5 Common Interview Questions for a School Safeguarding Lead (DSL 2023)

We continue our school recruitment and interview posts with a focus on safeguarding. Here are 5 common questions a candidate for a school’s designated safeguarding lead (DSL) may get asked at interview, along with some suggested answers. You will also get asked about safeguarding when applying for other roles in schools so this is worth reading. You bible – for this year at least is Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022.

Typically on the day I published this post Keeping Children Safe in Education 2023 was published. If you are applying for a role with a safeguarding element i.e any senior leadership position you will need to reference the upcoming changes for September 2023.

Summary of Changes to Keeping Children Safe in Education 2023.

Here are the key points to be aware of:

  • Schools should inform job candidates that they will conduct online searches as part of due diligence.
  • Schools must conduct online searches of shortlisted job candidates.
  • The DSL is responsible for understanding the school’s filtering and monitoring systems.
  • Staff should receive training on the school’s filtering and monitoring software.
  • The child protection policy should cover the school’s filtering and monitoring technology.
  • Schools should follow their safeguarding procedures if there are allegations against external organisations or individuals using school premises.
  • Schools do not need to keep copies of DBS certificates to maintain the single central record.
  • Schools should refer to new guidance on cyber security standards and keeping children safe in out-of-school settings.
Online safety, DSL and Safeguarding

What does the role of a safeguarding lead (DSL) entail?

The safeguarding lead is responsible for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of students. This includes:

  • Developing and implementing child protection policies and procedures.
  • Promoting a culture of safeguarding amongst staff through training and guidance.
  • Managing child protection concerns and cases, including referring cases to children’s services and the police as needed.
  • Maintaining accurate records of child protection issues and cases.
  • Keeping up to date with legislation and best practices in child protection.
  • Developing partnerships with outside child welfare agencies.

How would you handle a disclosure of abuse from a student?

I would respond with care, sensitivity and professionalism. This includes:

  • Listening to the student openly without judgment.
  • Reassuring the student that they did the right thing by telling me.
  • Not promising confidentiality and explaining that I will need to report the issue to the appropriate person.
  • Not questioning the student or attempting to investigate the issue myself. Using only TED –
    • Tell, Explain, Describe – If you need to clarify what is being said and whether the child is at risk, ask open questions (TED, what, when, who, how, where, do you want to tell me anything else? etc.) but only to the point of clarification being achieved. Avoid the question ‘why?’ as this can imply guilt / responsibility on the child.
  • Recording the details of the disclosure immediately using the student’s own words
  • Following all procedures set out in the school’s child protection policy regarding next steps.

How would you respond to concerns from staff about a student’s safety or wellbeing?

I would take all concerns from staff very seriously. This includes:

  • Thanking them for bringing the issue to my attention. Staff should always feel comfortable reporting any child protection worries.
  • Meeting with them as soon as possible to get details about the concerns, in a confidential space.
  • Exploring the concerns objectively and determining if they meet the threshold for reporting to children’s services. Asking questions to gain more context.
  • Explaining next steps – either proceeding to contact children’s services for advice/reporting, or suggesting the staff member continues to closely monitor the student.
  • Recording details of the concerns and next steps taken. Updating the staff member on progress and outcomes.
  • Revisiting the issue if new details come to light to ensure the student’s safety.

What safeguarding challenges do schools currently face?

Some significant safeguarding challenges schools currently face include:

  • Limited resources and funding for child protection roles and initiatives.
  • Heavy caseloads which can inhibit a safeguarding lead’s ability to be proactive.
  • Complex abuse issues like child criminal exploitation, peer on peer abuse and online abuse.
  • Lack of awareness about safeguarding issues in some communities leading to underreporting.
  • Difficulty ensuring high quality safeguarding training for all staff with limited time and budgets. You need to be solution focussed here:-
    • A regular newsletter
    • Embedding Safeguarding updates into briefings, beginning of meetings
    • Collaborating with local schools to ensure sharing of ideas and local issues
  • Keeping up with frequent changes in legislation, guidance and best practices.
  • Developing trusting relationships with students and parents to overcome barriers to disclosure.
  • Managing conflicts between child protection issues and parental consent/involvement.
  • Monitoring the impact of external issues like COVID-19 on child welfare.

Why are you applying for this position, and what skills would you bring to the role?

I am passionate about child protection and students’ wellbeing. I have over 10 years of experience as a teacher, and now want to transition into a dedicated safeguarding position. Some of the key skills I would bring to this role include:

  • Substantial knowledge of child development, behaviours and risks affecting children.
  • Ability to make difficult judgments about child protection concerns and intervene appropriately.
  • Strong listening, communication and interpersonal skills for engaging with students, parents and multi-agency partners.
  • Attention to detail for maintaining accurate records and following procedures precisely.
  • Calm and solution-focused approach to managing crises, conflicts and distressing situations.
  • Ability to provide clear guidance, support and training to staff on child protection matters.
  • Strong organisational and time management skills for prioritising cases, being proactive, and avoiding backlogs.
  • Knowledge of legislation, guidance and evidence-based safeguarding practices.
  • Commitment to continuous learning and development to remain effective in this role.

My goal is to use these skills to promote a robust culture of child protection, support students at risk, and ensure the highest standards of safeguarding in the school. I appreciate your consideration for this important role.

Bonus: What does KCSIE 2022 say about Online Safety?

  • All staff should receive safeguarding and child protection training, including online safety, when they start work. This training should be regularly updated.
  • Technology, gaming and the internet play a big role in many safeguarding issues and risks that children face, both online and offline.
  • Children should be taught how to stay safe online.
  • Schools must have appropriate filters and monitoring systems in place to protect children from harmful content online.
  • The whole school needs to work together to educate and protect children, identify concerns early, and escalate issues appropriately.
  • Schools should communicate with parents about what online platforms are being used and the filtering and monitoring in place.
  • Schools should do annual reviews of online safety and risk assessments.
  • Staff should be aware that children with SEND may be more vulnerable to abuse and need extra support.

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