This is part 2 of our feature on the revised Working Together guidance. This guidance sets out how individuals and organisations should work together to safeguard young people. The revised version, published in March, has significant implications for the role schools play in child protection and combatting bullying. It was revised in the light of Lord Laming’s report and recommendations, The Protection of Children in England: a progress report.

In part 1, of the feature last month, we looked at schools’ duties in relation to local safeguarding children boards. This month we examine how the revisions affect information sharing and bullying, and look some proposed changes to the guidance ‘Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education’.

Information sharing

Effective information sharing underpins integrated working and is a vital element of early intervention and safeguarding. Chapter 2 of the revised Working Together focuses on information sharing following Lord Laming’s recommendation 23, that information sharing guidance (see below) should be consistently applied.

Guidance
The Government has issued separate and detailed guidance, ‘Information Sharing: Guidance for practitioners and managers’, for all who have to make decisions about sharing personal information on a case-by-case basis. This will include the designated person in schools, who should have access to information sharing guidance and training, and should be confident in making decisions about sharing information.

Who is responsible for training?
The governors have overall responsibility for ensuring that the school has proper safeguarding systems but will usually delegate practical issues to the head or the designated person (who is often, but not always, the head). The designated person must have appropriate training, including refreshers every two years. The guidance is available on Teachernet and the Every Child Matters website.

Recognising signs of abuse

Lord Laming recommended that all staff who work with children should have initial training and continuing professional development to understand child development and recognise signs of abuse or neglect.

Who provides the training?
Again it is the governors’ responsibility to ensure that all staff have had appropriate training.

Training for the designated person must include basic child protection training but also training in inter-agency working that is provided by, or to standards agreed by, the local safeguarding children board.

Other training can be provided by the local authority, NSPCC or commercial providers as INSET training.

Temporary staff and volunteers must be made aware of the school’s policy and procedures on child protection. The designated person should keep records of all training.

Multi-agency training

There should also be multi-agency training to create shared language and an understanding of local referral procedures across early years and schools.

It is recommended that a named lead in each setting should receive this training. Within schools this will normally be the designated person. Although this is a revision within Working Together, schools will already be familiar with this as it is part of the guidance for ‘Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education’.

A way through the forest

Working Together is now a voluminous document, in excess of 350 pages, together with other statutory guidance and regulations referred to. In schools, the designated person must hold it as a reference document in support of their demanding role. Fortunately schools also have access to more specific guidance:

  • ‘What to do if you are worried a child is being abused’ – simple, direct advice aimed at everyone who works with children and is concerned about an individual child. A revised version is expected shortly.
  • ‘Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education’ – detailed guidance covering child protection systems in schools and recruitment procedures for all staff and volunteers.

Bullying

Since 1999, there has been a legal duty on schools to put measures in place to promote good behaviour and respect for others and to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils.

This is contained in section 89 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006. In practice this means that schools must have a clear, written anti-bullying policy linked to the behaviour policy.

Working Together recognises the seriousness of bullying as a safeguarding issue by allocating work to prevent and respond effectively to bullying as a key task for local safeguarding children boards.

Safe to learn guidance

Chapter 11 of Working Together flags up the comprehensive suite of government guidance published in 2007 – ‘Safe to learn: embedding anti-bullying work in schools’.

The Safe to Learn suite includes the 2006 guidance on bullying relating to race, religion and culture, as well as individual guidance documents on:

  • cyberbullying
  • homophobic bullying
  • bullying involving children with SEN and disabilities

In 2009, the Government added guidance on:

  • bullying on journeys
  • bullying in extended services
  • preventing and responding to sexist, sexual and transphobic bullying

Bullying on journeys
All schools are required to have a plan in place to tackle the problems experienced by children travelling to and from school. In reality it is reported that very few do – a 2002 High Court case in (Leah Bradford-Smart v West Sussex County Council) ruled that a school will not normally be liable where a pupil is bullied off school premises.

But schools have always had the power to discipline pupils for behaviour that affects the welfare of members of the school community wherever it happens.

The Education and Inspections Act 2006 (section 89) now gives schools a specific power to deal with the conduct of pupils off-site. This new guidance provides ideas and examples of steps to take to prevent bullying experienced on journeys.

The ‘Bullying in extended services and around schools’ guidance provides similar support.

Sexist, sexual and transphobic bullying
‘Preventing and responding to sexist, sexual and transphobic bullying’ is comprehensive guidance that explains the characteristics, prevalence and effects of bullying based on attitudes to sex and sexuality, which can be quite complex and can have very serious consequences.

‘Transphobic bullying’ is defined as stemming from a hatred or fear of people who are ‘transgender’ because they feel their biological body is not aligned to their inner sense of gender identity.

Sexual stereotyping in society and lurid media stories of children having sex change treatment add to the ammunition directed against children who are already likely to feel extremely vulnerable.

Safeguarding guidance revisions

A draft revised version of ‘Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education’ has been issued for consultation incorporating a number of significant changes:

  • a new section on the role of the local safeguarding children board
  • updating of recruitment procedures to include reference to the new Vetting and Barring Scheme and the role of the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA)
  • revised procedures for handling allegations of abuse against staff in schools
  • further guidance on questions that have been troubling schools – for example what safeguarding measures are appropriate for pupils undertaking voluntary community service

The future for CRB checks

A significant part of the consultation tackles the question ‘is there a need for further Criminal Records Bureau checks once a person has registered with the ISA and is subject to continuous monitoring?’

Sir Roger Singleton, as part of his report on the Vetting and Barring Scheme, ‘Drawing the Line’, queried whether it would be necessary to continue the requirement for CRB checks on applicants for work with children if those applicants were ISA-registered.

The procedure for ISA registration will include a full enhanced CRB check, and anyone who has a conviction for offences against children is likely to be barred, not registered. ISA registration will be fully portable and will be kept up-to-date if and when information of convictions or other relevant events is received by the ISA.

The argument is therefore that if the ISA has decided that someone is not unsuitable to work with children, then there should be no need to seek a CRB check when that person changes their role within regulated activity.

What ISA registration won’t cover The ISA will be considering issues relating to safeguarding only and there is, quite rightly, likely to be a high threshold before someone is barred from working with children in any role. Schools may consider that information relating to honesty and integrity is still important in making recruitment decisions and this is

not likely to be covered by ISA registration.

It is suggested that there would still be a power for school employers to request CRB checks in certain circumstances but Ofsted and ISI would be expected to report on whether individual schools were making ‘too many’ requests. This leads to the intriguing suggestion that Criminal Records Bureau checks may become a thing of the past for schools.

The consultation closes in June with a view to the new guidance and supporting regulations being issued in time for the new academic year.

Essential front-line role

Whilst controversy still reigns over the operation of vetting procedures and other aspects of child protection, schools should not be distracted from the front-line role that they play in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, and should strive to make the phrase ‘working together’ with other professionals a reality not rhetoric in the interests of all our children.

Tracey Eldridge-Hinmers is an associate in the education department at Veale Wasbrough Vizards. You can contact her on 020 7665 0802 or 0117 314 5378

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