Safer working practices for those working with children and young people in education
Recent changes to non-statutory guidance produced by the Safer Recruitment Consortium
In May 2019 the Safer Recruitment Consortium (SRC) published an update to their guidance on safe working practices for those who work with children and young people in an education setting.
In line with the statutory guidance in Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSiE), all schools must have a staff code of conduct in place. The new revised non-statutory guidance is a useful starting point when considering guidelines for professional conduct towards children and young people. Although the guidance is non-statutory, it includes a foreword by Nadhim Zahawi MP, who was at that time Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families in the Department for Education. He welcomes the revised guidance and encourages those working in education to read it alongside KCSiE.
We outline below the key revisions to the SRC guidance.
The guidance has been updated to reflect the new data protection rules found in the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation. Schools should ensure that staff understand their responsibilities under new data protection law and should only share records with those who have a legitimate professional need to see them.
Staff who need to share 'special category personal data' about children or young people (including information about their health, sex life and sexuality, racial or ethnic origin, or religious and philosophical beliefs) should be made aware that they can do so without consent when it is necessary for the purpose of safeguarding children and individuals at risk in cases where it is not possible or reasonable to gain consent, or if seeking consent would place a child at risk.
Standards of behaviour – changes to disqualification by association rules
This section has been updated in response to the Childcare (Disqualification) Regulations 2018. Under the former "disqualification by association" rules, someone working with children in the early years age range or in childcare for children under 8 provided by a school outside of school hours, and who lived in a household where a disqualified person lived or was employed, had a statutory duty to disclose this to their employer. This statutory duty to disclose was removed in August 2018. However, schools are expected to make it clear to all staff that they should disclose any relationship or association which may have implications for the safeguarding of children in school.
The guidance also states that schools should create an open culture where staff are able to raise these issues and have their own welfare safeguarded though arrangements to mitigate risk. However, schools are advised not to ask intrusive questions relating to an employee's relationships and associations.
Communications with children
The guidance states that staff should only use computer equipment and internet access provided by the school when on site and now makes clear that this means staff should turn off their personal internet and on-line data access while on school premises.
The revised guidance makes clear that staff should not take photographs of a child's injury even if requested to do so by children's social care. Nor should staff make audio recordings of a child's disclosure.
The guidance has also been amended to note that when discussions occur as part of the curriculum involving sexually explicit, political or other sensitive material, care should be taken to comply consistently with the school's policy on spiritual, moral, social, and cultural education and, where relevant, with the school's policy for relationships and sex education.
Chris Billington, head of Wrigleys' Education Team comments: "As a school governor myself, I have found the SRC guidance useful in summarising best practice for ensuring safe working practices and professional boundaries between staff and pupils. I recommend that schools and academies use the revised guidance to inform their own code of conduct, policies and staff induction / training materials.
"It is interesting to note the expectation on staff to disclose any relationships which might create a safeguarding risk even though the statutory duty to disclose has been removed. Readers might be interested in our article from April 2018 concerning a case in which a head teacher's failure to disclose her relationship with a convicted sex offender was a fundamental breach of her employment contract even though she had no statutory duty to disclose."
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Alacoque Marvin or any other member of the education team on 0113 244 6100.
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The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors.