KCSIE 2021 - What’s new?

Sam Preston 16 September 2021 10 min read
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What is Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE)?

Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE) is the key document that provides statutory safeguarding guidance to all educational settings. It provides a framework of the legal duties for governance and leadership to enable them to ensure best practice and the safety of children, young people and staff. The document is reviewed by HM Government annually to ensure new and emerging safeguarding themes are included and that the current guidance reflects any changes or additional content needed to reflect research e.g. peer on peer abuse (see below).

Background to the changes

The ongoing impact of the pandemic and the demands this has placed on educational settings has meant that reopening the consultations on the plans to extend and redefine the role of Designated Safeguarding Leads and their deputies has not been possible. Therefore, this year the changes to the substantive document have been limited.

Are the KCSIE 2021 changes important?

Although the revisions are limited, any change to KCSIE promotes a sense, quite rightly, of urgency for those charged with the duties of governance and senior leadership. We need to ensure all statutory measures are reflected in our policies and continue to be met, that staff are prepared to carry out their duties effectively within expected guidelines and most importantly that practice keeps children, young people and staff safe.

What changes have been made in the 2021 version of KCSIE?

Part one- Safeguarding information for all staff

So, what are the key changes in KCSIE 2021? From the 1st September 2021, the expectations set out in the guidance also applies to providers of post 16 education as set out in the Education and Training (Welfare of Children) Act 2021.

This year, HM Government have introduced a condensed version of Part one which can be found in Annex A. Leadership now have the discretion to issue Annex A to staff working in non-regulated activity roles in place of issuing Part one. All staff working in regulated activity roles however should be issued with Part one.

Given KCSIE's focus on peer on peer sexual violence, abuse and harassment (covered later) and latest inspection requirements, it is essential all staff are also made aware of the requirements stated in Part five. This section of the document solely focuses on child on child sexual violence and sexual harassment. For users of our safeguarding suite, we have uploaded the separate sections of the guidance in our document library so you may issue and track access through our document tracker.

As more is known about the methods used to criminally exploit children, known as Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE), Part one paragraphs 33 – 35 have also been updated to provide more information on how children can be exploited and to recognise that the experiences of girls being criminally exploited can be very different to boys. In addition, the guidance highlights that the indicators of CCE may also be different for girls.

Boys and girls being criminally exploited may also be at higher risk of sexual exploitation. Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of child sexual abuse and can take many forms 1. Paragraphs 36- 38 have been updated to reflect this to include:

  • physical contact;
  • assault by penetration (e.g., rape or oral sex);
  • nonpenetrative acts e.g., masturbation, kissing, rubbing, and touching outside clothing;
  • non- contact activities e.g., involving children in the production of sexual images, forcing children to look at sexual images or watch sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways or grooming a child in preparation for abuse including via the internet;
  • sharing of videos / images on social media;
  • coercion into sexual activity (including 16 -17-year olds who can legally consent to have sex;
  • coercion into exploitation through the pretence of genuine romantic relationships.
The 2021 revision of KCSIE highlights the importance of all staff recognising the signs of peer-on-peer abuse and appropriate response
The 2021 revision of KCSIE highlights the importance of all staff recognising the signs of peer-on-peer abuse and appropriate response

Following 16,000 testimonies of sexual harassment and abuse made through Everyone's Invited, a website set up in 2021 as a safe space for victims to share their accounts, and the findings from the Ofsted rapid review of sexual abuse in schools, the latest KCSIE guidance places particular emphasis on preventing and managing peer on peer abuse. Whilst the review cannot be regarded as robust research evidence, the findings present a worrying snapshot which detail shocking levels of abuse and harassment experienced by school children, particularly girls.

The rapid review also highlighted the need for staff to both identify and respond appropriately to peer on peer abuse.2 So it is not surprising that this revision of KCSIE highlights the importance of all staff recognising the signs of peer on peer abuse and appropriate response. Of particular note Part one (paragraph 48) emphasises that downplaying certain behaviours can lead to a culture of unacceptable behaviours, an unsafe environment for children and in worst case scenarios a culture that normalises abuse leading to children accepting it as normal and not coming forward to report it.

As the guidance states:

'All staff should be able to reassure victims that they are being taken seriously and that they will be supported and kept safe. A victim should never be given the impression that they are creating a problem by reporting abuse, sexual violence or sexual harassment. Nor should a victim ever be made to feel ashamed for making a report.'

