Understanding your safeguarding obligations…

In the latest edition of The Voice, ISBL’s members magazine, Charlotte Melhuish of approved partners Stone King, took a closer look at what the newest version of the ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ guidance means for school lettings, and explores the key considerations regarding safeguarding, for schools who hire out their facilities to the community. You can read the full article below:

Understanding your safeguarding obligations  – The Voice, Issue 30, Summer 2022

Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) is statutory guidance from the Department for Education that details how schools and colleges must ensure the safeguarding and welfare of children when letting or hiring out premises for non-school/college activities. In particular, the guidance states:

Point 155: Where governing bodies or proprietors hire or rent out school or college facilities/premises to organisations or individuals (for example to community groups, sports associations, and service providers to run community or extra-curricular activities), they should ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to keep children safe.

Point 156: When services or activities are provided by the governing body or proprietor, under the direct supervision or management of their school or college staff, their arrangements for child protection will apply. However, where services or activities are provided separately by another body this is not necessarily the case. The governing body or proprietor should therefore seek assurance that the body concerned has appropriate safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures in place (including inspecting these as needed), and ensure that there are arrangements in place to liaise with the school or college on these matters where appropriate. The governing body or proprietor should also ensure safeguarding requirements are included in any transfer of control agreement (i.e. lease or hire agreement) as a condition of use and occupation of the premises, and that failure to comply with this would lead to termination of the agreement.

What steps should a school take in light of KCSIE?

  1. Conduct a risk assessment

When letting premises, proprietors should ensure that the school has conducted a risk assessment, which should identify, amongst other matters:

  • the hazards that may result in harm
  • the risk factors
  • the persons at risk (e.g. pupils of the school)
  • current control measures, and
  • any further action required to control the identified risk(s).

As part of the assessment, schools should always consider other site- or activity-specific measures to incorporate into the risk assessment. Such risk assessments should be kept under review and revised in light of any new or emerging risks.

Copies of risk assessments should be kept on file as a record of the steps the school has taken to comply with its safeguarding duties under KCSIE and to monitor the effectiveness of its safeguarding arrangements.

  1. Undertake due diligence

Proprietors should ensure that the school undertakes checks on the hirer, as they would when engaging any third party. Such checks should include that the hirer has appropriate safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures in place and that the proposed lease/hire arrangements do not present any safeguarding concerns that cannot be properly managed.  Proprietors may also wish to ensure that the school has the right (by virtue of the hire/lettings agreement) to periodically request sight of, and inspect, such policies and procedures. This may be particularly prudent for long-term lettings.

  1. Review the letting/hire agreement

Proprietors should ensure that the school’s letting/hire agreement permits the school to implement its control measures (as informed by the school’s risk assessment) and also allows the school to terminate the agreement if the hirer has failed to comply with the terms of hire – in particular with regard to any safeguarding obligations contained within the agreement.

In addition, when reviewing transfer of control agreements, schools may wish to consider incorporating additional rights and obligations in terms of safeguarding, tailored to the specific circumstances of hire. These may include:

  • that the hirer remains responsible for their own staff at all times
  • the school’s right to check the identity of the hirer’s staff on arrival on site
  • a requirement for the hirer to provide written confirmation to the school, on request, that the hirer has safeguarding policies and procedures in place and that these are compliant with legal and regulatory requirements
  • an obligation on the hirer to immediately inform the school of any safeguarding concerns
  • an obligation on the hirer to ensure it adopts and implements the measures set out in the current versions of relevant statutory guidance, and that the validity of the hire contract is based on:
  • the hirer carrying out all relevant checks
  • the hirer keeping and maintaining records of such checks, and
  • the hirer allowing a person authorised by the school to inspect such records at any reasonable time.
  1. Update any lettings policy

Your school/college lettings policy should be updated to reflect the updated guidance from KCSIE, and outline the steps the school takes when hiring/letting facilities or premises. Staff training should include reference to this policy, particularly for those involved in managing and monitoring such arrangements. Thought should also be given to escalation and reporting procedures, for example where hirers need to report or escalate a safeguarding matter that occurs on school premises and/or involves pupils of the school.

Given the expectation that schools should ensure the safeguarding associated to any lettings that take place on their site, you may wish to seek assistance in managing lettings from a third party. The dedicated lettings solutions provided by Kajima Community are overseen by a team of experienced lettings coordinators who gather, store and periodically renew necessary lettings documentation for safeguarding purposes. The documents include:

  • activity risk assessments
  • proof of DBS (disclosure and barring service) certification (which is required as standard by all groups who have children or vulnerable adults)
  • evidence of coaching qualifications and public liability insurance certificates
  • child protection policies, and
  • the Government’s Prevent agenda (for supplementary schools).

Coordinators know which activities pose the greater risk and what documentation should be sought before the hire period. Kajima’s software solution provides a secure and GDPR-compliant way of storing your documentation, a tracking tool for whether documents have been requested and received from the hirer, and a reminder feature to ensure the hirer’s documentation is periodically reviewed.

At BookingsPlus, our experienced team are well equipped to advise on, and is on hand for a no-obligation discussion around such matters. You can contact the team to find out more about our lettings services, and to discuss your individual lettings needs. Contact us now on 01604 677 764 or follow us on LinkedIn to keep up to date with all our latest lettings news.

Our school lettings solutions are approved by ISBL, the professional body for school business leaders, uniquely dedicated to supporting the school business profession across our entire school system. The Institute, among other things, can advise on and provide access to professional development qualifications, deliver networking opportunities and events as well as give members access to a directory of approved partners, providing the best services and products to the education sector.