Contentions of the new PSHE framework

Following a long debate, the House of Lords has given its backing to the new Health Education and Relationships Education (primary) and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) aspects of PSHE education (secondary) which will be compulsory in all schools from 2020. Whilst the upper chamber gave approval to new government guidance a month after the proposed framework passed through the House of Commons, the debate has raised key issues around the complexity of implementing the new statutory requirements.

The new framework is designed to ensure PSHE delivery meets the current needs of children and young people and reflect the world they live in. As the new framework states, children and young people are “growing up in an increasingly complex world”, particularly online. As a former Local Authority PSHE strategic lead, I am in no doubt that children today are exposed to greater emerging potential dangers, particularly in contextual safeguarding scenarios, therefore the way we prepare them to meet these challenges does need to change. In essence we need to prepare them to understand the world around them and make good choices. All sounds reasonable, so where does the contention lie?

The new statutory guidance sets out the PSHE topics which legally schools must cover. (This will also now apply to academies and independent schools will also be expected to draw on the framework to guide their curriculum content). This content includes topic areas that may contradict with parental views / beliefs and this is where we have the first area of contention.

There can be no doubt the new framework fundamentally alters the relationship between the state and parents. Under the new legislation, parents will have the right to withdraw their children from SRE up to three terms before they are 16. At this point, if parents wish to continue withdrawing their child they must request to do so, a request that may be denied.

This brings us to the second area of contention. In such situations where withdrawal is requested, it will be the responsibility of the Head Teacher to decide if the child should receive SRE or support the parent’s request. Such decisions may conflict with parental or indeed the Head Teacher’s own personal views. Where this becomes problematic for me is that the guidance falls way short of offering Head Teachers support in this decision making process. As we’ve already seen in Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, the impact of decisions deemed unpopular can have a huge impact on the relationships between a school, parents and communities, no matter how sensitively managed. Both parliamentary houses have recognised the challenges the new withdrawal arrangements will bring but have not included a yardstick to assist and support Head Teachers making such decisions. In the Department for Education consultation process, 54% of respondents felt the guidance re the right to withdraw was not robust enough however, no changes were made to improve this content. The cynics amongst us may suspect the failure to address these concerns is to limit potential litigation cases against the DFE.

The next area of contention is one close to my heart- ensuring teaching skillsets can meet the challenge of delivering all aspects of the topics in the framework. The £6M fund allocated for teacher training is woefully inadequate. No other government department has allocated funding to support staff training or delivery of the new curriculum, which to me seems remiss. I know how heavily I relied upon health staff and other professionals in my practice.

Much emphasis is being placed upon learning from the early implementer pilot schools (who will be delivering the new curriculum from September this year). This will be informative, its always good to share best practice, but cannot and should not be relied upon to fully develop an implementation structure fit for all. Just as we differentiate for pupils, we must have an implementation structure with the same flexibility.

PSHE is a really challenging curriculum area to teach, some would argue given the breadth of topic areas one of the most difficult to teach well. Many years ago I conducted a research project examining the impact of PSHE teaching by comparing the outcomes of delivery where staff had bespoke training to a control group who delivered a spiral curriculum without bespoke training. Based on those findings I would argue that, if we are to have meaningful lessons that meet the framework’s desired outcomes, we must invest more in developing PSHE teaching skills not just subject knowledge. We need to enable teachers to teach this challenging subject well, particularly to SEND children.

This leads me to my final area of contention, that of inspection. The proposed new Ofsted inspection framework comes into force a full year before the new Health Education and Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education become compulsory, raising the question- how will inspection interpret delivery and judge outcomes? To date Ofsted have not committed to review the proposed inspection framework following the House of Lords decision, which is very worrying. I fear we may see a raft of contradictory judgements, similar to what happened when safeguarding became a limiting judgement, and nobody (including Ofsted) wants a repeat of that debacle.

To be absolutely clear, I highlight the above contentious areas not to undermine the move towards a new PSHE structure. For me, safeguarding the wellbeing of children and young people is paramount and these new statutory requirements do just that. But let’s be clear- we are introducing new measures, some of which bypass the parental right to direct their children’s values and upbringing, and in undertaking this these contentious areas will need to be addressed.

Sam Preston is Safeguarding Director at SSS Learning and a former Local Authority Strategy Manager for School Improvement. The House of Lords debate can be accessed here.

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Safeguarding – holiday / ‘after hours’ provision

Contracting holiday activity provision, or looking to extend your after school club provision? Here are 6 key things to consider before entering into contractual arrangements.

