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11 August 2016

Full disclosure

Most people would agree that circumstances that create the potential for an increased risk to children in the care of a school should immediately be notified to the school’s governing body. The judgement call on whether this potential exists is, however, not always straightforward to assess.

What if a head teacher has a close relationship with (but is not the partner of, nor living with) someone who has been convicted of downloading indecent images of children? A recent Court of Appeal decision [A v B and anor [2016] EWCA Civ 766] indicates that there is an obligation in these circumstances to notify the Governors of such a relationship, whether or not the individual has ever actually visited the school and whether or not there is an identifiable risk to the children at the school as a result of the relationship. This is arguably a broader obligation than most schools will previously have anticipated.

As you would expect, it is important for schools to ensure that there are appropriate safeguarding procedures in place to protect the children in their care. Existing processes may need to be revisited to ensure there are:

  • Mechanisms in place for teachers and other staff to disclose such relationships to the school in an entirely confidential manner.

  • Processes to ensure that following such a disclosure an assessment can be made as to whether this creates any risks for to the children at the school and what steps should be taken.

  • Guidelines for staff on the potential consequences of failing to disclose such relationships.