Keeping Children Safe in Education – a review of the recent changes regarding student mental health

The UK Department for Education has created online safeguarding requirements that set the standard for child protection. These requirements are intended to ensure that schools provide the necessary online protections to complement their overall safeguarding strategy.

There have been three new updates made to the guidance:

· Changes made to reflect the law (reflecting mandatory Relationship Education, Relationship and Sex Education and Health Education)

· Inclusion of helpful information that will help schools and colleges support mental health, child criminal and sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, and county lines

· Important clarifications that will help schools better understand and follow this guidance (new information regarding child criminal exploitation and child sexual exploitation, encourage schools to make the link between mental health and safeguarding, etc.)

These changes put an additional focus on how relevant mental and physical health are to safeguarding the welfare of children. They also promote creating a whole school culture that promotes positive mental health.

How can I help support student mental health at school?

The documents referenced in the KCSIE updates are Preventing and Tackling Bullying, Mental health and behaviour in schools, Promoting Children and Young People’s Emotional Health and Well being, and Rise Above.

Public Health England presents eight principles to promote mental health and well being in schools. These are:

1. Leadership and management that supports and champions efforts to promote emotional health and well being

2. An ethos and environment that promotes respect and values diversity

3. Curriculum, teaching and learning to promote resilience and support social and emotional learning

4. Enabling student voice to influence decisions

5. Staff development to support their own wellbeing and that of students

6. Identifying need and monitoring impact of interventions

7. Working with parents/carers

8. Targeted support and appropriate material

The effect of COVID-19 on student mental health

The COVID-19 crisis has seen the rise of the internet being used by students for remote learning, where they are facing increasing exposure to safeguarding risks. Children are facing many changes and challenges from their regular routine. As schools, parks, recreational facilities and more become altered or remain closed because of COVID-19, students are feeling increasingly isolated and anxious. There has also been a significant rise in the number of human traffickers and predators looking to exploit children online. With anti-trafficking organizations and charities struggling to survive and support victims, online safety has never been more of a necessity.

How schools can support student mental health

While the guidance recognizes that only professionals should make mental health diagnoses, staff are well placed to identify behaviour that may indicate a child at risk or suffering from a mental health issue.

The proper filtering and monitoring tools provide educators with the ability to detect students in need and increase awareness of student well being, mental health, and the online risks they face.

These tools help monitor student activity online, looking for signs of students who are being bullied, struggling with their mental well being, or being targeted for criminal or terrorist activity.

We’re here to help. If you have any questions about digital safeguarding or implementing filtering and monitoring, please don’t hesitate to contact the Netsweeper team.