Paragraph 49 lists the examples of peer abuse which staff should be aware of and vigilant in detecting including new recognition of 'initiation/hazing type violence and rituals' which may include 'activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group and may also include an online element'.

It is also essential to make staff aware of the UKCIS advice about the sharing of nudes and semi-nude images and videos. Pupils should understand that non-consensual sharing of such images and / or videos is both illegal and abusive and that even if the sharing is consensual this action is illegal.

To support staff training, the new SSS Learning Peer on peer Sexual violence, sexual abuse and sexual harassment course will be available next week. The course includes a bank of practical case studies which can be completed individually or makes a fantastic resource for DSLs to use for group INSET.

Part two- The management of safeguarding

This revision of KCSIE places greater emphasis on governance taking the 'strategic leadership responsibility' 3 for safeguarding arrangements. Paragraph 78 states that governance must:

  • ensure that safeguarding arrangements comply with their duties under legislation;
  • have regard to KCSIE;
  • ensure policies, procedures and training in their setting is effective and complies with the law at all times.

It is the responsibility of the Head Teacher / Principal to ensure that staff understand and follow the procedures agreed and ratified by governance.

Whilst there is a theme of strengthening the safeguarding procedures in place through robust promotion and accessibility, paragraph 83 directs leaders to ensure there is a 'child centric' approach, stating that governance and leadership should ensure:

  • The child's wishes and feelings are taken into account when determining action and service provision;
  • That children understand how to access help and feel confident that when reporting abuse, particularly peer on peer abuse, their concerns will be taken seriously;
  • That children know how to safely express their views and have the opportunity to give feedback.

Settings with charitable status are also directed to access the Charity Commission guidance on charity and trustee duties to safeguard children.4

This revision of KCSIE places greater emphasis on ensuring that the Child Protection policy (or combined Safeguarding policy) is effective and provides a bulleted list of particular areas which the content should reflect. Taken from paragraph 85 this includes ensuring that the policy:

  • reflects the whole school/college approach to peer on peer abuse;
  • reflects reporting systems as set out at paragraph 83;
  • describes procedures which are in accordance with government guidance;
  • refers to locally agreed multi-agency safeguarding arrangements put in place by the safeguarding partners. This is an important addition and reflects the expectations that such arrangements are known and understood by all staff, not just those involved in multi-agency working or referral processes;
  • includes policies as reflected elsewhere in Part two of this guidance, such as online safety and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND);
  • where appropriate, reflects serious violence. Whilst there is no expansion on what the term 'appropriate' refers to, we would recommend procedures for managing concerns where serious violence is present are detailed in your safeguarding / child protection policy, even if there have been no occurrences of such behaviour;
  • should be reviewed annually (as a minimum) and updated if needed, so that it is kept up to date with safeguarding issues as they emerge and evolve, including lessons learnt. We would also recommend that, as best practice also dictates, there should be an automatic review of policy should a serious incident occur to ensure it is robust and purposeful;
  • is available publicly either via the setting's website or by other means.

Content covering online safety has been rewritten in KCSIE 2021 (paragraphs 123- 135), with assimilation of the contents of Annex C from the previous version into Part two. Resources to support personalised teaching of online safety are listed in paragraph 121.

Safeguarding concerns or allegations made about another member of staff is also now embedded in Part two which links management responsibility of lower-level concerns, which do not meet the harms test, to the requirements set out in KCSIE section two of Part four. Low-level concerns are not insignificant, rather this is behaviour which does not meet the threshold set out in paragraph 338. It is important to ensure measures for managing low-level concerns are detailed in the staff code of conduct and safeguarding policies. Further detail on this is provided in our overview of Part four.

Governance and senior leaders must be aware of the new paragraph (143) added to this revision on referrals to the Secretary of State. Where a teacher is dismissed because of serious misconduct or if they leave prior to such possible dismissal, the new guidance states that there must be consideration whether to refer the case to the Secretary of State via the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA)5.

In response to previous safeguarding incidents, new paragraphs have been included in this revision covering the use of school/college premises for non-school/college activities. Where activities are provided by governance under the direct supervision or management of their staff, the setting's bespoke arrangements for child protection will apply. However, where they are provided separately by another body, governance should seek assurance that the provider has appropriate safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures in place (including inspecting these as needed).

