Periodically at Ofsted I become aware of misconceptions about inspection processes; what we look at and what people think is required by us. Currently there seems to be some confused chatter about our role in safeguarding. Ofsted has been inspecting safeguarding arrangements in schools since 2005 and from September 2015 we have been taking a consistent approach to inspecting safeguarding across all education provision.
Ofsted does not set the standards that schools and other education providers have to meet on safeguarding. Our job is to inspect against standards and statutory guidance set by the Department for Education (DfE). And it is the DfE’s statutory guidance that schools need to refer to. If a school’s safeguarding arrangements do not meet these requirements then at inspection we will judge them to be ineffective. This will lead to an overall inadequate judgement for the school.
Inspectors look at a wide range of evidence to inform their judgements about the effectiveness of safeguarding in schools. The main things our inspectors look at are:
- the extent to which leaders, governors and managers create a positive culture and ethos where safeguarding is an important part of everyday life
- the content of safeguarding policies and procedures, and how well these are applied in practice
- how staff are supported to have a good understanding of safeguarding risks to children, and evidence that they know what to do if a child is at risk of harm
- the quality of work that the school does with the local authority and other agencies, for example, in making referrals and supporting children who have a multi-agency plan in place
- whether the proper recruitment checks have been carried out for staff, volunteers and governors
- what children say about how safe they feel and how they are helped to understand safeguarding risks.
Our inspectors DO NOT:
- have an Ofsted template or safeguarding checklist that schools are expected to comply with
- promote particular products or safeguarding methods. The way each school approaches safeguarding will be determined by the school, according to local circumstances
- have particular expectations on how a school should manage issues to do with site security, such as perimeter fences and access for members of the public, although we would expect risks to be properly considered and managed
- make judgements lightly. We would not normally find safeguarding ineffective because of one shortcoming that we identify, unless is it a very serious breach of statutory requirements that leaves children at risk of harm.
There is no magic formula: safeguarding children in schools is about fostering a culture where children come first.