Education Bill

Memorandum submitted by the NSPCC (E 27)

The NSPCC welcomes the continued commitment from the Government to safeguarding children in schools. It is important that schools are safe places where children are protected and achieve their full potential. The Government’s decision to create a new Ofsted framework is an opportunity to inspect schools on how they identify children who are at risk and work with partners to ensure they get the support they need.

1. Background: what role do schools play in keeping children safe?

Schools have a duty to look after children in their care [1] , and it is essential that schools are safe places where children are protected, and can enjoy their childhoods and achieve their full potential. The role that schools play in keeping children safe is clear: children who suffer from abuse and/or have social or emotional problems may be more likely to be disruptive in the classroom, and less able to focus on their academic studies and achieve success.

Teachers are often the first person a child tells about abuse they are suffering, and schools can play a crucial role in keeping children safe from harm both inside and outside the school day: through the curriculum and wider activities, schools can equip all children with the understanding and capacities that will help them to stay safe.

Schools are also in an important position to identify children who are at risk, or who show signs of abuse or neglect, and work with partners to ensure they get the support they need. Multi-agency and joint professional working is vital to effective child protection practice; this has been emphasised repeatedly in the findings of Serious Case Reviews and is the principle that informs the structure and membership of Local Safeguarding Children Boards.

2. The new Ofsted framework

Clause 40 of the Bill sets out a new Ofsted framework which will focus on four key areas:

§ Achievement

§ Leadership

§ Quality teaching

§ Safety and behaviour

There need to be mechanisms in place within the new Ofsted framework to identify where schools are not protecting children and to take fast and effective action to remedy this. We recommend that the Government should work with Ofsted to ensure that all child protection and safeguarding are adequately covered under the ‘safety and behaviour’ element of Ofsted’s new framework.

Clause 39 of the Bill exempts schools from future Ofsted inspection if they are graded as ‘outstanding’. But evidence from Ofsted suggests that inspections on safeguarding helps to set clear expectations for schools and allows for ongoing checking and reporting progress against these standards [2] . Regular inspections should ensure that all schools are keeping children safe through applying effective child protection policies and practices, delivering a high quality and broad curriculum and tackling bullying. The NSPCC believes that all schools should be regularly assessed, regardless of the type of school or any prior Ofsted judgement; this ensures national consistency and helps drives up standards of safeguarding in schools across the whole country. We await more details from the Government about how the exemption for outstanding schools will be implemented.

Clause 42 of the Bill boosts the powers of the Secretary of State to instruct Ofsted to inspect boarding schools or colleges in order to ensure students wellbeing is safeguarded whilst they are being accommodated.

3. Strengthen child protection training for staff

In the Schools White Paper the Government has committed to reforming Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and make it more classroom-based. Many teachers, head teachers and governing bodies are incredibly committed to looking after children and work hard to promote the safety and wellbeing of children in their care. However, it does not necessarily follow that they will have all the knowledge and understanding needed to properly protect children.

The NSPCC supports efforts to build more child protection training into initial teacher training and believes that all teachers should receive training on child protection and safety as part of their ITT course. Currently this is only a very small part of ITT, and Government could increase the quality and quantity of content. To equip teachers with the knowledge and skills they need to keep children safe, ITT should include:

§ Child protection policies and practices

§ Classroom management and disciplinary measures

§ When and how to use new powers to restrain and search unruly pupils

§ Training in multi-agency working (including child protection conferences)

§ Working with parents

§ Preventing and addressing bullying

§ Children’s development (including how to recognise when a child is not developing as would be expected for their age)

4. Dissolve the General Teaching Council

Part 3 of the Bill dissolves the General Teaching Council (GTC) and grants the Secretary of State power to decide whether a teacher is suspended or not. This new ‘single judgement’ by the Secretary of State will replace the range of decisions that were previously handed down by the GTC.

