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Six out of 10 school leaders say safeguarding guidance failing to reduce bureaucracy - October 2014

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Six out of 10 school leaders say safeguarding guidance failing to reduce bureaucracy

New data reveals safeguarding concerns of headteachers, with one in five saying referrals have taken longer than the timeframe set by government guidance.

Download The Key's Safeguarding report - Autumn 2014 here

Almost six out of 10 school leaders (57%) believe that the current safeguarding guidance for schools is failing to reduce bureaucracy according to survey results published by The Key, the leadership and management support service for schools.

The survey also found that almost one in five (18%) had found that assessments following a school’s referral to children’s social care were not completed within the timeframe of 45 days set in safeguarding guidance. There was concern among the survey participants about the capacity of local social services, with comments including: “they are in crisis”; “everyone is overworked, understaffed and stressed”; and “I have made complaints about the speed of work as children are being placed at risk by this”.

The findings coincide with the recent high-profile concerns from Ofsted over safeguarding issues and extremism in schools across the UK.

Speaking about the findings, Fergal Roche, CEO of The Key, said: “Our members in over a third of the country’s schools continuously come to us for guidance on safeguarding issues. It is clear that this is a pressing concern for school leaders today and more needs to be done to help schools as they provide this much-needed support for some of our most vulnerable children.”

The results suggest that the wellbeing of many children is at risk, with three quarters (74%) of those surveyed saying they had made a referral to children’s social care during their career. More than half of the school leaders surveyed (51%) said they were worried about the threat of female genital mutilation (FGM) to girls in their school.

These challenges are accompanied by increasing pressure on safeguarding in the education system. Seven out of 10 school leaders surveyed had been involved in a ‘team around the child’ meeting for one or more child, and some raised concerns about the expectations and capacity of schools in this area, saying: “more and more safeguarding issues are being pushed back to school level”; “if anything, the guidance has added to the responsibilities of schools to co-ordinate the other agencies”; and “I now need to attend so many child in need meetings, it is having a huge impact on my other work”.

Time-consuming paperwork and unclear procedures could mean some children in danger slip through the net. One survey participant said: “Now no-one knows who’s in charge” while another said: “I still have to fill out a form rather than speaking to a social worker”. However, some participants said the guidance was “less ambiguous” and “clearly states we all have a collective responsibility”.

Roche continued: “Our data shows that schools need a range of support on safeguarding issues. School leaders have been looking for guidance on how to keep a single central record effectively, safeguarding checklists, sample audits, information on staff training requirements, details on the roles and responsibilities of the designated safeguarding lead, examples of incident forms, guidance for staff and clarification on the checks schools have to make on staff.”

Amy Cook, senior researcher at The Key, has prepared information on five key areas for school leaders on this issue:

  • 1. What staff need to know
  • 2. What to do if you have concerns
  • 3. How to ensure safer recruitment training.
  • 4. Who needs to have DBS checks
  • 5. How schools should work with other agencies

The full guidance can be found here.

The Department for Education’s Keeping Children Safe in Education Guidance was published in April 2014 and aims to clarify and highlight schools’ roles in safeguarding and child protection. The statutory guidance also includes information on keeping children safe from extremism and FGM.


For more information and interviews, please contact Della Bolat or Laura Smith on:

07841 763833 / [email protected]

07766 651366 / [email protected]

Notes to Editors

  • The Key provides leadership and management support to over a third of the schools in England and Wales.
  • Our high-quality information, guidance and events help busy school leaders and governors work with increased confidence, knowledge and capacity.
  • At the heart of everything we do is a passionate commitment to supporting schools in delivering better outcomes for children and young people.
  • The Key for School Leaders and The Key for School Governors offer instant answers to questions on all aspects of school management.
  • Every day we answer new questions from school leaders and governors. Every week we visit schools and meet with those at the forefront of education. Every year there are over a million clicks on articles on our websites. These deep connections give us unparalleled insights into the concerns, trends and good practice within the sector.
  • We also run practical events on topical issues, which bring together leading voices in education including expert practitioners, thought leaders, policy makers and school inspectors. These events, which are open to all, offer practical workshops, 1-to-1 sessions and networking opportunities.
  • Find out more about The Key at

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