14 February 2024

Safeguarding  is not a tick box exercise but is rather a culture that needs embedding in our schools, it underpins all aspects of school life and, if working effectively, ensures the safety of staff and pupils alike.

Safeguarding  is not a tick box exercise but is rather a culture that needs embedding in our schools, it underpins all aspects of school life and, if working effectively, ensures the safety of staff and pupils alike. As board members, together with all school staff, we have a collective responsibility for safeguarding.

In this blog we will touch upon some recent developments that fall within the safeguarding sphere and look in a bit more detail at the school Single Central Record (SCR). Safeguarding requires an unrelenting process of constant review, revision and monitoring to ensure the processes you have in place are tested, robust and fit for purpose. New and emerging challenges to consider are constantly adding to the arena of safeguarding concerns, the items covered below are but a snapshot of some.


Single Central Record (SCR)

It is the board’s role to ensure their school is meeting its statutory duties regarding the SCR, this is often delegated to the Safeguarding link governor to monitor and occasionally undertake a supervised ‘check’ if concerns are raised. This strikes at the heart of understanding the boards strategic vs operational role, often misunderstandings as to the board’s role can sometimes lead to an overzealous operational approach by governors. Ofsted have tried to make the boards role clear in a recent blog:

Ofsted blog: How we inspect safeguarding in schools (9 Nov 2023) - The single central record………
When we review the SCR, we’re checking against the minimum recording requirements as set out in paragraphs 268 to 272 of KCSIE………We typically carry out the check at the start of the inspection. We do it at the start so that if there are any minor safeguarding improvements that can be rectified during the inspection, schools have the opportunity to do so………As our chief inspector has said before, there is no expectation that governors and trustees go through the SCR themselves. But governors and trustees are responsible for making sure that their school fulfils its statutory duties. It’s therefore important that governors and trustees have mechanisms in place to make sure that key safeguarding and safer recruitment duties are undertaken effectively.

To unpick some of the above, the board has a clear duty to ensure the SCR is up to date and accurate, the board should receive regular reports from the Head that the SCR has been regularly updated and checked (by asking the right questions this fulfils  the strategic/monitoring role of the board) and to receive any external audits of the SCR. External audit outcomes should also be shared with the board and/ or the Safeguarding governor who then have the opportunity to acknowledge and follow up on any recommended actions. Only if concerns are raised (such as a member of staff or governor saying the school isn’t complying with Safer Recruitment requirements) should the Chair or Safeguarding governor ask to make a supervised check of the SCR to ensure the school is meeting its statutory duties. So, to keep it simple, don’t unnecessarily stray from your strategic role, but be ready to act if concerns are raised.


Ofsted update

There has been much written about Ofsted and the negative impact that inspections can have on Headteachers and staff following the tragic death of Ruth Perry. As I write inspections for 2024 have resumed following a two week pause whilst inspectors received additional mental health awareness training.  Ofsted has published its response to the coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report outlining what action it’s taken immediately after and since, including:

  • All inspectors trained to recognise and respond to signs of distress in school leaders
  • A clear and simple process for providers who have concerns about an inspection to speak to an unconnected senior Ofsted employee
  • A new policy on pausing an inspection.

As board members we all need to be aware of these significant changes to Ofsted’s approach to inspections, the ‘safety’ mechanisms that now exist where school leadership distress is identified and how as a board we can respond to such concerns whilst the inspection is ongoing. All boards and school leaders should discuss and agree on what they understand by the new Ofsted policy Pausing state-funded school inspections, and how to proceed if they have concerns during an inspection. None of the above cancels an inspection, at best it is paused whilst steps are taken to address the concerns raised by the school or lead inspector.

The above is just a snapshot of the proposed and actual changes Ofsted have recently made, these are designed to reassure school leaders and boards that Ofsted have listened and responded to the concerns raised. If your school is in the Ofsted window or is soon to be the proof will hopefully be evident once the inspection gets underway, it will be interesting to see the feedback from schools and governors following these inspections. Further information from Ofsted can be found here  Gov.UK: Summary of changes 


DfE guidance on Gender Questioning Children

Following the long awaited publication of the DfEs draft guidance on Gender Questioning Children most commentators seem to reflect that it was a satisfactory starting point with a widespread encouragement to engage with the consultation process which closes on the 12th March 2024. Boards will need to give due consideration to this non-statutory guidance once the consultation is complete and the final version is published. Consideration may need to be given to consult with stakeholders before your school decides on what changes, if any, will need to be made to policy, procedures, safeguarding and adaptations to the school estate and how best to communicate these.


Safeguarding culture

Having a positive safeguarding culture is often referred to but sometimes not fully understood. It starts at the school gate with site security and access key to creating a safe and secure environment. 

  • How is the culture signposted? 
  • Are the DSL details and their team clearly visible around the school and how easy is it for staff and pupils to report their concerns in person or anonymously?
  • Are school policies on child protection, behaviour, safeguarding and online safety clearly communicated to staff, pupils and parents? 
  • Are expectations clearly understood? 
  • Do staff, governors and visitors have lanyards so that pupils can identify adults that should be accompanied and how adults should be challenged? 
  • Are there clear safeguarding protocols for visitors, do they receive/ and or sign to agree to them? 
  • Do the board receive termly safeguarding updates at meetings? 
  • Is safeguarding a standing item on your agendas? 

All of the above contribute to a culture of safeguarding and critically provide the school and governors with the evidence to support that safeguarding is effective in their school.

There is little doubt that safeguarding can become overwhelming for governors, having a safeguarding link governor is a starting point but by no means the end of the matter. A link governor cannot take on the safeguarding brief alone. When you visit your school, whether during the day or evening, have your eyes open to safeguarding concerns, if you see something that doesn’t feel right don’t wait to report it, speak to the Head or DSL whilst you’re there or as soon as reasonably possible after. Governors must have the view that ‘it can happen in our school’, this is no way a criticism of the safeguarding culture in your school, but without this mindset then you collectively enable those that are predisposed to find and exploit weaknesses with all the devasting consequences that can follow. Get trained, be aware, and be prepared to report your concerns for the sake of the children whose care and safety we are entrusted to protect.


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