It is imperative that robust mechanisms remain in place to investigate cases of professional misconduct. While we welcome the Government’s decision to preserve all conditional suspensions for teachers which are already in place, we are concerned about the loss of a wide range of tools which the GTC were able to use such as reprimands, conditional registration orders, suspensions and prohibition orders. The thresholds for a ban for misconduct by the Secretary of State will no doubt be higher than that for a reprimand from the GTC. Therefore, clarification is needed about where records of GTC disciplinary orders and decisions will now be stored and how these will be made available to prospective employees after the GTC ceases to operate.

5. Recording and reporting the use of force against students

We welcome the Government’s decision from September 2011 to reinstate the duty on all schools to record all significant incidents of school staff using force on children, and to report any use of force to the child’s parents. Central monitoring of incidents of force is a key mechanism for holding schools to account and ensuring that force is used lawfully and as a method of last resort.

In general, force should only be used as a final resort to ensure child does not cause harm to themselves or others, and the welfare of the child should be paramount in deciding whether or not it should be used. The NSPCC believes that all members of staff who use force should be trained and accredited and must not cause the child or young person serious harm.

6. Cyber-Bullying

The Schools White Paper has a strong and welcome focus on tackling bullying (especially racist, homophobic and prejudice-based bullying) as an essential part of raising attainment. However, there needs to be greater focus to cyber bullying and the impact it has on children and young people.

Evidence suggests that cyber-bullying is on the increase and it is important that schools know how to respond to it. Research conducted as part of a Department for Education cyberbullying information campaign found that 34 per cent of 12–15-year olds reported having experienced cyber-bullying [3] .

One 12-year-old girl told ChildLine:

"The boy I used to go out with is sending me horrible emails and texts. He says stuff like he hates me and is threatening to show his friends my pictures. He ignores me at school. I hate seeing him. I don't like school any more and I am doing worse in my class work." [4]

Parents will be able to trigger an inspection if they have concerns about bullying although it is unclear where they will gain to evidence to underpin this now that the duty to record incidents of bullying has been scrapped. 

7. Ensure schools teach children about safety and build resilience

The Government announced that alongside its review of the curriculum, it would conduct a separate inquiry into the role of Personal, Social, Healthy, and Economic education in schools. The PSHE curriculum provides opportunities for children to learn about behaviour that is not safe or acceptable and how to keep themselves safe. When delivered effectively and sensitively, it gives them the skills and understanding they need to help them to lead safe, confident, healthy and independent lives. All children should receive PSHE which includes age-appropriate information about:

§ Personal safety, including online safety

§ Respect, rights and responsibilities (including bullying)

§ Sex and relationships

§ Alcohol and substance misuse

§ Healthy lifestyles

Parents, carers, children and young people and members of a schools governing body should be involved in open consultation when developing and reviewing their school’s SRE policy. Evaluation has also shown that delivery of Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) through the curriculum, which provides a whole school approach to developing social and emotional skills, has been shown to promoting positive behaviour, attendance, learning and wellbeing [5] .

NSPCC believes that the Government should use the curriculum review to ensure that the issues listed above are built into the curriculum where possible. If these issues are not part of the curriculum it should look at other ways to promote good practice, such as through supporting the production of teaching and learning resources, or specialist professionals who can work across a range of schools.

About the NSPCC

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) aims to end cruelty to children in the UK by fighting for their rights, listening to them, helping them and making them safe. We share our experience with governments and organisations working with children so together we improve the protection of children and we challenge those who will not learn and change. We campaign for better laws and we educate and inform the public to improve understanding about child abuse. Our services include the NSPCC Helpline, for adults worried about a child, and ChildLine, the UK’s free, confidential helpline for children and young people.

February 2011

[1] These duties include Section 175 of the Education Act 2002, Section 157 of the Education Act 2002 and The Education (Independent Schools Standards) (England) Regulations 2003, Section 105 of the Care Standards Act 2000,and The Non-Maintained Special Schools Regulations 1999. These duties are supported by the Safer Recruitment Guidance.

[2] Ofsted Annual Report 2009/10

[3] ‘No hiding place for bullies’ - Department for Children, Schools and Families (2007) p n_id=2007_0168

[4] ‘Children talking to ChildLine about bullying’ -

[5] For example