The 12 Most Important Ofsted Safeguarding Questions and Answers [2024]

Ofsted safeguarding questions and answers have changed in recent years. Ofsted have altered how they inspect safeguarding in schools and this impacts how schools should prepare for Ofsted inspections. 

In this article, Designated Safeguarding Lead Zoe guides you through the potential line of Ofsted safeguarding questions and tips on how to answer confidently.  

So, whether you’re preparing for an imminent inspection, reviewing your safeguarding practice or continuing professional development around safeguarding, this article will provide insight into what to expect. 

What are Ofsted safeguarding questions?

Ofsted safeguarding questions are a series of questions prepared by Ofsted to assess the safeguarding provisions of state-funded schools in England. School leaders, governors, teachers and non-teaching staff will be expected to prepare for Ofsted safeguarding questions with appropriate answers. These answers should demonstrate that the school is meeting the safeguarding requirements and keeping children safe in their educational setting.

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What is safeguarding children? 

Safeguarding practice is essential to protect children and keep them safe from harm. Child protection is a part of the safeguarding process that aims to protect children who have been identified as likely to suffer harm or have/are experiencing harm. Together, the aim is to identify and stop harm from occurring through the actions, safeguarding policies and procedures in schools and multi-agencies. 

Who is responsible for safeguarding children in schools?

All staff have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for learners. Everyone who comes into contact with children and families has a responsibility to safeguard. Furthermore, all staff need to be able to identify children for early help and raise concerns about a child’s welfare, including whistleblowing. The spotlight is on how everyone works together to safeguard children within the school and also local authority. 

The champions of safeguarding within schools are the Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) who are there to ensure that safeguarding and child protection permeates through every aspect of school life and is visible in the culture of the school. DSLs take a lead responsibility in all aspects of safeguarding and child protection including:

  • Record keeping and information sharing (a big part of effective safeguarding);
  • Safeguarding training and professional development for all staff;
  • Referrals;
  • Monitoring systems and safeguarding procedures;
  • Multi-agency team working;
  • Ensuring policies are up to date and executed;
  • Keeping up to date with a thorough understanding of statutory guidance, particularly Keeping Children Safe in Education and Working Together to Safeguard Children.

What is Keeping Children Safe In Education?

Keeping Children Safe In Education (KCSIE) is statutory guidance that schools and colleges in England must follow to effectively safeguard the welfare of their students and pupils. This document is therefore paramount to ensure that, as a school, you are doing everything to keep the children in your care safe. It is also important to understand any recent updates. 

Within KCSIE, new revisions focus on how providers and organisations provide help, support and protection. Through this, schools have a duty to ensure they work alongside organisations. 

Schools must have effective arrangements to identify children who may need early help due to being at risk of harm or have been harmed at the earliest opportunity. It is best practice to be actively working together to safeguard children through a multi-agency approach. Early help is important when promoting the welfare of children as an intervention, rather than waiting for incidents to occur and taking a more ‘reactive’ approach. 

Keeping children safe in education also outlines that all staff must be aware of safeguarding issues that put children at risk. This includes county lines – a form of criminal exploitation that targets children. 

Schools, childminders and childcare providers should have an awareness of the risks associated with county lines, how to recognise and respond to concerns regarding county lines, how to work with professionals including the local authority to prevent county lines and have an awareness of guidance and legislation surrounding these issues. The NSPCC has comprehensive guidance surrounding county lines.

To effectively fulfil the duty to safeguard, schools must have robust safeguarding practices and procedures in place. Page 20 of the KCSIE Part 1 document, clearly identifies the actions needed to be taken if a cause for concern arises. 

Record keeping is a key component of this. All decisions, concerns and discussions should be recorded in writing and information should be kept confidential and stored securely. Good practice in schools is where concerns and referrals are kept in a separate child protection file for each child.

Role of the Designated Safeguarding Lead

KCSIE clearly states that every school should have a Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL). A DSL takes a lead role of responsibility for safeguarding and child protection. They support staff to carry out their safeguarding duties, advise of safeguarding concerns and to work closely with services such as the local authority, social care towards ensuring the welfare of children. 

A key part of the DSL’s role is to ensure that staff are regularly receiving safeguarding updates. DSLs are the champions of safeguarding within the school and ensure that policies are up-to-date and executed correctly. Most importantly, it is the role of the DSL to ensure that safeguarding is visible in the school, through the curriculum, the environment, the staff and the pupils. This includes online safety and understanding the monitoring systems that are in place within the school. 

Within the role of the DSL, record keeping, including First Aid, DBS and police checks for staff and visitors, and how information is shared between agencies is a key aspect. The DSL will be responsible for making referrals and ensuring that sensitive information such as child protection cases are stored and shared appropriately. Therefore, a thorough understanding of KCSIE is paramount to this role. DSLs need to be able to show that any incidents that have occurred have been handled appropriately against the KCSIE guidance. 

This said, safeguarding is the responsibility of all staff and anyone who comes into contact with children and this is clearly outlined and paramount to the KCSIE document. 

Ofsted & safeguarding

Ofsted is a regulatory body in England that inspects educational services, childcare and social care services for children. 

