Safeguarding in a learning environment is an important topic that all educators and staff members should be well-versed in. It refers to the measures taken to protect students and staff from harm, abuse, and neglect, both physical and emotional. One important aspect of safeguarding is understanding the legal requirements and responsibilities related to it. This includes compliance with laws, regulations, and policies that are in place to ensure that students and staff are protected. In this topic, we will explore the legal requirements relating to safeguarding in a learning environment and understand the importance of being aware of and adhering to these laws. We will discuss the key laws and regulations that apply to educational settings and the responsibilities of educators and staff members in ensuring compliance. Additionally, we will explore the consequences of non-compliance and the best practices for ensuring a safe and secure learning environment for all.
Key elements of safeguarding legislation in relation to a learning environment
This section will provide a comprehensive understanding of the legal requirements to safeguard students and staff in a learning environment and the importance of adhering to these laws.
The Children Act 1989 Section 47
The Children Act 1989 Section 47 is a UK law that outlines the duty of local authorities to investigate instances where a child is believed to be suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm. This section of the act states that if a child is subject to a protection order, in police protection, or is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, the local authority must make inquiries to establish whether the child needs protection and what steps, if any, should be taken to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare.
These inquiries aim to determine whether the child is at risk of harm and whether any action needs to be taken to protect them. The local authority is responsible for conducting a thorough investigation and gathering all relevant information about the child’s situation, including information from family members, carers, and other relevant professionals.
If the local authority concludes that the child is at risk of harm, they have a duty to take action to protect the child, which may include taking the child into care or placing them under a child protection plan. The local authority must also ensure that the child’s needs are met and that their welfare is promoted.
It is important to note that the duty to investigate under Section 47 applies to all children, regardless of their age, gender, race, or any other characteristic. The local authority must also act in the child’s best interests and involve the child and their family in the decision-making process as much as possible.
The Children Act 2004 Sections 13 and 14
The Children Act 2004 is a UK law that sets out the framework for the protection and welfare of children. Sections 13 and 14 of the act require local authorities to establish Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) to coordinate the work of organisations and individuals in their area to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
The role of LSCBs is to ensure that all organisations and individuals working with children in their area have policies and procedures to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This includes developing policies and procedures for identifying and responding to children at risk of harm and providing support to children and families.
LSCBs also play an important role in raising awareness of the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, including the importance of early intervention and prevention. They provide training and support to organisations and individuals working with children and young people to ensure that they are equipped to identify and respond to concerns about children’s welfare.
In addition, LSCBs are responsible for monitoring the effectiveness of the work of organisations and individuals in their area to improve children’s outcomes. They review the work of organisations and individuals working with children and make recommendations for improvement.
Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 Section 7
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (SVGA) is a UK law introduced to protect vulnerable groups, including children, from harm by people who are considered to be a risk to them. Section 7 of the SVGA restricts barred persons from participating in a regulated activity relating to children.
A “barred person” is an individual who has been barred from working with children or vulnerable adults by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) because they have been found to have committed certain offences or engaged in unacceptable behaviour that poses a risk to vulnerable groups.
Under Section 7 of the SVGA, it is a criminal offence for a barred person to participate in a regulated activity relating to children unless they have been granted an exception. A “regulated activity” is defined as work or activities carried out regularly with children or vulnerable adults or which provide an opportunity for contact with them. These are specified in regulations made under the SVGA. Examples of regulated activities include work in schools, childcare facilities, and youth clubs.
The SVGA also places a duty on organisations carrying out regulated activities to take reasonable steps to prevent barred persons from participating. This includes checking the DBS status of staff members and volunteers and taking appropriate action if someone is found to be barred.
Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 Section 26
The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (CTSA) is a UK law introduced to strengthen the government’s ability to counter terrorism and protect the country from terrorist threats. Section 26 of the CTSA places a duty on schools to prevent pupils from being drawn into terrorism.
Under this section, schools are required to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and to have regard to the guidance issued by the Secretary of State for the purpose of this duty. This guidance is called “Prevent Duty Guidance for England and Wales” and sets out the steps schools should take to fulfil this duty.
One of the key elements of this guidance is the requirement for schools to promote “fundamental British values” to prevent extremism. Ofsted, the UK’s education and care regulatory body, inspects schools to ensure that they meet their obligations under the CTSA. Ofsted inspections include assessing whether schools promote fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Sections 2 and 7
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) is a UK law that sets out the general duties of employers and employees to ensure the health and safety of workers in the workplace. Sections 2 and 7 of the HSWA outline the responsibilities of employers and employees for health and safety management.
Section 2 of the HSWA places a general duty on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their employees and other people who may be affected by their activities. This includes conducting a risk assessment to identify hazards in the workplace and putting in place measures to control those risks. Employers are also responsible for providing employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where appropriate.
Section 7 of the HSWA places a general duty on employees to take reasonable care of their health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their actions. Employees must also cooperate with their employers to fulfil their legal obligations under the HSWA.
The Communications Act 2003 Section 127
The Communications Act 2003 is a UK law regulating public electronic communications networks, including the internet and mobile networks. Section 127 of the act deals with the improper use of these networks, specifically about sending grossly offensive, indecent, or obscene communications that cause annoyance, inconvenience, or needless anxiety to others.
