by Margaret Mulholland, ASCL SEND and Inclusion Speclialist
The challenge of identifying and supporting priority pupils over the next few months will fall particularly with those who hold responsibility as the identified DSL, SENCO and mental health lead.
The challenge is to ensure these leaders can operate strategically rather than carrying unrealistic operational responsibilities. The updates to Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) made last week make the strategic responsibility of the DSL particularly clear: ensuring all staff are aware of who their most vulnerable pupils are and why, helping them to prioritise these pupils where necessary.
1. The KCSiE statutory guidance, applicable to all schools and colleges was updated on 1 September.
The key updates revolve around heightening the link between mental health concerns and safeguarding, Covid-19, and to ensure consistency with other documents, such as the new mandatory RSHE guidance and Ofsted guidance.
Particular changes for members to be aware of include:
- A link has been added to departmental advice for Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Between Children in Schools and Colleges (updated May 2018). This reinforces the emphasis on sexual violence and sexual harassment after Ofsted found this to be a common failing for schools last year.
- There has been a change in wording: Relationships Education (for all primary pupils) and Relationships and Sex Education (for all secondary pupils) and Health Education (for all pupils in state-funded schools) which was made compulsory in September 2020. Schools have flexibility to decide how they discharge their duties effectively within the first year of compulsory teaching and are encouraged to take a phased approach (if needed) when introducing these subjects (para 94).
- Whilst the role of the DSL has not been formally extended there is a renewed emphasis on the DSL role in communicating and supporting whole school responsibilities. There is an important shift here that will require the DSL to work strategically with all staff to ensure they are deploying their safeguarding responsibilities.
2. Issues regarding support for pupils with SEND and leading special settings are being raised with the DfE through the policy team and additionally through ASCL’s membership of the SEND Reference Group.
Some members have highlighted concerns about one-to-one support in class and from specialists. The guidance makes it clear that whilst we must work to reduce risk, schools will continue to provide additional support.
A school’s duties under the Equality Act 2010
still apply, including when amending and applying a behaviour policy.
Minister Ford has made clear that specialist and visiting practitioners should provide support for pupils with SEND (including interventions) “as usual” (including moving between schools).
A SEND-specific update is expected this week from the DfE and it is expected to cover legislation changes, transport, and shielding.