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Keeping children safe in education: Updates for September 2021

Ross Coleman
26 Jul 2021
10 min read
Keeping children safe in education: Updates for September 2021

Now that the September 2021 update to the Department for Education’s guidance for keeping children safe in education (KCSIE) has been published, we want to ensure that everyone who works in education is informed on the changes.

You can find the updated KCSIE document from the gov.uk website here – we recommend reading it in full to get a strong understanding of the updates, which come into effect on the 1st September 2021. If you’re already familiar with KCSIE 2020, we’ve written up this summary of some key updates for 2021:

Main Updates to KCSIE 2021

Safeguarding in Recruitment

There have been changes to the format of the recruitment section of KCSIE for 2021, making it easier to read. Information on DBSs has moved from the section called ‘Annex G’ to the main body of KCSIE 2021. Birth certificates can now be used to verify identities.

External visitors and contractors

Paragraph 272 reads: 'Where schools and colleges use contractors to provide services, they should set out their safeguarding requirements to the contractors.’ Paragraph 284 states: ‘For visitors who are in a school in a professional capacity, schools should check ID and be assured that the visitor has had the appropriate DBS check (or the visitor’s employers have confirmed that their staff have appropriate checks) prior to the visitor coming in.’

Paragraph 286 says, 'School and college safeguarding policies should set out the arrangements for individuals coming onto their premises, which may include an assessment of the education value, the age appropriateness of what is going to be delivered and whether relevant checks will be required.’

Teacher dismissals

Part 4, section 2 now states that you must refer teachers to the Secretary of State via the Teacher Regulation Agency if they are dismissed.


Specific sections dedicated to COVID-19 have now been removed and information regarding the pandemic is now integrated into the wider policies of KCSIE 2021. In preparation for the possibility of another pandemic in the future, KCSIE states that if/when that happens then everyone in education must be more ready and for there to be more of a seamless change for when it comes to transitioning to effective safeguarding.

Education and Training (Welfare of Children) Act 2021

The Welfare of Children Act now makes it a requirement to impose safeguarding duties on 16 to 19 academies and further education colleges.

Governors & proprietors must make a setting-based decision about whether those in roles that do not involve direct work with children should read the full part one or a condensed version of KCSIE 2021. Governing bodies and proprietors are also now held ultimately responsible for ensuring that staff understand and discharge their role and responsibilities and should consider ‘which guidance will be most effective’.

KCSIE 2021 explicitly states that it is the responsibility of the governors to ensure that systems are in place to make it easy for children to report abuse.

A child-centred, whole school approach

In the past, safeguarding in schools has sometimes been treated as simply a box to be ticked. KCSIE 2021 makes it clear that all systems, processes and policies should operate in the best interests of children. We should be taking child-centred approaches in everything that we do.

Paragraph 442 highlights the importance of a school addressing a report of sexual harassment in an appropriate and timely manner. This will help future victims gain the confidence to come forward.

Multi-agency safeguarding partners and Local Authority services should have a comprehensive range of evidence-based services to assess early needs

Recording safeguarding incidents

Any recording must be clear, comprehensive and state how the concerns were followed up, the decisions which were made and the actions which were taken.

Peer-on-peer abuse

Any peer-on-peer abuse should be treated seriously and not as 'banter' or an inevitable part of growing up.

All staff should be able to reassure victims that they are being taken seriously and that they will be supported and kept safe. Paragraph 88 states that ‘taking disciplinary action and still providing appropriate support are not mutually exclusive actions. They can, and should, occur at the same time if necessary.'

A victim should never be given the impression that they are creating a problem by reporting abuse, sexual violence or sexual harassment. Nor should a victim ever be made to feel ashamed for making a report. Schools will need to update their safeguarding and child protection policies so that it reflects the whole school approach to peer on peer abuse in its many forms. The policy should clearly set out its reporting systems as set out in paragraph 83. Harmful sexual behaviour should be addressed to 'help prevent problematic, abusive and/or violent behaviour in the future'. We must act as though peer-on-peer sexual harassment and online abuse are happening no matter whether you hear about it or not. The same goes with peer-on-peer bullying. It’s also important to remember that perpetrators can also be victims too.

