Ofsted guidance for inspectors: inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills settings

Ofsted issued this guidance on 23 August 2016 for inspectors working to the common inspection framework which was introduced in 2015. The title refers to early years and also to schools and further education and skills training providers. It considers how inspectors should ensure that settings are complying with DfEs Keeping Children Safe in EducationKCSIE –   (NB this was updated earlier this summer and that version applies from 5 September 2016). It also links to the statutory guidance Working together to safeguard children and the Prevent duty guidance for England and Wales: guidance for specified authorities in England and Wales on the duty of schools and other providers in the counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism (2015). It also links to the EYFS and to the Disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006, which MSA consulted members about earlier this year.

What follows is a brief outline of Ofsteds guidance. The full document can be found on Ofsteds website under the reference Inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills setting August 2016, no.160047. I strongly urge MSA members to download the document as it gives links to all relevant legislation and requirements.

The Ofsted guidance reiterates the advice offered in KCSIE and its definitions of the forms abuse might take. Importantly it notes that Safeguarding is not just about protecting children, learners and vulnerable adult from harm, neglect and failure to act. It also relates to broader aspects of care and education, including health, safety and well-being, as well as mental health, meeting the needs of children with SEND, the use of reasonable force, meeting the needs of children with medical conditions, providing first aid (which was the subject of a policy statement in June 2016 whereby all newly qualified EY staff must also have a current Paediatric First Aid [PFA] or emergency PFA certificate), educational visits, intimate care and emotional well-being, online safety and associated issues, and appropriate arrangements to ensure childrens security, taking into account the local context.

In a lengthy list, inspectors will look for evidence that:

  • Children are protected and feel safe. Adults working with them know and understand the indicators that the children may be suffering from, or are at risk of suffering from abuse, neglect or harm and take appropriate action.
  • Leaders and managers have put in place effective child protection and staff behaviour policies that are well understood by everyone in the setting.
  • All staff and other adults in the setting are clear about procedures where they are concerned about the safety of a child. There is a designated lead to deal with concerns and protecting children.
  • Children have a trusted adult to turn to and discuss any concerns and who can support them in being safe. This obviously links to the effective implementation of the key person system. In my inspection experience, some settings and schools still do not have a key worker system in place for a variety of reasons. This guidance makes it more difficult not to have such a system and its absence will bring into question the leadership of the setting.
  • Written records are made in a timely and appropriate way and are kept securely. They are shared appropriately and, where necessary, with consent.
  • Any child protection and/or safeguarding concerns are shared immediately with the relevant local authority.
  • A record of any referral is kept along with evidence of any agreed action showing that this has been taken promptly. Again I have found as an inspector that some settings record the issue, and the agreed action, but do not record that the action has been takenit is important to do so, or leadership will again be questioned.
  • There is a written plan that has clear and agreed procedures for child protection.
  • Children who go missing from the setting must receive well-coordinated responses that reduce harm or risks to them. Risks must be minimised and local procedures be available, understood and followed. This means that you must display your policy and the actions to be followeddont just have a file with the documents in.
  • Risks associated with offending, self-harming, going missing, being vulnerable to radicalisation or sexual exploitation are known by the adults in the setting and are shared with the LA or other relevant agency. Risks are kept under regular review.
  • Children are protected and helped to keep safe. Discriminatory behaviour is challenged and children are helped to treat others with respect.
  • Adults understand the risks posed by technology, including grooming. Strategies are in place to deal with this and to ensure the safe use of technology. The growing use of electronic record keeping means that it is always advisable to show inspectors how your system (if you use one) operates and how it is secure against hacking. You must also show that you have the required policies for the safe use of mobile phones and cameras.
  • Leaders and staff make clear risk assessments.
  • Children feel secure and any risky behaviour is dealt with by positive support from all staff. Babies and young children should demonstrate attachment to their carers.
  • Positive behaviour is promoted consistently.
  • Staff and volunteers are carefully selected and vetted.
  • There are clear and effective arrangements for staff development and training in protection and care. Staff receive regular supervision.
  • The physical environment is safe and secure.
  • All staff and carers have a copy of and understand written procedures for managing allegations of harm to a child or learner.

Inspectors will look for evidence of five main aspects of the settings safeguarding arrangements:

  • The extent to which leaders and managers create a positive culture and ethos where safeguarding is a part of everyday life.
  • The content, application and effectiveness of safeguarding policies and procedures, along with safe recruitment and vetting processes. This must include evidence of checks made before someone starts a job as well as evidence from interviews and induction.
  • The quality of safeguarding processes.
  • Timely responses to any safeguarding concerns.
  • The quality of work to support multi-agency plans around the child.

Ofsted goes into some detail about each of these points and it is clear that safeguarding permeates the whole of the inspection. As such it is central to judgements on the quality of leadership and management and if any aspect of safeguarding is weak, then leadership overall will be seen as either requiring improvement or be inadequate, with the same judgement being applied overall. Similarly inspectors will look for any impact on personal development, behaviour and welfare.

On a few points, Ofsted gives some leeway. Thus if there is a minor administrative error (defined as a failure to record one or two dates, individual entries are illegible, and one or two omissions where the information is already held but has not been transferred to the single central record) which can easily be rectified before the final meeting, the setting should be given the chance to resolve itclearly short EY inspections give little time for this, even when compared to Ofsteds current fairly brief school inspections.

Inspectors will not be required to ask if any member of staff is disqualified, but should check to make sure that leaders know of their legal obligations and has systems in place to check for disqualification.

On all inspections, a check will be made to see if there have been any safeguarding incidents or allegations since the last inspection that have either been resolved or are on-going. Inspectors will look for timely and appropriate responses, and effective partnership working with external agencies.

Where a safeguarding case is on-going at the time of the inspection, Ofsted provides wording to be used in the report. If you are in such a situation, you should check that the appropriate wording is used in your report.

Annexes to the Ofsted guidance outline the safeguarding requirements for leaders and managers, DBS checks (and notes that the DBS certificate must be shown to the employer before employment starts, or as soon as practicable afterwardsI often find that time has elapsed, and DBS checks have not been seen when the member of staff has been employed for upwards of half a term), the single central record (where independent schools should check for section 128 direction where an employee is in a management position), and risk assessments where individuals live on the premises or have access to children.

Overall, this is most useful guidance, not least because it provides links to relevant documentation which settings and schools need to follow. It ensures that you are up to date as well as giving ways inspectors will seek evidence. It is most important that when an inspector arrives, you are pro-active in showing them policies and other evidence and do not just leave it to chance that they will find what they need to check.

Its all part of managing your inspection!’

Martin Bradley

Chair MSA

September 2016