Responding to low-level concerns about adults working in education

Last updated: 26 Oct 2021 Topics: News Type: News
Employer talks to employee or volunteer about allegations against them

What schools and colleges in England need to do and resources to support you

The statutory guidance Keeping children safe in education 2021 includes new guidance for schools and colleges in England on dealing with low-level concerns about the behaviour of teachers, other staff, volunteers and contractors (Department for Education (DfE), 2021).

We’ve summarised what the guidance says schools and colleges need to have in place.

What is a low-level concern?

A low-level concern is any concern that an adult has acted in a way that:

  • is inconsistent with the staff code of conduct, including inappropriate conduct outside of work
  • doesn’t meet the threshold of harm or is not considered serious enough for the school or college to refer to the local authority.

Low-level concerns are part of a spectrum of behaviour. This includes:

  • inadvertent or thoughtless behaviour
  • behaviour that might be considered inappropriate depending on the circumstances
  • behaviour which is intended to enable abuse.

Examples of such behaviour could include:

  • being over friendly with children
  • having favourites
  • adults taking photographs of children on their mobile phone
  • engaging with a child on a one-to-one basis in a secluded area or behind a closed door
  • using inappropriate sexualised, intimidating or offensive language.

Why do schools need to respond to low-level concerns?

Having clear procedures for responding to low-level concerns is part of creating a school culture of openness and trust. It helps ensure that adults consistently model the school’s values and helps keep children safe. It will also protect adults working in school from potential false allegations or misunderstandings.

What do schools and colleges need to do?

Schools should have a low-level concerns policy and procedures. These should be part of your school’s overall safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures. It should be closely linked to the code of conduct for staff and volunteers.

There should be clear processes in place for sharing and responding to any concerns about an adult’s behaviour, no matter how small. A concern can still be significant even if it does not meet the threshold of harm.

Schools should ensure adults understand:

  • what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behaviour
  • what a low-level concern is
  • the importance of sharing low-level concerns
  • how to report any concerns
  • the process for recording, reviewing and responding to concerns.

Information and resources to support you

Behaviour codes for staff and volunteers 

Download example codes of conduct for staff, volunteers, other adults, children and young people and find out more about what how to manage inappropriate behaviour.

> Show me more


Appropriate online behaviour for adults working with children 

Learn more about creating a safe environment online.

> Find out more


Appropriate behaviour for people working on their own with children

Find out what safeguarding measures you need to consider when working on your own with children whether you are a contractor, lone worker or self-employed.

> Read more

 
Managing allegations against someone who works or volunteers with children

Best practice for managing allegations of abuse against someone who works or volunteers with children.

> Find out more


Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE) 2021: summary of changes

Read our briefing outlining the latest changes to the guidance, including responding to low-level concerns and allegations.

> Read briefing


Report Abuse in Education Helpline

Young people who have experienced abuse at school and parents and teachers who are concerned about sexual abuse in education settings can call 0800 136 663 or email help@nspcc.org.uk 

References

Department for Education (2021) Keeping children safe in education: statutory guidance for schools and colleges. [Accessed 04/10/2021].