Updates to ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education 2023’
This week, the government updated its statutory guidance for ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ (KCSIE). Whilst there have not been many changes, it is important for staff to familiarise themselves with the latest guidance, which will come into force in September 2023.
A major theme in the document is the importance of online filtering and monitoring software in schools. This is largely in response to the campaign led by Andy and Judy Thomas, whose daughter, Frankie, took her own life after accessing inappropriate material on school devices. The guidance states that, whilst the Designated Safeguarding Lead is expected to take responsibility for this area, all staff should have an understanding of the ‘expectations, applicable roles and responsibilities in relation to filtering and monitoring.’ The school’s use of filtering and monitoring technology should also be reflected in their child protection policy.
Other changes include the schools’ safeguarding responsibilities should an incident occur when the school premises are in use by other organisations, such as community groups and sports associations. Like any other allegation, the document confirms that schools should follow their safeguarding policies and procedures, including informing the local authority designated officer (LADO).
Last year, the KCSIE set the expectation that schools should carry out online searches of job candidates in order to identify any incidents that have happened and are publicly available online. Now, the updated guidance adds that schools ‘should inform shortlisted candidates that online searches may be done as part of due diligence checks.’ Many hoped for further clarification about what kind of online searches should be carried out, however this has not been included.
Barriers to behaviour management reform
A new study published by the University of Cambridge investigates why school leaders take a sanctions-based approach to behaviour management, rather than exploring alternatives such as ‘restorative practice’ (RP) and ‘collaborative and proactive solutions’ (CPS). RP focuses on rebuilding positive relationships, whilst CPS involves identifying triggers behind persistent misbehaviour and resolving them collaboratively. Whilst these approaches can yield positive results, researchers note that they are not widely practised in schools.
To identify potential barriers, researchers carried out in-depth interviews with fourteen school leaders in England. Most respondents feared that taking alternative approaches would ‘place an intolerable extra burden on already overstretched staff,’ whilst issuing sanctions was seen as more efficient. Staff also felt constrained by a lack of time, money and resources.
Furthermore, leaders were concerned that staff would see alternative approaches as a challenge to their authority. Similarly, they feared reactions from parents. Dr Laura Oxley, who led the study, suggests this fosters a culture of risk aversion. She argues that ‘we need to give teachers and parents opportunities to understand the alternatives available.’
However, Tom Bennett, behaviour management advisor to the Department for Education (DfE), says there is a lack of large-scale research to support restorative and collaborative approaches. He argues that punitive measures are used as part of a whole-school behaviour system because they are practical and effective, adding that ‘children deserve practical solutions, not academic activism.’
New proposals to support work-life balance and improve teacher retention
Data shows that last year, 3,900 teachers retired. A further 40,000 left the sector for other reasons. This is the highest figure since records began in 2010-11. Wellbeing charity, Education Support, says relying on salary increases to stem the flow of teachers leaving the profession is ‘overly simplistic.’ The charity’s CEO, Sinéad Mc Brearty, explains:
‘We are past the point when incremental change might yield material improvement. It is time to come together to think big and act with courage in pursuit of world-class education.’
To create meaningful change, the Commission has published a series of proposals for the sector. Firstly, they urge the government to launch an independent review into pay and conditions for teachers in England. This follows research showing 78% of state secondary teachers are likely to leave the sector if offered a job with better work-life balance. The review would explore the possibility of replacing 1,265 directed hours and uncapped undirected hours with contractual working hours, more reflective of the modern workplace.
The Commission also recognises that teachers spend a lot of time on ‘empty work,’ such as excessive marking and responding to emails. At the same time, schools are filling the gaps in local services, a situation which they argue is ‘not sustainable.’ In response, they ask the Department for Education (DfE) to codify poor practice around workload and clarify which tasks school staff should not be doing.
Additionally, the report states that the problem of workload is exacerbated by the high-stakes accountability system. Commissioners suggest this should be reviewed holistically to ensure schools remain accountable to the taxpayer and their communities, without driving up workload. Other recommendations include setting teacher retention targets; month-long, paid sabbaticals for headteachers every 5 years; and providing a Human Resources advisory service to facilitate flexible working. For more recommendations, view the full report here.
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