Good Safeguarding Practice Guide for Schools and Colleges

Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) are reflecting on the impact that a year of disruption has had on the children and young people in their care as well as thinking about priorities for the this new academic year.

Whilst there is still uncertainty about the impact that school closures and other restrictions have had on pupils and students, the indicators are worrying and there are fears that the pandemic could leave a legacy of anxiety and poor mental health and wellbeing amongst British children and young people.


In a recent survey, conducted by the UK’s children’s charity Barnardo’s, they reported that the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people in Britain could still be worsening a year on after the pandemic first struck. This followed up an earlier survey conducted in 2020 (*1).

Barnardo’s asked more than 4,000 children and young people aged 8-24 across Great Britain about how they were feeling now, compared to before the pandemic.

A third of 8 to 15-year-olds surveyed said they were experiencing feeling stressed (29%) and worried (30%) more now than before the coronavirus pandemic. Only 16% of children aged 8 to 15 reported experiencing these personal feelings less now than before the coronavirus pandemic. (Barnardo’s, 2021) (*2)

Furthermore, the NSPCC recently reported a significant rise in calls and messages to its helpline and suggested that the rise has increased fears that children who could not attend school during the lockdowns were more vulnerable to abuse and neglect (NSPCC, 2021) (*3).


Since March 2020, school leaders, including DSLs and deputy DSLs have had to respond and react to an ongoing flow of government guidance in relation to the pandemic as well as the regular statutory guidance ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ (2020) (*4) and the ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (2018) (*5) which was updated and released in December 2020.

It is therefore important to recognise that senior leaders, governors, trustees and DSLs and deputy DSLs have been working extremely hard for the past 14 months revising policies and procedures. Key also is ensuring that all staff are aware of the changes, as well as being on the alert to respond to any signs of safeguarding concerns.

The DfEs undertook a consultation (February 2021) (*6) which referred to the need for training, peer support, and leadership team support. This highlights the need to ensure “DSLs, schools and colleges have the capacity and support to provide the right help”. Some of this may require additional resources. ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ (DfE 2021) (*7) includes a range of significant changes following the Ofsted report on sexual abuse in schools and college. This indicates that safeguarding information for all staff will need to be provided which relates specifically to peer-on-peer abuse and child criminal exploitation.


So firstly, it is important that the school recognises that DSLs are likely to need more support in the near future either in the form of supervision or by looking at ways to create additional time to do the job effectively.

As well as keeping on top of statutory requirements, it is important that DSLs consider what is good safeguarding practice in schools and, more importantly, how can it be demonstrated and evidenced. The following represent some key features of effective safeguarding practice:

  1. Completing the Section 11 and/or Section 175 Audit

Section 11 of the Children’s Act 2004 requires Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships (LSCPs) to ensure that organisations have safeguarding arrangements in place to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The section 11 audit refers to all organisations, for example, police, NHS, and local authorities. The section 175 audit (Education Act 2002) is specifically about safeguarding in education. Many LSCPs do not require schools to complete both. The process involves completing a self-assessment document where DSLs will comment on several areas. These include the following:

  • Leadership of safeguarding
  • Organisational arrangements: policies, procedures, and responsibilities
  • Safeguarding training
  • Safer recruitment
  • Safeguarding culture
  • Culture of child sexual abuse and harassment in schools:
  • Curriculum

It is also helpful to review the school’s safeguarding arrangements alongside the governor who has responsibility for safeguarding.

  1. A culture of safeguarding

Does the school create a ‘culture of safeguarding’ by ensuring an environment in which children and young people feel respected and listened to should they need to make a disclosure of abuse or something that they are worried about? Do all staff understand their crucial role in safeguarding?

How is evidence gathered to show that the school has created an environment where children and young people feel safe and listened to?

  1. An effective safeguarding policy and procedure

Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021 has now been published so it is a good time to revisit and tighten existing policy and procedures in light of the changes.

  1. Successful safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility

It is important that all teachers and support staff, governors and volunteers, and catering and site facilities staff understand their responsibilities for safeguarding. It is equally important that children and young people understand the process of reporting concerns. Schools should ensure that all members of the school community know their safeguarding responsibility through an effective training programme.

  1. Reviewing your training for the next academic year

The way to create a culture of safeguarding, where everyone is clear about their safeguarding role and responsibilities, is through an effective training programme which is regularly refreshed and delivered to ensure safeguarding remains of utmost importance. There is not much point in just delivering a standalone training session on the first day of the new academic year to update staff on new developments and then not returning to it for the remainder of the year. To keep safeguarding knowledge revitalised and nourished, a continual ‘drip feed’ of information is required through regular updates and testing of knowledge either through quizzes, discussions, and questionnaires.

  1. Working in partnership within the safeguarding network

There is a legal duty for governing bodies to make sure that the school contributes to multi-agency working in line with the statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children. The LSCP sets out published arrangements to secure partnership working and will name schools and colleges as relevant agencies. Part of this includes responding to the local procedures for action and assessment and providing information as requested. This is underpinned by effective record keeping and analysis.

However, key is a preventative approach where schools and colleges promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm. This includes providing early help, but also making sure that children and young people are taught about safeguarding, including online safety.

Transparency is one of the keys to effective safeguarding. If an allegation is made, schools need to take appropriate action. Any allegation against a member of staff must be referred to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO). If DSLs are unsure about what action to take it is important to discuss concerns with the LADO, who may indicate that a school-based investigation is all that is required or they may decide to refer it to a multi-agency strategy meeting, which will involve the police and social care. Schools may fear the potential repercussions of any negative safeguarding incident, but the welfare of the child is always paramount.

  1. Mental Health

In Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020 there was a renewed emphasis on mental health where it is now defined as a safeguarding issue. This means that schools’ systems and processes should recognise and respond to the mental health difficulties that children and young people are experiencing. It is an ideal opportunity to review the impact of the school’s current mental health provision and identify if there is a need to add capacity to it.

Does the school have a mental health lead? Is it the DSL? Is combining the role manageable?

Can the school budget finance any additional interventions to address mental health if required?

  1. Raising awareness to promote effective safeguarding

Finally, it is important to review how the school promotes safeguarding both within the school and in the wider community, in particular parents and carers.

How regularly are articles about pertinent safeguarding issues included in newsletters for staff and parents and carers? Does the school website have an area devoted to safeguarding?

Does the website have a safeguarding reporting facility? How can members of the public or parents report safeguarding issues to the school? Crucially, how does the school ensure that pupils and students have a voice to express their views and any concerns? As well as online systems, this may also include through the curriculum or pastoral system, or through a student council or pupil surveys.

All concerned need to understand which pupil and student groups are particularly vulnerable. This includes those with SEND or other additional needs, girls and those who are LGBTQ+, looked after or previously looked after children, and those experiencing poverty or domestic abuse.

Schools are advised to audit and revise the curriculum to not only ensure that safeguarding is covered through relationships and sex education and health education, but also through other areas of the curriculum where appropriate opportunities arise.


  1. Mental Health and Covid-19: In Our Own Words (2020)
  2. Barnardo’s warns of lasting impact of pandemic on children and young people’s mental health and well-being (19 May 2021) Barnardo’s news article,
  3. Calls to NSPCC helpline surge during pandemic (29 April 2021) NSPCC news article,
  4. Keeping Children Safe in Education’ (2020) DfE
  5. Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (2018) updated December 2020 HM Government
  6. Consultation on Keeping Children Safe in Education (2021) DfE
  7. Keeping Children Safe in Education (2021) DfE


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