During school inspections, Ofsted spends much of their time conducting lesson observations and learning walks and gathering evidence to support their overall judgement of the school. However, Ofsted is not only looking for outstanding teaching and learning.

Read more: What do Ofsted look for?

Ofsted inspectors assess safeguarding against the Ofsted grade descriptors under section 5 Ofsted inspections to ensure that education providers carry out their statutory responsibility for safeguarding and child protection. Safeguarding is evaluated under the leadership and management section of the inspection. Safeguarding does not get its own grading. However, if Ofsted find safeguarding is ineffective, a school can be judged as inadequate. 

Key points to know about prior to an Ofsted inspection:

Why do Ofsted include safeguarding questions in their school inspections? 

As mentioned earlier, DSLs take the lead responsibility for safeguarding and child protection in schools; however, safeguarding is the responsibility of all staff. Additionally, a key part of the DSL’s role is to ensure all staff and pupils are regularly receiving safeguarding updates and that safeguarding is clearly visible in school, so any members of a school community should be informed on safeguarding.

Therefore, expect Ofsted to inspect and question not only the DSL but also any staff members from the early years and up, governors and even learners within the setting. Any information gathered through questioning will be triangulated with policies and procedures.

How Ofsted evaluates safeguarding 

Ofsted inspectors are looking to see that your school is safe. It is assessed as part of the leadership and management key area of the report. They will cross-reference information in a number of ways through:

  • Reviewing the single central record
  • Meeting the designated safeguarding lead (DSL)
  • Surveys
  • Asking staff and learners safeguarding questions 

Inspectors will triangulate the evidence gathered during the inspection using information from the above list alongside the school’s policies and procedures and use this to evaluate the effectiveness of safeguarding in your school. 

Ofsted’s education inspection handbook sets out the key aspects of what the school inspection will be focussing on for safeguarding. The inspection framework is an informative tool to prepare headteachers and DSLs to get a feel of what the focus on school safeguarding will entail during a school inspection. 

Ofsted questions will be specifically directed at how you implement the statutory requirements of KCSIE and will do so by focusing on the following areas found in the inspection handbook:

  • The culture of safeguarding and how schools put pupils’ interests first (378 of the inspection framework)
  • Relevant guidance and key statutory documents and how the school utilises these to ensure the welfare of learners (380 of the inspection framework)
  • Ofsted inspectors speaking to pupils and staff (390-391 of the inspection framework)

The Ofsted inspection will not use the four-point Ofsted ratings system for safeguarding but a judgement will be written within the leadership and management aspect of the inspection report focussing on whether the arrangements for safeguarding are effective. If the school is found inadequate due to ineffective safeguarding, recent changes to the Ofsted inspection cite that education providers will expect a monitoring visit within three months (reducing the time waiting for a reinspection visit) with the hope that safeguarding has improved. 

Further changes allow headteachers to discuss draft reports with faculty before final publication. Furthermore, ineffective safeguarding is to be described more clearly in reports in the DfE’s drive to reassure parents where these judgements have been made. 

Below, we have listed the 12 most popular and essential safeguarding questions Ofsted may ask and suggested ways to respond.

  1. Q: Is safeguarding practice effective in implementation?

    A: Demonstrate how the safeguarding procedures within your school work. Refer to your safeguarding policy and provide examples of how it has been used effectively to raise concerns, referrals for early help and how your safeguarding practice has led to collaborative action/information sharing with the police, social care, NSPCC and possibly led to child protection plans.

    You could also refer to safeguarding training and the professional development of staff to raise awareness of risky behaviours, prevent duty, county lines. Use your single central record to show your commitment to safer recruitment.
  1. Q: How often are your school’s safeguarding policies reviewed?

    A: Safeguarding and child protection policies should be reviewed at least once a year and following any serious incidents. In addition, policies should be updated following any significant changes in legislation to ensure safeguarding procedures are most effective. 
  1. Q: Are your leaders aware of how to identify and respond to online safety concerns?

    A: Highlight what systems you have in place to ensure online safety, e.g. the filtering of websites and monitoring, password protections and robust reporting routines for staff and learners. Refer to your online safety policy and how staff identify risks to the safeguarding team with examples of how concerns have been responded to.

    Ofsted is looking to ensure you have effective staff development, a secure and effective infrastructure, a whole school consistent approach and a progressive curriculum. They want to see a clear policy that is tailored to the needs of your school, not a generic policy. 
  1. Q: Are your staff trained to identify when a pupil may be at risk of neglect, abuse or exploitation and do they know how to report concerns? Do they log evidence of these concerns?

    A: If you use your Single Central Record to record safeguarding training, provide this as evidence of up to date training. Provide examples of recent professional development that shows that training is in line with the updates within KCSIE. If you provide additional ‘bitesize’ information to staff to keep safeguarding at the forefront, provide this evidence here, e.g. in the form of a weekly staff newsletter.

    Share successful case studies of where staff have reported a concern following the school’s safeguarding policy and procedures and explain the effectiveness of this – did it end with early help? Were practices adapted in light of these concerns?
  1. Q: Are your children safe from discrimination and bullying?

