Safeguarding children in schools: statutory changes?

It’s August (unless you’re reading this in any other month of the year, in which case, “It was August!”) which means that many educational institutions will now be thinking ahead to September and preparing themselves for the intake of new pupils or welcoming back existing ones. Along with stocking up on pillows to scream into, a part of the yearly preparations will be the safeguarding children training for the school’s new and returning staff. As a parent of four boys myself (yep, four boys…it’s why I spend so much time at work), I am beyond relieved that schools ensure staff training on safeguarding and child protection policies. But I was under the impression that they currently only need to do this every two years and that it isn’t a requirement to cover online safety. My inquisitive switch clicked… Well, the Department for Education’s inquisitive switch clicked too in 2015 and consulted on proposed changes to its statutory guidance, including ensuring that training is an annual requirement and that online safety is taught. So what happened?

As reported in Schools Week during the time of the consultation, Sally Bates, from the National Association of Headteachers, had said that, although school leaders already did many of the things set out in the proposals, she welcomed the requirement for more frequent training. This wasn’t a view that was shared with all respondents during the consultation process however, with thirty-five percentage not agreeing with the idea of annual training as a minimum for the designated safeguarding lead.

More frequent training?

However, as may be somewhat predictable for those in the eLearning industry, many respondents felt that more frequent training would increase costs and create a staff resource issue. It was argued that small schools could also be more affected by the need to provide cover for staff on training. That old obstacle – the costs involved in face-to-face or blended learning courses.
In a recent blog I wrote about the UK’s increase in online training demonstrated that around 61% of employers believe that learning through face-to-face courses is too expensive and also eats into staffing time and resources. In this case, that may include the need to provide additional cover for staff who are training. Half of respondents to the study outlined in that article also say they are more likely to consider an online training course as they are significantly cheaper options, particularly in when purchased in bulk. So, how does this relate to statutory changes for safeguarding children in schools?

The Government response to the consultation was published in May 2016, and included the following changes:

  • 57. The designated safeguarding lead and any deputies should undergo training to provide them with the knowledge and skills required to carry out the role. The training should be updated every two years
  • 58. In addition to their formal training, as set out above, their knowledge and skills should be updated, (for example via e-bulletins, meeting other designated safeguarding leads, or taking time to read and digest safeguarding developments), at regular intervals, but at least annually, to keep up with any developments relevant to their role

Teaching and Learning

In addition to the increased training requirements outlined in the revised procedures, there was an additional change made where schools were previously only required to “consider” teaching and learning in the area of online safety. Following the consultation, governors and proprietors must now ensure that “as part of the requirement for staff to undergo regularly updated safeguarding training (paragraph 64) and the requirement to ensure children are taught about safeguarding, including online (paragraph 68), that online safety training for staff is integrated, aligned and considered as part of the overarching safeguarding approach”. Happy days! That makes me as a father of four quite relieved. My six year old negotiates his way through the internet just as well as his older brothers and I guess we have to accept that this is the way forward. Safely.

24/7 accessible eLearning

In addition to the affordability of eLearning options, there is also the benefits of 24/7 accessibility. eLearning materials are accessible to staff members throughout the day. This makes it possible for employees to learn the subject at their own pace, in comfortable settings and in bite sized chunks. Unlike more traditional learning methods, eLearning ensures that the learners can time-manage their training to suit their own timetables and thus has no negative consequences on productivity and without a constraint on resources.