Under Section 127, it is a criminal offence to send any message that is “grossly offensive” or “of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” over a public electronic communications network, including the internet and mobile networks. This includes messages sent via email, social media, and messaging apps.
The act also makes it an offence to send a message that causes “annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety” to another person. This includes any message that is considered to be spam or unwanted commercial communication.
It is worth noting that under this section, the intent of the person sending the message is not taken into account; the message itself is enough to constitute an offence.
The Education Act 2002 Section 176
The Education Act 2002 is a UK law that sets out the framework for the education system in England and Wales. Section 176 of the act places a duty on schools to consult with pupils about decisions that affect them.
Under this section, schools must establish procedures for consulting pupils about matters that affect them, such as curriculum development, school policies, and school improvement plans. The consultation should involve pupils in decision-making and allow them to express their views and opinions.
The Education Act 2002 does not specify the form that consultation should take, but it should be tailored to the pupils’ age, maturity and understanding. For example, for younger pupils, consultation may involve a class discussion, while for older pupils, it may involve a student council.
The Act also requires schools to consider pupils’ views when making decisions that affect them. This means that schools should consider the views and opinions of pupils when making decisions about the curriculum, school policies, and other matters that affect them.
Legal requirements for maintaining the security and confidentiality of information
Maintaining the security and confidentiality of information is an important aspect of protecting individuals and organisations from potential harm. It is essential to ensure that sensitive information is protected from unauthorised access, disclosure, or destruction. In this topic, we will explore the legal requirements for maintaining the security and confidentiality of information.
Data protection legislation is designed to protect individuals’ privacy and personal information. In the UK, the primary law governing data protection is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018), which came into effect in May 2018.
The GDPR and DPA 2018 set out several controls for storing and handling information. These controls include:
- Fair and lawful processing: Personal data must be collected and processed in a lawful, fair, transparent manner.
- Purpose limitation: Personal data must be collected for specific, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a way that is incompatible with those purposes.
- Data minimisation: Personal data must be adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are processed.
- Accuracy: Personal data must be accurate and kept up to date.
- Storage limitation: Personal data must be kept in a form that permits the identification of data subjects for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the data is processed.
- Security: Personal data must be kept secure and protected against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss, destruction or damage.
- Accountability: Organisations must demonstrate compliance with the GDPR and DPA 2018, including by having appropriate technical and organisational measures in place.
Data Protection legislation such as GDPR and DPA 2018 controls how information is stored and handled. It requires the data to be processed in a fair, lawful and transparent manner, for specific and legitimate purposes and in a way that is compatible with those purposes. It also requires the data to be accurate, relevant and limited to what is necessary, kept for no longer than necessary and secure against unauthorised or unlawful processing and accidental loss, destruction or damage. Organisations must also be able to demonstrate compliance with the legislation.
Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 Part 5
The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 is a UK law introduced to protect civil liberties and privacy while also strengthening the ability to prevent crime and protect the public. Part 5 of the act deals with criminal records disclosure for anyone involved in activities with vulnerable groups.
Under Part 5 of the act, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) was established to provide a criminal record checking service for individuals who work or volunteer in roles that involve regular contact with vulnerable groups, such as children or adults at risk. This includes roles such as teaching, nursing, and social work.
Under this part of the act, employers are required to check the criminal records of employees and volunteers through the DBS and to disclose any relevant information to the appropriate authorities. This includes information about previous convictions, cautions, and other relevant information.
Individuals who apply for roles that involve working or volunteering with vulnerable groups must disclose their criminal record to the employer or organisation. The employer or organisation is then required to check that information with the DBS.
The act also allows the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring certain roles to be subject to enhanced DBS checks, including additional information such as intelligence and information held by local police forces.
In order to comply with data protection legislation, privacy notices are a key tool for ensuring that individuals are aware of how their personal information will be collected, used and shared. This includes the purpose for which information is to be processed, how data will be collected, how data is kept up to date and the specific details of what the school expects from staff who work with personal data.
A privacy notice should be in place that explains to individuals why their data is being collected, how it will be used, who it will be shared with, and how it will be protected. It should also explain individuals’ rights in relation to their data, such as the right to access, correct or delete their data.
For schools, colleges and training providers, privacy notices need to be in place that specifically addresses how the personal data of pupils and staff will be collected, used and shared. For example, it should explain the school’s legal basis for processing pupil data, such as for the purposes of education and safeguarding. It should also explain the specific data that will be collected, such as names, addresses and dates of birth, and how that data will be used for enrolment, attendance and reporting to education authorities.
Furthermore, the school’s privacy notice should clearly explain how it expects staff to handle personal data, the school’s policy for data protection and how it is enforced, and the disciplinary action that will be taken in case of non-compliance.
Privacy notices ensure that individuals know how their personal information will be collected, used, and shared. These notices need to be in place for schools, explaining the purpose for which information is to be processed, how data will be collected, how data is kept up to date, and the specific details of what the school expects from staff who work with personal data.