    A: Discuss how your curriculum supports your safeguarding practices, e.g. PHSE, RE, ICT, and how your school has been involved with initiatives such as anti-bullying week or NSPCC campaigns to send the message to students that bullying will not be tolerated and will always be acted on. You can share your relevant policies here such as safeguarding, ICT and behaviour. Furthermore, you should have records of concerns identifying bullying and how the school has acted upon this in the past. 
  1. Q: Do your children understand how to stay safe online?

    A: Show your progressive curriculum map and how online safety has been built into the curriculum. By having your online safety policy with robust reporting systems supported by your curriculum, children should be able to understand how to stay safe online.

    Be aware that this is something that Ofsted inspectors are likely to question pupils about. You could also share any parental workshops you have provided for online safety. 
  1. Q: Do your leaders understand how to identify if children are at risk of County Lines?

    A: If you have had the local authority provide professional development for county lines, provide evidence of this. Refer back to KCSIE and Working Together to Safeguard Children legislation and how the responsibilities set out have been shared with staff. It is worth noting here how children missing in education link to county lines and what measures you have in place to monitor absences and attendance. 
  1. Q: How does your school monitor for incidents of child-on-child abuse?

    A: Any concerns from staff should be reported to the DSL and staff should be proactive in challenging inappropriate behaviours to ensure a safe environment. All reports should include:

    • a clear summary of the concern
    • details of how the concern was followed up 
    • a note of action taken/outcome

    Anything less would be poor practice. Refer to your behaviour policy and safeguarding policies. 
  1. Q: How effectively does your school/college protect children from extremism and radicalisation?

    A: This is a chance to talk about prevent duty and the measures that DSL and senior leaders have in place through risk assessment, staff training, IT policies and multi-agency working. Ofsted inspectors need to be satisfied that keeping children safe from extremism and radicalisation is part of your whole school safeguarding approach. This can be demonstrated through evidence of professional development and the school’s curriculum, for example in RE, PHSE and ICT.  
  1. Q: Does your designated safeguarding lead (DSL) have enough time, training and resources to fulfil the demands required of the role?

    A: DSLs or the school’s Deputy DSL need to be on hand at any time to discuss safeguarding concerns. Demonstrate any recent professional development that has been attended. 
  1. Q: Looking at your child protection record, can you tell me how this incident of child-on-child abuse was dealt with in more detail? (Your school will be expected to show a record of incidents, and evidence of how they were acted upon, which external agencies were involved, etc.)

    A: This answer will be specific to your setting. Ofsted is looking to ensure that you have a positive culture of safeguarding. Therefore:

    • Demonstrate that staff have challenged behaviours despite whether the incident has happened in or outside of school, 
    • Show that comprehensive records have been kept, 
    • Demonstrate that the views of children have been heard and that concerns have been acted upon.

    This may include showing referrals to outside agencies and liaising with the local authority and LADO by sharing information to ensure the best services have been sought for the children involved.
  1. Q: How do your leaders identify children and learners who may need early help or are at risk of neglect, abuse, grooming or exploitation?

    A: It is a good idea here to refer to the KCSIE Part 1 flowchart on page 20. Refer back to your safeguarding policy and how staff raise concerns and how the DSL deals with this using KCSIE. This will involve managing the risk internally within the school, making an assessment for early help or referring to statutory service if the child is in need, suffering or likely to suffer harm.

All high-quality maths tutors at Third Space Learning undergo safeguarding checks and must pass a DBS check. Every one-to-one maths intervention lesson is recorded to ensure the safeguarding of both students and tutors.

Safeguarding is a huge part of the Ofsted school inspections. Time spent preparing will make you and your staff feel more confident in your school’s safeguarding practices and reassure you that your school is doing everything it can to promote the welfare of your learners. Remember that this is the ultimate goal of the safeguarding focus, not to ‘catch’ you out. This will help you to prioritise the right things during your next Ofsted inspection!

Preparing for an Ofsted Inspection? You may also be interested in:

Ofsted safeguarding questions and answers FAQs 

What questions will Ofsted ask about safeguarding?

Having a professional curiosity is a well-versed phrase used by inspectors as they are looking to ensure that concerns are found at the earliest opportunity. They are also interested to see how social media is tackled within your school and if pupils know how to stay safe from online predators.

What questions will Ofsted ask staff?

Ofsted will most definitely ask staff how they would report concerns about a child and who the DSL is.

What not to say to an Ofsted inspector?

Ofsted inspections have a huge role in ensuring children are kept safe. It is important to remember that this is the ultimate goal, which is shared also by us educators, and they are not there to trick us or catch us out. Be honest and open – some of the best advice I have been given!

How does Ofsted judge safeguarding?

Ofsted will use the 4-point scale within school leadership and management to make a judgement on the effectiveness of safeguarding in your school.

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FREE Ofsted Deep Dive Questions: Preparation And Discussion Framework

Questions are taken from those that have turned up most frequently in recent Ofsted Deep Dives, as provided to us by teachers from inspected schools, following the current Ofsted Education Inspection Framework.

Many of the questions apply across other subjects - not just maths!

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