In September 2022 the DfE updated the guidance on Searching, Screening and Confiscation. There should be a direct link between this guidance and the school’s safeguarding and child protection policy and also to Sharing nudes and semi-nudes: advice for DSLs and Senior Leaders. Advice for the rest of the school staff is in the form of a one page summary Sharing nudes and semi-nudes: how to respond to an incident with clear guidance that they should report to the designated safeguarding lead immediately. If staff are dealing with an incident regarding an inappropriate image online, they may need to rely on the guidance in relation to searching, screening and confiscation as well. Staff should not view or forward illegal images of a child – the guidance advises what to do where viewing an image is unavoidable. When there is suspicion that there is an indecent image of a child and/or video, the member of staff should avoid looking at the device and confiscate it, to preserve evidence to hand over to the Police. These guidance documents do not apply to adults sharing nudes or semi-nudes of under 18 year olds as this is child sexual abuse and it is crucial to refer to the Police as a matter of urgency.
Top Tips for Best Safeguarding Practice
- Ensure your behaviour policy reflects the updated Searching, Screening and Confiscation guidance and the focus on safeguarding and update any other linked policies.
- The behaviour policy should be accessible to all members of the school community, staff, parents and children. This is part of schools’ statutory responsibility and referenced in Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022
- Review your policies as well as your practice to ensure they are consistent
- Headteachers should oversee any searching to ensure that a culture of safe, proportionate and appropriate searching is upheld, which safeguards the welfare of all pupils and staff with support from the designated safeguarding lead
- Staff should receive effective training on the guidance – all staff need to know the process and know what to do. For example, they should not just be asking children to see inside their bags.
- Before searching a pupil, the reason for the search should be explained. They should know how they will be searched and where the search will take place. Pupils should be given a chance to ask any questions.
- The cooperation of the pupil must be sought before a search is carried out and if they are not willing to comply with the search, statutory guidance states ‘the member of staff should consider why this is’.
- If a search is still considered necessary, but is not urgent, the pupil should be supervised and kept away from other pupils while the advice of the headteacher, designated safeguarding lead or pastoral lead is sought as they may have more information
- If after consultation with the other members of staff, the pupil is still refusing to cooperate, an assessment should be made as to whether reasonable force should be used to carry out the search
- A member of staff can use ‘such force as is reasonable to search for any prohibited items identified in paragraph 3, but not to search for items which are identified only in the school rules’
- Consider whether to use reasonable force – the DfE’s Use of Reasonable Force states that reasonable force should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Parental consent is not required.
- The power to use reasonable force should be included in the school behaviour policy which should also acknowledge the school’s legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled children and children with special educational needs and disabilities
- Ensure information about the behaviour policy, searching, screening and confiscation and reasonable force are incorporated into your training at induction or thereafter, emphasising that behaviour and safeguarding are interlinked
- Reflect and analyse searches to see if there are patterns and/or high numbers. Are there any groups that are disproportionately impacted? If so, schools should consider preventative approaches.