records checks for schools and also has barring functions to prohibit those who pose a risk of harm to children from working with them. Schools are under an obligation to refer staff or volunteers who have been dismissed, resigned or retired following safeguarding allegations to the DBS.

Teacher misconduct

31. All teachers (but not usually teaching assistants), whether working in state-funded or independent schools, are subject to the misconduct jurisdiction of the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA), which is an executive agency of the Department for Education. The TRA investigates complaints of serious misconduct and has the power to prohibit an individual from teaching.

Charity Commission

32. Many independent schools are owned or run by charities and are therefore regulated by the Charity Commission, a non-ministerial government department.[33] The charitable trust must be registered with the Charity Commission, although the Charity Commission does not record whether a registered charity is a school or runs a school.[34] The trustees of a charity must comply with charity law. All charities must have regard to the need to protect their beneficiaries.[35] Trustees must ensure that there are clear lines of accountability and responsibility for safeguarding, with appropriate safeguarding policies and processes in place. Trustees are under a duty to make a report of any ‘serious incident’ (which includes allegations of sexual abuse) to the Charity Commission.[36]

33. The Charity Commission does not investigate individual incidents or allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse.[37] It can issue regulatory advice, serve notices asking for improvement and initiate a statutory inquiry where it has serious regulatory concerns.[38] It has powers to suspend or remove trustees who have been responsible for misconduct or mismanagement. The Charity Commission does not have any specific regulatory powers in relation to schools.

Children’s Commissioner for England

34. The role of Children’s Commissioner for England was established by the Children Act 2004 to be the voice of children and young people, with special responsibility for those in local authority care.[39] The Commissioner’s Office offers a service called ‘Help at Hand’, which provides advice to young people living away from home, and which can include making representations on behalf of the young people. The Commissioner has no power to investigate individual complaints but can hold inquiries into systemic issues.[40]

Safeguarding children in schools in Wales

35. A number of different government agencies and public bodies are involved in the system of safeguarding children in schools in Wales. In addition, staff in schools with specific safeguarding or leadership and management roles have responsibilities for the pupils. Statutory guidance published by the Welsh Government sets out the roles and responsibilities of school staff and leaders, and explains how multi-agency working must operate to safeguard children and promote their welfare.

Welsh Government

36. The Welsh Government has produced several pieces of statutory guidance relating to safeguarding and schools:[41]

  • Keeping learners safe: a document aimed at all schools and educational institutions, setting out practice in respect of child protection, issued in 2014 and updated in March and April 2021;[42]
  • Safeguarding children in education: handling allegations of abuse against teachers and other staff, published in 2014;[43]
  • Working Together to Safeguard People: a multi-volume piece of statutory guidance published under the Social Services and Well-Being Act (Wales) 2014, which includes guidance on the duties to prevent abuse of children in any setting;[44] and
  • Wales Safeguarding Procedures, first introduced in 2008, which applies to schools and all settings involving children or vulnerable adults.[45]

37. State-funded schools in Wales are all maintained schools, funded by the local authority. There are no academy schools in Wales.

38. Independent schools must register with the Welsh Government and it is an offence to conduct an independent school if it does not have registration.[46] Independent schools must comply with the Independent School Standards (ISS) for schools in Wales and residential schools must comply with the national minimum standards (NMS) for boarding schools or residential special schools in Wales. Neither the ISS nor the NMS for Wales have been amended or updated since 2003.

39. The Welsh Government has the power to take enforcement action against an independent school if it is in breach of the ISS or NMS. Enforcement powers include requiring a school to submit an action plan as to how to meet the relevant standards or removing the school from the register.[47]

40. Welsh ministers have powers to intervene if local authorities are not providing adequate safeguarding functions or delivering adequate educational provisions.[48]

41. The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 established a National Independent Safeguarding Board to oversee the work of the regional safeguarding children boards.[49] The Welsh Government also operates a Safeguarding in Education Board made up of local authority representatives and other organisations (such as the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and the Welsh inspectorate of schools, Estyn) to provide a dialogue with practitioners about the development of procedures.[50] Its role is to recommend where changes need to be made to Keeping learners safe, to develop better arrangements with a consistent approach and to disseminate good practice.[51]

Inspection

42. Safeguarding in schools is monitored for compliance with regulatory standards by the Welsh inspectorate, Estyn, or the Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) in the case of residential schools.

43. Estyn is an independent body sponsored by the Welsh Government which inspects all maintained and independent schools in Wales, as well as providing a wide range of other services. The duty to inspect independent schools includes a remit for Estyn to provide ongoing advice and support to the Welsh Government about independent schools, in particular their registration and whether or not they meet the relevant standards.[52] Inspections of maintained schools are undertaken against a common inspection framework, which includes requirements for effective safeguarding arrangements. Independent schools are inspected against the ISS and the common inspection framework. If Estyn identifies shortcomings in the safeguarding arrangements of a maintained school, the local authority will be involved in follow-up work with the school to ensure it complies with Estyn’s recommendations.[53] If Estyn finds that safeguarding at an independent school is inadequate, it notifies the Welsh Government which may take enforcement action.[54]

