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Guidance for schools on records made when there are safeguarding or child protection concerns

These guidelines cover 

  • General principles of keeping safeguarding and child protection records
  • What records should be kept
  • How records should be made and kept
  • How long schools should retain safeguarding/child protection records
  • Access to child protection records / information sharing
  • Transfer of child protection records

The guidelines reflect and should be read in conjunction with the following documents: 

Keeping Children Safe in Education September 2019

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018

Information Sharing: Practitioners' Guide 2018

LSCB Multi-Agency Child Protection Procedures

Records Management Society Schools Retention Schedule version 4 2015

Information Commissioner’s Office

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/individual-rights/right-of-access/

When should a safeguarding/child protection record be created or added to?

  • If a member of staff raises a welfare, safeguarding or child protection concern relating to a specific child
  • If safeguarding/child protection information is forwarded to the school by a previous education setting. This will include the transition of safeguarding files from early years settings when a child first starts school.
  • If the school is alerted by another agency e.g. health, Social Care, police of safeguarding/child protection concerns about a pupil, this would include a domestic abuse alert
  • If a parent/carer/another person raises a safeguarding concern about a child
  • If a child discloses a safeguarding/child protection allegation against a parent/carer, member of staff, another adult or child
  • If the Designated Safeguarding Lead/other staff member provides Early Help services relating to a safeguarding/child protection issue and/or makes a referral to another agency. 

How should safeguarding/child protection records be kept?

  • The school can have either an electronic system, paper filing system or both
  • This must permit records to be kept securely and separately from a child’s main school file. The child’s main file should indicate that there is a separate safeguarding/child protection file
  • All records of child protection, child welfare and safeguarding concerns including domestic abuse alerts and MARAC information, disclosures or allegations are to be treated as sensitive information and must be kept together in this file.
  • It is the responsibility of the DSL to ensure that records are stored safely. This would be in a locked cabinet in the DSL or other SLT member’s office where there are paper files and/or it would be within a secure pass word protected electronic system.
  • There must be a clear system known by all staff as to how they record each concern. This may be in an electronic reporting system e.g. My Concern, or use of paper incident of concern form, colour coded paper system
  • If there are concerns about more than one child in a family, there will be a separate file for each child
  • There should be a ‘front sheet’ with key information including contact details of parents/carers, social worker, any other relevant professionals. If a child has a Child Protection or Child in Need plan this should be made clear on the front sheet. The front sheet must be kept up to date by the DSL.
  • Where a child is Looked after by a Local Authority, information such as parental responsibility, arrangements for contact with birth parents, levels of authority delegated to the carers, name of the virtual school head, the local authority responsible for the child and the name of the social worker, should be included in the ‘front sheet’. If it is known that a child was previously looked after, this should also be recorded.

What is recorded?

  • Factual information
  • There must be a chronology which is kept up to date, of significant incidents or events, subsequent actions and outcomes, with accurate dates
  • The system must be clear as to who input the information, with signatures (if paper copy) and their role
  • Record the child’s own words where there has been a disclosure, or they have been spoken with about a concern
  • In the case of disclosure, the record should also include: 
  • as full an account as possible of what the child said;
  • an account of any (TED) questions put to the child;
  • time and place of disclosure;
  • who was present at the time of disclosure, name, job title;
  • the demeanour of the child;
  • what happened to the child at the end of disclosure?
  • who was advised of the disclosure and any further actions or decisions?
  • Where professional opinions are given this must be made clear that it is a professional opinion and you should be able to qualify this with evidence from observation or your professional expertise. You should only offer opinions you are qualified to give e.g. a teacher is not qualified to make any psychiatric or psychological diagnosis.
  • Observations such as any indicators of possible neglect
  • Conversations with parents/carers about safeguarding/child protection concerns
  • Referrals made and conversations held with other agencies or professionals within the school
  • Reasons for actions e.g. if not referred to ChAD
  • Internal actions, plans and referrals
  • Descriptions of any injury with completion of a body map
  • Be careful of descriptive language and never use prejudicial language
  • Any discussion or supervision advice given with any change in plans noted
  • Always record as soon as possible and on the same day if it relates to an incident or what a child/parent/other adult has told you

What else is kept on the safeguarding/child protection record? 

  • A copy of referral forms to other agencies
  • Minutes from relevant meetings such as Child Protection Conferences, Child in Need meetings and Team Around the Child meetings
  • Actions plans e.g. CP plans, CIN plans, TAC plans
  • Assessments e.g. CAF’s, PEHA tools
  • Other safeguarding/child protection information from other agencies
  • Records of conversations and communications with parents and professionals
  • Emails or other correspondence to and from parents and professionals
  • Domestic abuse alerts and information to and from MARAC
  • Any other relevant safeguarding/child protection documents

Who can have access to safeguarding/child protection records? 

