Managing Low-Level Concerns Around Adults in your Setting

Managing Low-Level Concerns Around Adults in your Setting

Posted  9th June 2022

This blog is based on Judicium’s Safeguarding ‘Sofa Session’ from the 9th of June, with our resident expert Hannah Glossop. This session focused on defining low-level concerns about adults working in or on behalf of the school, creating a culture of vigilance around low-level concerns, responding to instances of low-level concerns.

How to Define Low-level Concerns Around Adults Working In or On Behalf of the School 

Low-level concerns are relatively new, having been introduced in KCSIE September 2021.

The term low-level concerns covers behaviours that DO NOT meet the harm threshold but still cause concern.

KCSIE definition:

A low-level concern is any concern – no matter how small, and even if no more than causing a sense of unease or a ‘nagging doubt’ - that an adult working in or on behalf of the school or college may have acted in a way that:
  • is inconsistent with the staff code of conduct, including inappropriate conduct outside of work and
  • does not meet the harm threshold or is otherwise not serious enough to consider a referral to the LADO.
Examples:
  • being over friendly with children
  • having favourites
  • taking photographs of children on their mobile phone, contrary to school policy
  • engaging with a child on a one-to-one basis in a secluded area or behind a closed door
  • humiliating pupils

It is important to remember that these concerns exist on a large spectrum where two low-level concerns may look very different but are still covered under that same guidance.

If the Harm Threshold is Met

Contact the LADO.

For instance, if an adult (including volunteers and contractors) has done any or all of the following:
  • behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child
  • possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates he or she may pose a risk of harm to children
  • behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children.

What is the purpose of sharing low-level concerns?

Sharing these concerns should link to creating a culture of vigilance in your school.

It should also:
  • encourage an open and transparent culture
  • enable schools and colleges to identify inappropriate, problematic, or concerning behaviour early
  • minimise the risk of abuse
  • ensure that adults working in or on behalf of the school or college are clear about professional boundaries and act within these boundaries, and in accordance with the ethos and values of the institution.

Does your school need a separate low-level concerns policy?

No. Your school’s approach to low-level concerns should be covered in both the safeguarding and code of conduct policy.

All staff should be clear on what appropriate behaviour is, what a low-level concern is and how to share it.

If you have a separate low level concerns policy, make sure that this is shared and embedded within the safeguarding culture the same as the others.

    Responding to Instances of Low-level Concerns

    The most important thing to remember is to respond to ALL concerns. 

    KCSIE 2022 from September, explains that low-level concerns no longer need to be disclosed to the Head, these can go to the DSL, deputy head etc. It is up to your school. However, it does make clear that the Head should be the ultimate decision maker and must always be kept informed.

    Low-level concerns which are shared about supply staff and contractors should be shared with their employers, so that any potential patterns of inappropriate behaviour can be identified.

    Staff should also feel able to self-refer.

    What to do if you receive a disclosure

    1. Pause and think carefully about what next steps are needed
      • Is a full investigation needed, or a conversation?
      • If any doubt about the seriousness of the incident, do not be afraid to consult with the LADO.
      1. Record - Each low-level concern MUST be recorded in writing (even if it turns out to be nothing). They must include:
        • details of the concern
        • he context in which the concern arose
        • action taken
        • name of the individual sharing their concerns (if the individual wishes to remain anonymous then that should be respected as far as reasonably possible)
        • NB: Keep these records confidential and secure and retained at minimum until the individual leaves your employment.
      1. Regularly review the records
        • Are there themes that suggest more staff training is needed?
        • Is a member of staff coming up multiple times and therefore needing to be referred to the LADO?
        • Does anything in the policy need to be tweaked?

        References for individuals with low-level concerns records

        Low-level concerns should not be included in references unless they relate to issues which would normally be included in a reference, e.g., misconduct or poor performance.

        If a group of low-level concerns meets the harm test and is found to be substantiated, it should be referred to in a reference, similar to any other substantiated safeguarding concerns.

        Top Tips to Create a Culture of Vigilance Around Low-level Concerns

        1. The starting point is to make sure the messaging around low-level concerns is clear - it’s about the safety of children and educating all adults, not necessarily punishing staff or other adults.

        2. Ensure policy is clear and that ALL adults working in your school understand this, including volunteers and contractors.
         
        3. Consider who is the best member of staff for these concerns to be referred to. For instance will staff feel comfortable approaching the Head?
         
        4. Do not shy away from following up on low-level concerns.
         
        5. Regularly remind staff about the importance of sharing low-level concerns and try to alleviate any fears around this.
         
        6. Review the low-level concerns log regularly, looking out for patterns and identifying training needs.

        7. Stay calm! Your low-level concerns policies and procedures should only be an extension of your wider code of conduct for staff.

         

        Helpful Links

        KCSIE (Part 4) - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1021914/KCSIE_2021_September_guidance.pdf

        You can follow us on Twitter: @JudiciumSG       @JudiciumEDU

        The Safeguarding Service is also providing CPD accredited open training courses for DSLs, ALL staff and Governors, including Level 3 equivalent DSL training. Upcoming dates and links to book your place are listed below:

        Tuesday 14th June- Advanced Safeguarding Training Refresher

        Wednesday 6th July- Advanced Safeguarding Training (for new DSLs)

        If you’d like to review Judicium’s forthcoming sofa sessions please click here