The ‘Keeping children safe in education’ statutory guidance published in April 2014, says that ‘governing bodies… should ensure that there are procedures in place to handle allegations against other children’ (paragraph 40). Having such procedures is a new feature to this guidance. In most instances, the conduct of students towards each other will be covered by the school’s behaviour policy. Some allegations may be of such a serious nature that they may raise safeguarding concerns. These allegations are most likely to include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. It is also likely that incidents dealt with under this policy will involve older students and their behaviour towards younger students or those who are vulnerable.
As the headteacher of a school for young people with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, it wasn’t unusual to admit students who had been within the youth justice system having committed criminal offences. Students might be tagged or subjected to bail conditions or curfews. Young people such as these present risks to other students and thorough risk assessments are important. It is likely that allegations regarding these students would be covered by this policy.
- What are Safeguarding allegations?
- What steps should be taken?
- Who else should be informed?
- Should this safeguarding allegation trigger a social care referral?
- Should this safeguarding allegation trigger a police investigation?
- Draft Policy Statements
It is important that all school safeguarding policies reflect the school’s local situations and particular area of risk. This model policy is offered as a basis for schools to develop their own policy that meets their needs of their own pupils. The effectiveness of all policies is judged on their outcomes, not on their wording.
Writing the Policy
Suggested Paragraphs to be used as a starting point
At [school name] we believe that all children have a right to attend school and learn in a safe environment. Children should be free from harm by adults in the school and other students.
We recognise that some students will sometimes negatively affect the learning and wellbeing of others and their behaviour will be dealt with under the school’s Behaviour Policy.
Occasionally, allegations may be made against students by others in the school, which are of a safeguarding nature. Safeguarding issues raised in this way may include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. It is likely that to be considered a safeguarding allegation against a pupil, some of the following features will be found.
- is made against an older pupil and refers to their behaviour towards a younger pupil or a more vulnerable pupil
- is of a serious nature, possibly including a criminal offence
- raises risk factors for other pupils in the school
- indicates that other pupils may have been affected by this student
- indicates that young people outside the school may be affected by this student
Examples of safeguarding issues against a student could include:
- violence, particularly pre-planned
- forcing others to use drugs or alcohol
- blackmail or extortion
- threats and intimidation
- indecent exposure, indecent touching or serious sexual assaults
- forcing others to watch pornography or take part in sexting
- encouraging other children to attend inappropriate parties
- photographing or videoing other children performing indecent acts
In areas where gangs are prevalent, older students may attempt to recruit younger pupils using any or all of the above methods. Young people suffering from sexual exploitation themselves may be forced to recruit other young people under threat of violence.
Minimising the risk of safeguarding concerns towards pupils from other students
On occasion, some students will present a safeguarding risk to other students. The school should be informed that the young person raises safeguarding concerns, for example, they are coming back into school following a period in custody or they have experienced serious abuse themselves.
These students will need an individual risk management plan to ensure that other pupils are kept safe and they themselves are not laid open to malicious allegations. There is a need to balance the tension between privacy and safeguarding.
What to do
When an allegation is made by a pupil against another student, members of staff should consider whether the complaint raises a safeguarding concern. If there is a safeguarding concern the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) should be informed.
A factual record should be made of the allegation, but no attempt at this stage should be made to investigate the circumstances.
The DSL should contact social services to discuss the case. It is possible that social services are already aware of safeguarding concerns around this young person. The DSL will follow through the outcomes of the discussion and make a social services referral where appropriate.
The DSL will make a record of the concern, the discussion and any outcome and keep a copy in the files of both pupils’ files.
If the allegation indicates a potential criminal offence has taken place, the police should be contacted at the earliest opportunity and parents informed (of both the student being complained about and the alleged victim).
It may be appropriate to exclude the pupil being complained about for a period of time according to the school’s behaviour policy and procedures.
Where neither social services nor the police accept the complaint, a thorough school investigation should take place into the matter using the school’s usual disciplinary procedures.
In situations where the school considers a safeguarding risk is present, a risk assessment should be prepared along with a preventative, supervision plan.
The plan should be monitored and a date set for a follow-up evaluation with everyone concerned.