Allegations against Staff, Low-Level Concerns and Reporting them

Keeping Children Safe in Education released a new version of its statutory guidance on the 1st of September 2021. The policy recommends that ‘schools and colleges need to report and record all concerns and allegations against adults, including low-level concerns.’ In this blog, we discuss examples of low-level concerns, the importance of reporting these concerns, a serious case review, and how it is vital establishments have secure systems in place to record and manage these concerns.

Creating a Safe Culture within your Establishment.  

KCSIE states that it is vital that there is a whole-school approach to safeguarding and everyone works to create a safe culture within the organisation. This means all concerns and allegations against adults working in the establishment, including school staff, supply teachers, volunteers, and contractors, are dealt with promptly and effectively.  

It is critical that all allegations against staff are recorded and dealt with appropriately. This will lead to an open culture where concerning and problematic behaviour is identified early, minimising the risk of abuse. It also gives the message that the establishment takes their responsibility of safeguarding the students within their care seriously and that they practice safer recruitment ensuring all staff are appropriate to work with children and young people.  

 

What is a Low-Level Concern?  

A low-level concern means the allegations against that staff member do not meet the harms threshold and this person does not pose an immediate risk towards the students.  

The adult in question may have acted in a way that: 

  • is inconsistent with the staff code of conduct, including inappropriate conduct outside of work 

and  

  • is otherwise not considered serious enough to consider a referral to the LADO 

 

Examples of low-level concerns include: 

  • Being over-friendly with children 
  • Having favourites 
  • Engaging with a child one to one in a secluded area 
  • Using inappropriate sexualised, intimidating, or offensive language 

These examples exist on a wide spectrum, from behaviour that is seemingly harmless, to seemingly inappropriate behaviour that is actually innocent. However, on the other end of the spectrum, it could be behaviour that is intended to enable abuse and grooming in the future.  

 

When Low-Level Concerns are not Reported  
William Vahey: Serious Case Review * 

*health warning - please note some of the content in this section can be upsetting 

William Vahey qualified as a teacher in 1972 and over the next 42 years would be employed by 10 different international schools, none of whom picked up on a 1969 sex offences conviction when he was working as a teacher's aid in California.  

Vahey hid in plain sight, using his role as a teacher to abuse hundreds of children. Several issues relating to Vahey’s general behaviour within the school came to light following his arrest. These behaviours included:  

  • altering accommodation arrangements of the pupils on trips 
  • insisting on having keys to the pupils’ rooms 
  • giving out chocolates and sweets in class 
  • making comments to pupils of a sexual nature 
  • telling jokes with explicit sexual connotations which made staff feel uncomfortable 
  • insisting that he care for sick pupils at night 
  • giving an inappropriate and graphic sex education class to pupils at the school 
  • slapping boys’ behinds 
  • undermining other staff and being disrespectful to junior staff 

Many of these low-level concerns were noticed by staff but seen as isolated events and only reported once Vahey’s abuse became public knowledge. Several former colleagues came forwards to share how controlling, ill-tempered, and suspicious Vahey was. Unfortunately, they did not know how to proceed further regarding these concerns, largely due to his wife’s powerful status as the head of the European Council for International Schools.  

Had these low-level concerns been reported there could have been earlier opportunities to prevent the abuse of Vahey’s victims.    

 

Why Low-Level Concerns need to be Reported 

These small concerns often act as puzzle pieces that lead to a bigger picture of the events occurring within your organisation. Therefore, it is critical that all concerns are recorded to prevent the future harm and exploitation of the students within your care. Dealing with these concerns effectively also protects those working in your organisation from potential false allegations or misunderstandings. 

 

Confide: A Secure System to Record Low-Level Concerns 

Confide is our secure software solution for recording and case-managing allegations and concerns about staff and other people working in or with your organisation. The system enables you to easily record concerns in a secure environment, to record all aspects of your investigation, upload relevant documents and produce accurate reports and data. Confide also allows you to restrict access to the system so you can be reassured that the data remains confidential and is only available to users with the appropriate permissions. 

Author
Georgia Latief
Marketing

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