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NAHT influences government’s responses to child safeguarding consultations

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The government has recently released their responses to consultations on:

  • Revised guidance for virtual school heads (VSHs) and designated teachers
  • Changes to statutory guidance: Working Together to Safeguard Children; and new regulations. 

NAHT submitted responses to both of these consultations – see below for our analysis of the responses.

Revised guidance for virtual school heads and designated teachers

The key changes proposed to the statutory guidance were:

  • an amended structure to clearly signpost information on the role of virtual school heads and designated teachers for previously looked-after children;
  • addition of information on the new role of virtual school heads and designated teachers for previously looked-after children; and
  • an increased emphasis on mental health; training for virtual school heads, designated teachers and school staff; promoting schools' awareness of looked-after and previously looked-after children's needs and proactively building interagency relationships.

Overall, NAHT felt that the guidance was clear but that it could be structured in a much more logical way, particularly around the roles of VSHs and designated teachers but also when clarifying the duties which apply to looked-after and previously looked-after children. In their response, the government has taken on board comments from NAHT and other respondents and, as such, are planning to amend the structure to improve the clarity around the roles of VSHs and designated teachers.

NAHT had key concerns around the section on mental health, and that this section should be far more explicit on the role of the VSH and designated teacher in providing mental health support. We felt that the wording was too vague and would not provide sufficient clarity. The government has acknowledged these concerns and has provided a little more explanation on the requirement of VSHs and designated teachers, as well as addressing concerns about access to mental health services.

You can read the government's full response here

Changes to statutory guidance: Working Together to Safeguard Children; and new regulations

In our response, we highlighted the importance of schools being involved in local safeguarding arrangements and safeguarding partners ensuring that schools have every opportunity to engage. We also highlighted the importance of consistency (where possible) across all local safeguarding areas and we called for these expectations to be stipulated in statutory guidance. In their response, the government has confirmed that they intend to proceed with the proposal to reference this expectation in guidance.

NAHT also made clear that schools cannot, and should not, be expected to fund local safeguarding arrangements. In their response, the government acknowledged the concerns but clarified the duty on safeguarding partners to work effectively with their relevant agencies to reach an agreement that is proportionate and equitable.

The final key point we highlighted was the importance of consistency and transparency when considering a child or young person's access to support and specialist services. We supported the need for a threshold document to clearly set out the full continuum of support and ensure that all partners are able to understand the process for early assessment and the criteria for referral. The government has taken NAHT's view on board and intend to revise the statutory guidance to recommend the development and publication of threshold documents as a key responsibility for safeguarding partners.

You can read the government's full response here.  

First published 13 March 2018