44. The CIW inspects the residential aspects of all boarding schools as well as residential special schools where pupils are accommodated for fewer than 295 days in a year. It inspects these schools against the NMS for boarding schools and residential special schools.[55] It registers, regulates and inspects residential special schools where pupils are accommodated for more than 295 days.[56] Regulating a school gives the CIW more extensive powers and means that the school is judged against standards made under the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016 (RISCA). The CIW visits residential special schools annually; boarding schools are inspected every three years.[57]

Local authorities

45. Local authorities, maintained schools and further education institutions must have regard to statutory guidance in order to meet their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.[58] Keeping learners safe places a number of duties upon local authorities in respect of safeguarding children in schools, including:

  • ensuring appropriate safeguarding training is provided for staff and governors of maintained schools;
  • providing supervision and support for staff with designated safeguarding roles in schools;
  • providing model policies and procedures for schools on all aspects of child protection and safeguarding;
  • making arrangements for overseeing allegations of abuse; and
  • providing advice, guidance and support to maintained schools about dealing with individual cases.[59]

Designated lead officer

46. Each local authority must designate an appropriate senior officer to have lead responsibility for safeguarding in education, as set out in Keeping learners safe and in specific guidance regarding the oversight of investigations.[60] The designated lead officer has a range of responsibilities, including overseeing investigations into allegations of abuse by adults working in schools. The headteacher must refer allegations to the designated lead officer so they can consult with children’s social care and the police.[61]

Regional safeguarding children boards

47. There are six regional safeguarding children boards (each covers several local authority areas) which provide leadership and oversight on issues relating to safeguarding.[62] Each board is a multi-agency partnership between statutory and non-statutory agencies. The boards devise regional policies and procedures, provide training, disseminate information and offer safeguarding advice and guidance for schools.

Safeguarding roles within schools in Wales

Headteacher and designated safeguarding person

48. Headteachers have day-to-day responsibility for a school, which includes responsibility for safeguarding. The headteacher also has responsibility for referring allegations of sexual abuse by staff to the local authority.

49. Headteachers for all schools (whether maintained or independent) have their responsibilities set out in Keeping learners safe, which was issued by the Welsh Government in 2015. This is statutory guidance, so schools must follow it unless there are good reasons not to do so.[63]

50. Each school must have a designated safeguarding person (DSP) who has lead responsibility for managing child protection concerns and cases, including harmful sexual behaviour between children.[64] The role and responsibilities of the DSP are set out in detail in Keeping learners safe.[65]

Governors, proprietors, trustees and boards of management

51. Each maintained school in Wales must have a governing body, whose membership and responsibilities are set out in legislation.[66] As in England, independent schools in Wales are not required by law to have governing bodies, although some choose to do so.[67] Independent schools may be owned by a group (a proprietor body) or by an individual (sole proprietor). If there is no governing body, it is the responsibility of the proprietor (whether a sole proprietor or a proprietor body) to oversee safeguarding in the school.

52. The safeguarding responsibilities of governors or proprietors in maintained and independent schools are set out in the relevant statutory guidance for Wales, currently Keeping learners safe and Working Together to Safeguard People.[68] These duties include:

  • ensuring that effective policies and procedures are in place;[69]
  • ensuring that adequate training is undertaken;[70] and
  • giving guidance and oversight to the arrangements for child protection.

53. Each school with a governing body should have a designated governor for safeguarding to take responsibility for all child protection matters and to ensure annual evaluation of safeguarding policies and procedures.[71] If an allegation of abuse is made against the headteacher, the chair of governors or proprietor is responsible for referring the allegation to the local authority. The governing body also has a role in exercising its disciplinary functions in respect of child protection allegations against a member of staff.[72]

Vetting and barring

54. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) system of providing criminal records checks and barring of individuals who are unsuitable to work with children operates in Wales as it does in England. Schools are under an obligation to refer to the DBS any staff or volunteers who have been dismissed, resigned or retired following safeguarding allegations.

55. Schools in Wales are required by Keeping learners safe to comply with safer recruitment procedures. This means they must obtain criminal records checks and also, depending on the nature of the role, check whether the applicant has been barred from working with children or is disqualified from teaching or from holding a management role within a school. The Education Workforce Council (EWC) operates a system of qualification and mandatory registration for all teachers and learning support workers (such as teaching assistants) employed in maintained schools. Schools have access to the EWC register to check candidates.

Teacher misconduct

56. Regulation of education staff is the responsibility of the EWC. All teachers and learning support workers in maintained schools in Wales must register with the EWC and must abide by a code of professional conduct and practice.[73] Schools must notify the EWC if they have ceased to use the services of a registered person, or have terminated such arrangements because of misconduct or professional incompetence or a criminal conviction. The EWC conducts misconduct hearings and has a range of sanctions, including prohibition from teaching work.[74] Teaching staff and learning support staff at independent schools in Wales are not required to register with the EWC and the EWC has no misconduct jurisdiction in relation to unregistered teachers or learning support staff.

Children’s Commissioner for Wales

57. The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has existed since 2001.[75] The principal role of the Commissioner is to safeguard and promote the welfare and rights of children and young people. The Commissioner seeks to influence the Welsh Government and others through the publication of reports and research. The Commissioner has the power to review the functions of various public bodies, including the Welsh Government, and to examine individual cases and assist individual children.[76] Through a network of Ambassador Schools, the Commissioner runs training events for children and a programme of school visits.[77]

References

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