  • The Designated Safeguarding Lead and deputies
  • Other senior staff on a ‘need to know’ basis only
  • Governors/Trustees are not permitted to access individual child records
  • Information should only be shared with other staff and agencies in order to safeguard a child, on a ‘need to know’ basis in accordance with guidance in Working Together
  • Files can be requested by the police as part of an investigation or by the LSCB as part of a Serious case review enquiry for example.
  • Parents and pupils can also access files (see section 8)

Adopted children

  • When starting at school, If the school are told by parents that a child has been adopted this should be recorded on the main school file with the parents permission, in order to be able to give any appropriate support. A separate child protection/safeguarding file is not necessary unless there are additional safeguarding issues as for any other child.
  • Some older adopted children will have child protection records as they were initially Looked After Children prior to adoption. During the period when the child is ‘placed for adoption’ prior to the order being made, any records that contain information that identifies both the birth family and the adoptive family must be classed as highly sensitive and this information should only be shared on a strictly ‘need to know’ basis.
  • Once an order has been made, records should relate only to the adoptive family and not the birth family. Further advice should be sought from the Social worker, family and legal if necessary.

Data Protection

  • Parents must be advised that safeguarding/child protection files are kept by the school and will be transferred to the next school or kept until the age of 25
  • The school should have a statement relating to the above and the fact that Domestic Abuse alerts and MARAC information is routinely received and kept by the school (see LSCB safeguarding policy guidance)

The principles of the Data Protection Act

The principles have changed under the GDPR and the new 2018 Data Protection Act. There are 6 principals which are that Personal Data must be: 

  • Processed fairly and lawfully
  • Used for a specified purpose
  • Accurate and kept up to date
  • Adequate and relevant for the purpose
  • Kept no longer than is needed
  • Protected by technical and organisational measures

Requests from parents/pupils to view files

  • The child who is the subject of a child protection record has a right to access their personal record under the Data Protection Act (2018), unless to do so would affect their health or well-being, or that of another person, or would be likely to prejudice an ongoing criminal investigation.
  • Parents (i.e. those with parental responsibility in law) can request to see their child’s record. The school should take advice about sharing information with parents as there is no blanket right for a parent to access their child/ren’s information under the GDPR/DPA 2018.  If a parent makes a request to access the records on a child’s behalf, this must be done in writing. See https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/children-and-the-gdpr/what-rights-do-children-have/ for more detailed information.
  • If a record is to be shared the school should consider any third party information contained in the record. Any third party information, such as health assessments or social work reports, is the property of the original agency. Schools should seek permission from these third parties before releasing their information to the child or parent.
  • The school has 30 calendar days to respond. See https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/individual-rights/right-of-access/ for more detailed information.
  • Where requests are in any way complex e.g. a child expresses their concern about access by a parent, further legal or data protection advice should be sought by the school/college before proceeding.

How long should the safeguarding/child protection record be kept?

  • The school should retain the record for as long as the pupil remains at the school
  • If the pupil transfers to another school/college, the school must transfer the child protection file to the next school as set out below
  • If the pupil is removed from the roll to be home educated, the school must notify the Local Authority who will advise as to what to do with the safeguarding/child protection file.
  • A record of the date and person to whom the record was sent, must be retained
  • When a child is of school leaving age the last school/college must retain the safeguarding/child protection records until the pupils 25th birthday (Records Management Society Version 4, 2015)
  • The independent Inquiry into child Sexual Abuse has instructed relevant organisations, including schools and colleges, that they should not destroy, for the foreseeable future, any of their records that could potentially come within the scope of the inquiry (i.e. any records relating to sexual abuse)

Transfer of records
Dual registered pupils

  • Where a pupil is on roll at a school and attending a Learning Centre (LC)/Alternative Provision, the chronology and other relevant information in the child protection file should be copied and passed to the DSL at the learning centre. The two DSLs should agree on who will keep the chronology updated and how best to communicate to each other significant events and issues in relation to that pupil. The schools placing the child with an alternative provision continues to be responsible for the safeguarding of that pupil.

