Last reviewed 27 November 2019

Keeping children safe in education, the statutory guidance on child safeguarding issued by the government for schools, was updated in September 2019. Martin Hodgson looks at the key changes in the new version and explores what schools need to do to ensure they are compliant.

What is Keeping children safe in education?

Keeping children safe in education is statutory guidance from the Department for Education issued under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002, the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014, and the Non-Maintained Special Schools (England) Regulations 2015. Schools and colleges in England must have regard to the guidance when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

The guidance has been regularly updated for some years and is an established foundation for safeguarding arrangements in schools of all types. It should be read alongside other statutory guidance such as Working together to safeguard children.

All staff in schools or colleges are required to read at least Part 1 of the guidance. Governors, trustees and proprietors must ensure that this is the case.

Background changes

The new version of Keeping children safe in education has been produced following a number of changes to the safeguarding regime in England over recent years.

In May 2016, the Woods Review recommended that the system of local multi-agency child safeguarding arrangements in England needed to be updated. A new statutory framework was developed which replaced Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) with new arrangements led by three “safeguarding partners” comprising local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and the police.

Additional changes were proposed to investigations in cases when something goes wrong. The changes involve serious case reviews (SCRs) being replaced with child safeguarding practice reviews and new arrangements for child death reviews.

All local authorities were required to have completed their transition from LSCBs to Safeguarding Partnerships and to child death review partner arrangements by the end of September 2019. A statutory “grace” period of up to 12 months is available to complete and publish outstanding SCRs and up to four months to complete outstanding child death reviews.

Key changes to the Keeping children safe document

The September 2019 version of the statutory safeguarding guidance for schools reflects these reforms and contains a number of changes from the 2018 guidance it replaces.

Some of the changes are purely functional, replacing out of date information and out of date links.

For instance, the 2018 version introduced the new Safeguarding Partnership model and referred to “transitional” arrangements. In the 2019 edition these have been removed as all areas must by now have moved to the new arrangements.

Other areas have been changed in order to strengthen them.

For instance, in Part 2 sections 68 and 69 on multi-agency working have been updated not only to refer to the new “three safeguarding partners” framework but also to stress the importance of working with others in the safeguarding of children and young people.

In Part 1, which must be read by all school employees, the text has been strengthened by moving a number of paragraphs. This includes the information listing the different types of abuse and neglect and safeguarding issues and how to recognise them. Included at the end of Part 1 in earlier versions, the content can now be found in slightly changed form in the “What school and college staff should look out for” section.

The DfE explain that this change was made to “improve the flow” of the section and it is clearly a better fit. As with the 2018 version, further information about each aspect of abuse is included in Annex A.

Peer-on-peer abuse and “upskirting”

In the updated “What school and college staff should look out for” segment the peer-on-peer section has been strengthened by the addition of information on “upskirting”.

Peer-on-peer abuse was one of the key themes of changes in the 2018 edition of Keeping children safe. It raises awareness about abuse carried out on children and young people by their peers and includes aspects of abuse such as:

  • bullying (including cyberbullying)

  • physical abuse (such as hitting, kicking, shaking, biting, hair pulling, or otherwise causing physical harm)

  • sexual violence

  • sexual harassment

  • sexting (also known as youth produced sexual imagery)

  • initiation/hazing type violence and rituals.

Added to this list is upskirting. The DfE explain that this typically involves taking a picture under a person’s clothing without them knowing, with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks to obtain sexual gratification, or cause the victim humiliation, distress or alarm. Education staff should be aware that with widespread ownership of modern camera phones the potential for such abuse is perhaps greater than ever.

New sex education and health education arrangements

The section on “Opportunities to teach safeguarding” in the 2018 version of the guidance has been expanded and updated to reflect new requirements for teaching relationships education, relationships and sex education and health education. These are being introduced by DfE as part of statutory personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) programmes in all schools.

Under the Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (England) Regulations 2019 “relationships education” is compulsory for all pupils receiving primary education and “relationships and sex education” (RSE) is compulsory for all pupils receiving secondary education. At the heart of these subjects there should be a focus on keeping children safe, including how to stay safe online.

Full details of the requirements are included in Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education, published earlier this year by DfE. This guidance also sets out both the rights of parents/carers to withdraw pupils from sex education (but not Relationships or Health Education) and the process that head teachers should follow in considering a request from a parent.

The new programmes must be in place by September 2020.

“Online safety” teaching guidance

Related to the revised PHSE programmes, Annex C of the updated guidance adds information about more new guidance from DfE, Teaching online safety in school.

Published in June 2019, Teaching online safety in school outlines how schools can ensure that their pupils understand how to stay safe and behave online as part of existing curriculum requirements. DfE recommend that the guidance is used to embed teaching about online safety and harms within a whole school approach. It is written to compliment the relationships and sex education PHSE changes.

The guidance is not intended to create additional content or teaching requirements. It covers fundamental knowledge and behaviours for pupils, including how to evaluate what they see online, identifying risks, and when to seek support. Schools should ensure that they have taken note of the advice and comply with recommendations.

Links to inspection

Lastly, the latest version of Keeping children safe has been updated to reflect the safeguarding requirements contained within the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework.

Published in May, the EIF replaced the previous model issued under the common inspection framework. It applied from September 2019.

Keeping children safe states that inspectors will always report on whether or not arrangements for safeguarding children and learners are effective. Inspectors are guided by the Ofsted safeguarding policy and Safeguarding concerns: guidance for inspectors.

The Ofsted document Inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills settings related to the previous inspection regime and has been withdrawn.


  • The latest version of Keeping children safe in education applies to all schools from September 2019.

  • Part 1 has been reorganised and includes new references to “upskirting” as a form of peer-to-peer abuse.

  • Part 2 updates information about teaching safeguarding, including details about compulsory relationships and sex education teaching.

  • Annex C adds links to new guidance covering the teaching of online safety.

Further information

Keeping children safe in education - Statutory guidance for schools and colleges (September 2019) can be downloaded from the GOV.UK web platform.