Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Ofsted Safeguarding Report Part 1

Improvements in safeguarding have been rapid and widespread in recent years, and nearly all schools now give an appropriately high priority to getting their safeguarding procedures right. In her commentary on the findings set out in Ofsted’s 2009/10 Annual Report, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector wrote:

‘Safeguarding…is an issue addressed not only with increasing sureness by those responsible for keeping children and learners safe, but one felt keenly by those most vulnerable to harm and neglect.’

There can be no issue of greater importance to parents and carers, or to schools, than the safety of their children; safeguarding remains high on Ofsted’s agenda and will continue to do so. 

The purpose of this good practice report is to identify the features of exceptionally good safeguarding.
There is no reason why good practice in safeguarding should not be a feature of every school; the practice described here is replicable – with a sensible awareness of the local context – in every school. It complies with requirements and often moves beyond them; it is not seen as a burden but as a reasonable and essential part of the fabric of the school; it pays attention to the meticulous and systematic implementation of policies and routines; it involves every member of the school community in some way; and it has a sharp eye on the particular circumstances and needs of all pupils, especially the most vulnerable.

Inspection and regulation have helped to focus minds on the need to ensure that all appropriate steps have been taken to guarantee and promote children’s safety. This report seeks to distil the best practice seen in the best schools – the 19% of schools which were judged to be outstanding in their safeguarding procedures in 2009/10. It addresses the question: ‘What can schools with some way to go learn from the best?’ Evidence from this group of schools has been augmented with more detailed evidence taken from a small sample of schools visited by HMI with a view to investigating further the features of successful practice in effective schools.

Given the high priority afforded to the safety of children and young people and the considerable media interest in Ofsted’s role in protecting children, almost inevitably ‘scare stories’ emerge from time to time about the inspection of safeguarding.

The key word for both inspectors and providers in the area of safeguarding is ‘reasonable’, and it is around the interpretation of ‘reasonable’ that a mythology has emerged. The record can be set straight. Ofsted does not require schools to build walls around play areas; it does not expect schools to seek Criminal Records Bureau checks on casual visitors to schools, including parents; it does not judge a school to be inadequate because of minor administrative errors, or because an inspector’s ID was not checked. Ofsted does not try to ‘catch schools out’.

The schools which were involved in the survey are listed at the end of this report and each has confirmed its willingness to be contacted and to share its good practice with others.

Safeguarding: a definition

1.        Ofsted adopts the definition of safeguarding used in the Children Act 2004 and in the Department for Education and Skills (now DfE) guidance document Working together to safeguard children, which focuses on safeguarding and promoting children’s and learners’ welfare.[2] This can be summarised as:

n  protecting children and learners from maltreatment

n  preventing impairment of children’s and learners’ health or development

n  ensuring that children and learners are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care

n  undertaking that role so as to enable those children and learners to have optimum life chances and to enter adulthood successfully.

2.        Two key inspection issues follow from this definition:

n  the effectiveness of settings and services in taking reasonable steps to ensure that children and learners are safe

n  the effectiveness of settings and services in helping to ensure that children and learners feel safe.

3.        Governing bodies of maintained schools and local authorities must comply with the Education Act 2002 (section 175) and have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State. The DfES (now DfE) guidance Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education, makes it clear that schools must provide a safe environment and take action to identify and protect any children or young people who are at risk of significant harm.[3] Schools are required to prevent unsuitable people from working with children and young people; to promote safe practice and challenge unsafe practice; to ensure that staff receive the necessary training for their roles; and to work in partnership with other agencies providing services for children and young people. Local authorities have a duty to provide model policies and procedures on all aspects of safeguarding and to ensure that schools are aware of, and comply with, their responsibilities. As part of this, they offer advice and training for schools’ staff and governors.

4.        In evaluating the effectiveness of safeguarding in schools, inspectors focus on a broad range of issues including:

n  the impact of safeguarding arrangements on outcomes for pupils, including staying safe, being healthy, making a positive contribution, enjoying and achieving, and developing skills for economic well-being

n  how well pupils are taught to keep themselves safe

n  how well the school protects pupils from bullying, racist abuse, harassment or discrimination, and promotes good behaviour

n  the effectiveness of health and safety policies and procedures, including conducting necessary risk assessments as well as regular checks on equipment and premises

n  the effectiveness of arrangements to provide a safe environment and secure school site

n  how well the school meets the needs of pupils with medical conditions

n  how appropriately child welfare and child protection concerns are identified and responded to by the school

n  how effectively the school works with key agencies to safeguard and promote the welfare of children

n  how well the school prioritises safeguarding, and monitors and evaluates the effectiveness of its policies and practices

n  the extent to which the school ensures that adults working with children are appropriately recruited and vetted, and receive appropriate training, guidance, support and supervision to undertake the effective safeguarding of pupils.

5.        The effectiveness of safeguarding is taken into account when judging other aspects of a school’s work including care, guidance and support for pupils; the effectiveness of the governing body; the effectiveness of partnerships in promoting learning and well-being; pupils’ behaviour; and the extent to which pupils feel safe.

]Working together to safeguard children, Department for Education and Skills, 2006;
[3] Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education, Department for Education and Skills, 2006;

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