KCSIE 2021 states that we must educate children as early as possible on what is and is not acceptable.


It is interesting to note the following statement: Page 130 states that 'children with particular skills and interest in computing and technology may inadvertently or deliberately stray into cyber-dependent crime.'

Domestic abuse

KCSIE 2021 clarifies that it’s important to remember that if a child sees, hears or witnesses domestic abuse, they’re also victims.

Online safety and bullying

Paragraph 117 of KCSIE 2021 says 'the training that staff receive including online safety training is integrated, aligned and considered as part of the whole school or college safeguarding approach and wider staff training and curriculum planning'.

Paragraph 126 states ‘the school or college should have a clear policy on the use of mobile and smart technology. Amongst other things this will reflect the fact many children have unlimited and unrestricted access to the internet via mobile phone networks (i.e. 3G, 4G and 5G).’ It’s very important that staff don’t see any separation between the online world and the real world.

Paragraph 132 states that ‘schools and colleges should consider carrying out an annual review of their approach to online safety, supported by an annual risk assessment that considers and reflects the risks their children face.’ It is also important to remember that children can abuse their peers online too.

Whilst devising and implementing policies and procedures, schools and colleges should ensure online safety is a ‘running and interrelated theme’. Online safety should be considered 'whilst planning the curriculum, any teacher training, the role and responsibilities of the designated safeguarding lead and any parental engagement.' (Paragraph 125).

A school’s behaviour policy must now also have measures against bullying, discrimination and predjudice.

False allegations

If a pupil makes a false allegation, a decision must be made about whether disciplinary action should be taken. Paragraph 454 states that a decision must also be made about whether the pupil that has made the allegation ‘is in need of help or may have been abused by someone else (...) in such circumstances, a referral to children’s social care may be appropriate.’

Mental health

Where a safeguarding concern relates to mental health, it is now necessary to liaise with the senior mental health lead and, where available, the Mental Health Support Team.

Paragraph 45 states 'if staff have a mental health concern about a child that is also a safeguarding concern, immediate action should be taken, following their child protection policy, and speaking to the designated safeguarding lead or a deputy.'

Low-level Concerns

KCSIE 2021 makes it clear that it’s important to understand the ‘modus operandi’ of a child abuser, and to be able to spot ‘low level concerns’ which may indicate that abuse is taking place, or may take place in the future. A low-level concern is any concern – no matter how small – that an adult working in or on behalf of the school or college may have acted in a way that is inconsistent with the staff code of conduct. This includes inappropriate conduct outside of work, or anything that does not meet the allegations threshold or is otherwise not considered serious enough to consider a referral to the LADO. As paragraph 409 explains, 'The term ‘low-level’ concern does not mean that it is insignificant, it means that the behaviour towards a child does not meet the threshold of harm. Paragraph 410 gives examples of such 'low-level' concerns.

Sharing information

School and college staff should be proactive in sharing information as early as possible to help identify, assess, and respond to risks or concerns about the safety and welfare of children.

Use of school or college premises for non-school activities

When a school is let out to third party users by a governing body or proprietor, a school’s governors are still responsible for effective safeguarding, and it is expected that the third party will have appropriate safeguarding procedures in place. A school’s governors must check that the third party has the appropriate arrangements in place before they come in. This check can however be delegated by the governors, if they wish.

Children with SEN or physical health issues

Paragraph 126 in KCSIE 2021 states that governing bodies and proprietors should ‘consider extra pastoral support’ for children with SEN or physical health issues. Paragraph 186 builds on this, highlighting the requirement that ‘any appropriate support for communication is in place’ for those children.

Elective home education

In the case that a parent wishes to take their child out of school and home educate them, KCSIE 2021 recommends that schools meet with the parents or carers beforehand, and speak with them about this to help them weigh the decision up. More parents have been home educating their children since COVID measures began, but we must ensure that the decision to take children out of school is in the best interests of the child.

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