  1. Does the club / organisation have a Safeguarding policy in place? It is essential to compare their policy with your governance arrangements to ensure all your expectations will be met. If the club / organisation doesn’t have a policy in place you may wish to build the relevant key areas of the school / academy’s policy into your service level agreement. This is important to not only protect the children attending, but your organisation, from potential litigation.
  2. Do you have the details for the club / organisation who you can contact if you have any concerns? Its important to have contact with the main organisation, not just the person providing the activity.
  3. Are safer recruitment procedures being adhered to? Its highly likely service provider staff will be working in “regulated activity” so check appropriate DBS vetting checks have been completed. (This should be recorded on your contractor section of the Single Central Record). Note: we would only recommend statements of assurance re DBS vetting are accepted from key agencies e.g. the Police, Local Authority or Health staff. All other providers should submit full DBS details for your records.
  4. Have the service providers completed safeguarding training? This should be accredited and meet all statutory requirements.
  5. Have service provider staff completed first aid training? If not and delivering services on your site, you will have to ensure this support is available.
  6. Are there written procedures on how any accidents or injuries will be managed? This includes both procedures for immediate response to accidents / incidents and reporting to you / parents.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Signs & Indicators of Child Sexual Exploitation

Physical Signs:

In our child protection remit we must be aware and vigilant to identifying the signs and symptoms that may indicate CSE. Whilst not solely attributed to CSE (some of the signs listed could be typical teenage behaviour) these physical, psychological and behavioural indicators should prompt practitioners to consider that this form of abuse may be happening. So here’s a quick reminder:

  1. Injuries that are unexplained or where the explanation is not plausible;
  2. Substance misuse (including drugs and alcohol);
  3. Rapid changes in appearance;
  4. Repeat miscarriages or pregnancies;
  5. Health / Sexual health related problems including sexually transmitted infections;
  6. Self harm;
  7. Attempted suicide.

Psychological Signs:

  1. Eating disorders;
  2. Disassociation with friends, family or other individuals /groups;
  3. Depression;
  4. Anxiety;
  5. Being secretive and / or withdrawn;
  6. Displaying feelings of helplessness;
  7. Self harm activities / overdosing;
  8. Suicide ideation;
  9. Post traumatic symptoms;
  10. Sleep disorders;
  11. Psychotic episodes.

Behavioural Signs:

  1. Receiving money or gifts- this may be as a reward in the grooming process or as a reward for recruiting others into CSE;
  2. Regularly arriving late or going missing from home;
  3. Being known to regularly travel from their home area to other locations (County Lines model) / having knowledge of locations they have had no previous connection with;
  4. Staying out at night with no explanation of where they were or what they were doing;
  5. Non/ low attendance, unexplained absence and school exclusions;
  6. Demonstrating defensive behaviour when questioned about where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing;
  7. Volatile behaviour;
  8. Aggressive behaviour / conduct problems;
  9. Reduced contact with family, usual friends or other groups;
  10. Known or reported to be in a relationship with a much older adult;
  11. Associating with an unknown adult and / or new groups of friends;
  12. Association with a series of unknown adults;
  13. Association with other young people at risk or known to be sexually exploited;
  14. Frequenting pubs / bars with unknown adults;
  15. Being seen in known hotspot areas;
  16. Involvement in criminal offending;
  17. Repeat criminal offending;
  18. Gang membership or association;
  19. Accepting money, gifts, mobile phone credit, drugs or alcohol;
  20. Sexualised/ risk taking internet and mobile phone activity (including sexting);
  21. Having multiple mobile phones / SIM cards;
  22. Refusing / withdrawing a sexual assault complaint following initial disclosure;
  23. Breakdown of care placements due to behaviour;
  24. Reported to be exchanging / selling sexual activity.

This checklist is not exhaustive but is designed to promote awareness of potential CSE indicators. Remember it is not your duty to investigate or to categorise types of abuse but to share any concerns.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out more about our Child Sexual Exploitation course click here

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Ofsted research- knife crime

Ofsted have published Safeguarding children and young people in education from knife crime, which outlines findings of research carried out in 29 schools, colleges and pupil referral units (PRUs) in London.

Click here to read our Safeguarding Director Sam Preston’s comments on the report findings.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

We know what works, we need capacity now.

The Ofsted report, Safeguarding children and young people in education from knife crime (2019), based on research carried out in 29 schools, colleges and pupil referral units (PRUs) in London was published yesterday. Recognising that no one agency can solve knife crime, the research details findings and recommendations based on the following questions:

  • What are schools, colleges and PRUs in London doing to safeguard children and learners from knife crime while on school premises?
  • How are schools, colleges and PRUs in London giving children the knowledge and skills to stay safer in their local communities?
  • How are exclusions being used when children bring knives to school?