Changing or leaving school

  • When a pupil transfers from one school to another, their child protection/safeguarding record (if any) should be forwarded to the new school without delay. Care must be taken to ensure confidentiality is maintained and the transfer process is as secure and as safe as possible. It should be sent separately from their main pupil file.
  • The DSL should contact the DSL of the receiving school by phone, to ensure that they are aware of the file(s), inform the school that they are being transferred and to arrange the transfer details.
  • The DSL should also consider if it would be appropriate to share any information with the new school or college in advance of a child leaving, to enable the new school/college to offer continuing support when the child arrives.
  • Whenever possible the original records should be delivered by hand. If this is not practical recorded delivery can be used. The package should be addressed to the receiving DSL and clearly marked as confidential.
  • A ‘Transfer of Records’ form must be included with the files (or securely emailed to the DSL at the receiving school). This is completed by the receiving school and returned to the DSL of the originating school. This form (or email equivalent) should request the following:
  • The name of the school and of the Headteacher / Principal of the receiving school
  • The date when the child protection records were received and how e.g. by hand, post or electronically
  • The name and position of the person receiving the records
  • The signature (where possible) of the person receiving the records.
  • If the transfer required is out of area and/or when the records cannot be delivered by hand, a secure copy of the child protection file that is being transferred must be kept. Once you have received confirmation that the records have arrived at the destination then the copy must be securely destroyed.
  • The originating school must keep a record for 6 years of the receipt confirmation and of the date when the copy of the records were destroyed (Records Management Society Guidance).
  • If there are known to be safeguarding/child protection concerns, and the records do not arrive within five working days, the DSL should contact the DSL/Headteacher to formally request the records. If they still do not arrive within a further five working days, please contact the Education Safeguarding Advisor at the Local Authority.
  • If a pupil with a child protection/safeguarding record leaves your school without a forwarding address (for home and new school) and no contact is received from the new school, the DSL use the Child Missing Out On Education Nexus reporting forms without delay which go through to the Children Missing Out on Education Adviser. Enquiries to locate the child will be made as soon as this notification is received. If there is reason to suspect the pupil is suffering harm, then the DSL will refer to ChAD in the usual way.
  • If a child arrives at the school before records arrive and you are aware of a previous safeguarding history from the outset or concerns have been raised since arrival, contact the DSL of the previous school to discuss the case immediately. (A safeguarding file may not have been passed on).
  • Electronic files must not be transferred electronically to other schools unless there is a secure system in place (GCSX, or encryption software such as Clearswift, Ironport, cisco etc.) When the receipt has been returned by the new school, to confirm that the file has been received, the computer record should be deleted by the sending school. If a secure electronic transfer system does not exist, then the entire file should be printed, linked with other paper documentation such as conference minutes and transferred as described above for a paper version.

Transferring information to further education colleges

  • At the start of the academic year, DSLs at FE Colleges will request any relevant information from all schools previously attended by the newly enrolled students who will be under 18 at the time of transfer. Secondary school DSLs should disclose all relevant child protection/safeguarding information to the FE College. This will include if a young person is in care/looked after, has been the subject of a child protection plan, or is assessed as posing a risk to themselves or others etc. Safeguarding information should transfer as for any other young person in full time education in a school, while they are under 18.

Are there any circumstances in which you can retain safeguarding records once a child has left your school?

  • Data will usually only be kept on a ‘need to know’ basis and therefore it would be usual to transfer all data once the child has left the establishment as there is ordinarily no longer a ‘need to know’.
  • There may be some exceptions to this e.g. if the school are actively involved in court proceedings such as care proceedings at the time of transfer or there is an ongoing complaint or allegation made against a member of staff in relation to child protection, child welfare or safeguarding issues. In these circumstances based on the ‘need to know’ principle it would be appropriate to keep a copy of relevant documents until these matters have ended. After which time they should be destroyed securely both hard copies and electronic files. Wherever possible this should be with legal advice.

Are there exceptions to all safeguarding information being transferred?

  • Ordinarily it is usual to transfer all information which has been kept in a child protection/safeguarding file.
  • Most of this information should be known to parents with clear statements in school safeguarding policies and brought to the attention of parents/carers at the time when recording is made, that this will happen. This will include domestic abuse alerts, referrals to Early help services, details of early help services provided within the school etc. as well as recording relating to child protection (section 47)
  • There may be some rare exceptions to this position e.g. if a domestic abuse alert was received in year 1 or some concerns were raised by the class teacher which were monitored for the year but led to no further action or concerns and the child transfers in year 6/7 and there has been no other information/concern received, the data controller (school) DSL/Head teacher will need to take a decision about whether it is still relevant to the child’s welfare. If challenged by a parent, the school will need to justify their decision to transfer. However, if information is not transferred the reasons for this must be recorded and the DSL/HT satisfied that they could justify this should there later be a challenge.

November 2019 V 0.1 LsD