To support governance of alternative provision, the guidance has been strengthened to recognise the additional risk of harm that pupils may be vulnerable to due to their complex needs and places a requirement for governance to be aware of such elevated risks. Similarly, content on the risks posed to children persistently missing from education and elective home education has been strengthened.

Part three- Safer recruitment

Part three has been restructured to align the content with recruitment processes however, the legal duties remain unchanged. Former Annex G, which details information about the types of disclosure and barring service checks available, is now assimilated into Part three.

Newly added information includes:

  • The use of a birth certificate where possible to verify a candidate's identity as best practice (paragraph 213);
  • and
  • The extension of safeguarding provisions to post 16 education in line with the Education and Training (Welfare of Children) Act 2021 (paragraph 212).
  • This revision also provides further clarification on:
  • When separate barred list checks must be carried out (paragraph 229);
  • Section 128 checks, checks which prohibits or restricts an unsuitable individual from participating in the management of an independent school, including academies and free schools (paragraph 237);
  • How to check prohibitions, directions, sanctions and restrictions, including children's barred list checks (paragraph 242);
  • Overseas checks and what further checks could include (paragraph 262).

The restructuring and clarifications detailed in this KCSIE revision enhance the flow of content and will better support those charged with safer recruitment duties.

Part four- Allegations made against/ concerns raised in relation to teachers, including supply teachers, other staff, volunteers and contractors

Earlier I made reference to the management responsibility regarding low- level concerns. Paragraph 338 provides guidance in managing cases of allegations where a person would pose a risk of harm if they continue to work in any capacity with children. This is behaviour of employed staff, supply staff, volunteers and contractors including:

  • Behaviour which has harmed, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly having committed a criminal offence against or related to a child;
  • Behaving towards a child or children in a way that indicates he or she may pose a risk of harm to children;
  • That they have behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children. This includes transferable risk i.e., where the behaviour has happened outside the setting.

Behaviour that does not meet the above thresholds, but still present significant concerns are referred to as low-level concerns. Examples of such behaviour are detailed in paragraphs 409 – 410. In this revision of KCSIE, to help make the distinction between managing concerns that meet the threshold and low-level concerns, Part four now sets out guidance in two separate parts. Whilst the context of the information remains relatively unedited, the new format provides clarity and should prove helpful in developing the staff code of conduct and related policies.

Part five- Child on child sexual violence and sexual harassment

As detailed earlier, many of the revisions made to the 2021 version of KCSIE relate to peer on peer sexual violence, sexual abuse and sexual harassment. The guidance directs all settings to establish an 'it could happen here' approach and for all staff to be mindful that such abuse may also exist outside the setting contextually as well as online. That said, as stated in the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook for September 2021, inspectors will consider how schools handle allegations and instances of sexual harassment, online sexual abuse and sexual violence and in addition crucially:

"that the school's staff have appropriate knowledge of part 5 the government's 'Keeping children safe in education' guidance"

Part five of the guidance gives a complete overview of the expectations placed on settings and, for best practice and that inspection will assess knowledge on this area of safeguarding, As stated earlier, Part five should be issued and read in its entirety by all staff together with the additional DFE guidance on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment6. However, for those already familiar with the content of Part five, here are some of the key areas updated for best practice.

The first key area focuses on responding to a report. As the guidance states the initial response to a report from a child is incredibly important. It is important to recognise that how staff respond to a report can encourage or undermine the confidence of future victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment to report or come forward. As paragraph 450 states, there should always be a zero-tolerance approach to sexual violence and sexual harassment. Therefore, under the staff duty of care it is essential not to establish a hierarchy of concerns and dismiss harmful behaviours as low level or explain them away as banter. Every report should be taken seriously and acted on, no matter how minor the behaviour may seem.

The next key area directs our focus to ensure appropriate responses are in place following an incident. As detailed in Part one of the guidance, all staff must be fully familiar with the setting's protocols for managing the report of a concern and if such a report is made from a victim they should know how they are expected to respond effectively. In practice this means measures to ensure staff:

  • know how to reassure a child that they are being taken seriously and will be supported;
  • do not promise confidentiality;
  • report all concerns to the DSL or their deputy.

Paragraph 444 details guidance on effective practice when responding to reports of sexual abuse and or harassment.