Sadly, the findings and recommendations of this report are no revelation. In essence they focus on the usual suspects- that all practitioners, regardless of agency, are key to reducing crime and abuse by:

  • Improving partnership working and strategic planning
  • Providing early help and intervention
  • Improving information sharing
  • Extending the PHSE curriculum

However, whilst caution should be maintained as to the study’s transferability across England (the study sample is small and is London centric – a city supported by a bespoke violence reduction unit not in place in most other cities) there is one key element of the report worthy of focus, particularly as we are in the midst of transferring LSCB duties to local area tri-partnership arrangements, namely Recommendation 1:

Local community safety partnerships should fully involve schools, colleges and PRUs in developing and implementing local strategies that aim to address knife crime and serious youth violence.

In my opinion, this recommendation emphasises and strengthens the need for all educational settings within Tri-partnership localities to be designated as named partners. (Tri-partnerships consist of 3 safeguarding partners: Local authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups and Chief Officers of Police).

The information schools, academies, PRUs and colleges hold is crucial if we are to truly understand what is happening at a local level and best inform local strategies. Unlike any other, educational settings have the most frequent regular contact with children, young people and their families and, as the report highlights, we must develop better ways to access and use this intelligence.

This all sounds infinitely sensible, and dare I say somewhat familiar, but here’s the rub- resources. As a former strategy manager for school improvement I know how passionately Head Teachers, Principals and their SLTs feel about improving the outcomes for all children and young people and, given the opportunity, always value ways to help make a difference. I don’t doubt that for a second. But in thinking just how this strategic collaboration might work effectively, particularly with core educational roles being stretched to capacity, I fear we may face similar problems currently experienced in other services who feel seriously under resourced and underfunded.

For example, this week Chief Constable Sara Thornton (CBE QPM Chair of National Police Chiefs Council) gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry on serious violence, which included a focus on knife crime. The Chief Constable reported to the committee on the findings following the second summit of Chief Constables and the Home Secretary.

In her evidence to the committee it was clear that strategically, the Police know what tactics work, where hotspots exist, how County Lines exacerbate the problem and the impact organised crime has on serious violence. The restriction in effectively doing this, described by Thornton as “suppressing the violence now”, is one of capacity.

In her statement “we (the Police) can’t arrest our way out it it”, Thornton highlighted that violent crime is not solely a policing problem. In acknowledging the vulnerability of excluded / off rolled pupils, children in care or who are homeless becoming involved in violent crime she, like this Ofsted report, recognises the need for better collaborative strategic approaches.

But like education, policing faces similar problems. Staff shortages, with many having left policing, has placed stress and strain on core policing. Even the 970M funding increase pledged for 2020 will not replace the officers who have left the force. In responding to serious incidents e.g. the response to the recent fatal knife crimes in Birmingham, Chief Constables are faced with transferring resources in a model Thornton described as “robbing Peter to pay Paul” i.e. in essence there is no capacity to carry out the core work when police officers are drafted elsewhere.

In the education world this has a familiar resonance. There is no slack capacity in teaching or supporting pupils. Most staff have multiple roles within their organisation as the norm. Gone are the days of supply staff budgets to release staff for external commitments.

In summary, whilst the focus of this Ofsted report is useful in directing an overarching strategic lead, it does little to contribute to the dilemma that has existed for many years now- how to effectively make these overarching targets a reality in practice without substantial investment and new models of collaborative working. The report states it is produced to highlight areas of practice for further consideration by central government, local government and school leaders. I’m not convinced they are telling them anything they didn’t already know and as Chief Constable Thornton said “we know what works, we need capacity now”.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here


I am a stickler for policy and procedures, just ask my team. That said I was dismayed that, less than a week after the UK landmark first FGM conviction, Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope objected to the Private Members Bill on FGM. Progress of the Bill, which would have allowed the courts to make interim care orders under the Children Act in cases where children are believed to be at risk of FGM, was blocked for a second reading by the MP. (Under parliamentary rules, it only requires one MP to shout ‘object’ to a Private Member’s Bill which is listed for a second reading but not debated to block its progress).

From his comments it appears Chope’s objection to the bill, which had already cleared the House of Lords, was not made with regard to its content but to promote his own agenda around ensuring parliamentary debate. What’s so very disappointing is that the Member for Christchurch places more importance on his own agenda than measures that can safeguard children. In an article in The Telegraph, Chope cites his reason for blocking the bill. Namely that the same principle of one-day debate, which happens at second reading of HM Government Bills, should apply to Private Members Bills. But here’s where I’m confused- if indeed his actions were taken on procedural principle then surely he should be objecting to all Private Members Bills. This is the second time the MP has objected to safeguarding legislation- last year he used the same process to block a ban on upskirting.