KCSIE directs staff are directed to be mindful that victims of harmful sexual behaviour and / or assault may experience subsequent physical and mental health difficulties. Therefore, the need for additional ongoing support measures should be considered and, where identified as needed, arranged swiftly. This may include measures taken in-house and seeking external support. Part 5 also directs focus onto ensuring alleged perpetrators are supported with further information about harmful sexualised behaviours together with signposting to specialised support services where deemed appropriate.

Finally, Part 5 contains a new section focussing on unsubstantiated, unfounded, false or malicious reports. This section details what action should be taken following such reports, particularly giving consideration to whether such incidents indicate an attempt at seeking help and /or whether disciplinary action is appropriate. Disciplinary action in such cases should be specified in the setting's Behaviour policy.

Annex B- Further information

Following the Royal Assent of the Domestic Abuse Act (2021), the section of Annex B covering domestic abuse has been updated to include the first ever statutory definition of such abuse and the impact it has on children. In line with the Act, this section includes the definition which draws attention to:

  • Children who see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse as being seen as victims in their own right;
  • The range of abusive behaviours including:
    • Physical abuse
    • Emotional abuse
    • Economic abuse
    • Coercive and controlling behaviour.

Two new thematic safeguarding topic areas have been added in this revision:

  1. Child abduction, the unauthorised removal or retention of a child from a parent or person with legal responsibility for the child, and community safety incidents e.g., adults loitering near a school, unknown adults engaging with children. This section emphasises the need to build children's confidence and abilities rather than simply providing 'stranger danger' messages.
  2. Cybercrime - criminal activity committed using computers and/or the internet. As the guidance states, this is broadly categorised as either:
    • 'cyber-enabled' (crimes that can happen off-line but are enabled at scale and at speed on-line)
    • or
    • 'cyber dependent' (crimes that can be committed only by using a computer).

KCSIE notes that:

'children with particular skill and interest in computing and technology may inadvertently or deliberately stray into cyber-dependent crime'.

Should staff have concerns about a child in this area, such concerns should be reported to the Designated Safeguarding Lead (or their deputy), who may consider a referral to the National Crime Agency Cyber Choices7 programme.

Annex B also contains an extensive list of toolkits and sources of additional advice / support.

Annex C – Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL)

This revision builds upon the expectations stated on previous versions of the guidance and, rather than introduce new role requirements, it focuses on ensuring the scope of the DSL's working relationships are recognised. This is summarised in the sections 'Manage referrals' and a new section 'Working with others'.

The previous "Child Protection file' section has been renamed and extended to reflect the DSL's responsibility on information sharing. This not only refers to the transfer of records when a pupil leaves the school but applies to the storage and access to records and there is an expectation that the DSL will oversee this.

Finally, a new section, 'Understanding the views of children' has been added to ensure DSLs are supported and have the appropriate skill set to encourage and foster a whole setting culture that reduces the barriers to disclosure. This is detailed as:

  • encourage a culture of listening to children and taking account of their wishes and feelings, among all staff, and in any measures the school or college may put in place to protect them;
  • and
  • understand the difficulties that children may have in approaching staff about their circumstances and consider how to build trusted relationships which facilitate communication.

What to do now?

So, these are a few of the headline changes to / revisions within KCSIE 2021. All the KCSIE revisions are embedded throughout the existing SSS learning suite of courses. To enable KCSIE INSET we have also released two courses, one to support leadership and management and one to support staff, covering all the key changes. This can be issued in the usual way to ensure all staff are informed of the key revisions. In addition to tracking each individual's access to the course I'd also recommend, as detailed previously, using our document tracker facility to reissue the relevant sections of KCSIE and any of your updated bespoke policies. This will enable you to track access and be assured that the annual CPD requirement is met and best practice maintained.

  1. SE definitions and indicators are detailed in KCSIE, Annex B.
  2. Note: the inspection handbook has been updated with guidance on how inspectors will examine procedures, protocols and practice during inspections.
  3. Please also refer to Working together to safeguard children- chapter 2.
  4. GOV.uk search for 'Charity Comission charity and trustee duties to safeguard children'.
  5. Details on referrals to TRA.
  6. We also fully cover all aspects of the requirements of Part five as part of our Sexual violence and abuse between peers course.
  7. Cyber Choices is designed to help people make informed choices and to use cyber skills in a legal way. It is co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency and delivered by Cyber Choices teams within Regional Organised Crime Units and Local Police Force Cyber Teams.

Sam Preston

SSS Learning Safeguarding Director

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