Despite condemnation of Chope’s action from colleagues across the House, sadly it is unlikely the bill will now become law unless it is attached to another piece of legislation. Let’s hope the widespread condemnation of Chope’s conduct will prompt HM Government to take action.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out more about our FGM course click here

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Will lessons be learned?

Findings from the independent inquiry into one of the leading tennis centres has revealed the sport’s governing body, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), failed in their response to repeated warnings about bullying and sexual abuse.

The inquiry was commissioned by the LTA following the conviction of former Wrexham Tennis Centre head coach Daniel Saunders, jailed following his admission to eight counts of sexual activity with a player under 16-years. The inquiry report criticised both the LTA and Wrexham Tennis Centre, finding they had acted “inadequately” before Sunders was arrested and that they had failed to recognise safeguarding concerns.

In clear breech of safeguarding policy and practice, it is unthinkable that the extreme culture of ‘laddish behaviour’ Saunders created within the club, was not deemed a safeguarding risk, even after an internal investigation into his behaviour in 2012. It seems very odd that following the internal investigation, which found there were no child protection risks, clear glass was then installed to the window of Saunders’ office- presumably as a safeguarding measure? Sadly, Saunders simply covered the window in posters, using the office to later abuse his victim.

As a practitioner I find it unbelievable that the behaviours descried and reported by parents, which included coaches using sexually explicit language when on court with children, showing pornography to boys under the age of 12 and bullying of girls about their physical appearance (a parent reported that her daughter was called a “hefty elephant” and told that she (the girl) would “never get a boyfriend because of the way she looked”) were not taken seriously or addressed as abuse.

LTA chief executive, Scott Lloyd states lessons have been learned and that the LTA is “concerned that opportunities to act were missed” apologising to all those affected regarding this case. But one still has to seriously question the LTA’s action following the inquiry’s findings. Yes, a critical review of policy and strategy is essential, it always is following a serious incident, but what this case highlights is a failure to embed best safeguarding practice and have ongoing evaluation of that practice at its core. The actions of Saunders were abhorrent but so too was the culture he developed within Wrexham Tennis centre participated in by others.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Spring Audit

Spring is associated with growth, as Tolstoy said “the time of plans and projects,” and our development teams have been busy extending our safeguarding range with extended course content and new support products. Having headed up a specialist unit for vulnerable children and through my work auditing schools and academies for many years, I know the challenge of ensuring robust safeguarding arrangements are in place, reviewed and regularly updated to keep in line with this ever-changing environment. With everything else to manage it can seem daunting. Just where do you find the time?

I am thrilled to announce we are now including our secure online safeguarding audit tool – ‘Safeguarding Auditor’, as part of our Safeguarding Suite. The audit will help you audit your safeguarding provision step-by-step to either confirm your existing provision is compliant or produce a task list of the steps you can take to ensure compliance. We think this will be an invaluable tool for busy SLTs. Focusing on safeguarding in its widest context, it will enable you to comprehensively audit your current safeguarding arrangements, identify any areas where development is needed and how best practice can be further developed collectively. The audit, which includes the new standards in the revised Keeping children safe in education (2018), is simple to use and progress is tracked through our comprehensive action plan monitoring. Just answer the questions and we’ll formulate your report and action plan. We’ve even added an avatar feature, so I will be there throughout the process to share detailed information.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Safer recruitment

Last month, Ofsted clarified their guidance for inspectors inspecting safeguarding under the Common Inspection Framework (in Annex 2) about individuals who start work in settings before their DBS certificates are available. The guidance states: “If a school or college allows an individual to start work in regulated activity before the DBS certificate is available, it should ensure that the individual is appropriately supervised and all other checks are completed to ensure that the individual is not barred by the DBS. If an early years setting allows an individual to start work in a regulated activity before their DBS certificate is available, they should ensure that the person is never left in unsupervised contact with children, and that they are in the process of obtaining a DBS certificate for that individual”. The full document can be accessed at:


Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out more about our Safer Recuitement course click here

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Children’s safety- a postcode lottery?

A report produced by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC) has raised concerns that the varied thresholds across Local Authorities in supporting children at risk of harm or in need of help equates to a postcode lottery. The report findings, from a survey of 97 directors of children’s services and 1,700 social workers (DCSs), found that there were variations across Local Authorities in the thresholds for deciding when to put a protection plan in place because a child is at significant risk of harm, in the terms for care order applications and provision of early help and wider preventative services. Whilst the APPGC have stated that “Local Authorities should be empowered to set local priorities that respond to the specific needs of their populations”,they believe “that a postcode lottery in children’s social care is unfair to children and families and is not acceptable.” Evidence submitted to the inquiry by social workers and researchers indicated that funding constraints influence decisions on whether to intervene to support children. The APPGC brings together MPs and members of the House of Lords who are committed to improving policy affecting children and young people


Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here