Protecting and safeguarding our children

Much work has and is currently taking place to bring about changes to law and practice in child protection to ensure all possible steps are taken to keep our children safe in our schools and elsewhere.

The protection of our children is of paramount importance

Everyone in the education service plays a part in keeping children and young people safe.  Your child's school will have measures in place to ensure that pupils are safeguarded from abuse.  These measures include training designated teachers for child protection and vetting all staff.

If you have concerns about a child, please follow the link below to nidirect website for information on the schools's role.

Keeping children safe: Child protection in education

This is an information leaflet for parents. Available, using the link below, in English, Irish and 13 other most frequently identified first languages in schools.

Technology and Domestic Abuse

Technology is a wonderful thing, but it can be used for good or for bad. The ‘Technology and Domestic Abuse – Where is the Line?’ animation video below explores how some abusive behaviours are enabled by modern technology and where to get help. Schools and parents/carers may wish to consider sharing with pupils.

TADA - Technology and Domestic Abuse - YouTube

Vetting and selection of staff working with children and young people

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 introduced changes to the vetting requirements for people undertaking Regulated Activity in specified places of work such as schools. A new definition of Regulated Activity came into force in September 2012.

Regulated Activity is work that a barred person must not do. As a key part of changes to reduce the scope of Regulated Activity, the Protection of Freedoms Act removes from Regulated Activity, broadly, supervised work such as instructing or looking after children, which if unsupervised would be Regulated Activity.

The Department of Education has produced guidance in a circular for schools to help them decide whether the supervision they plan to provide will take the supervised activity out of Regulated Activity.

Schools can obtain an Enhanced Disclosure Certificate from AccessNI, but not check barred list status, for supervised work that is no longer Regulated Activity.

However, schools should note that pre-employment vetting remains a key preventative measure in denying unsuitable individuals access to children and vulnerable adults through unsupervised Regulated Activity.

Schools must ensure that newly appointed paid staff such as teachers and non-teaching staff, including classroom assistants, office, catering, cleaning and caretaking staff are appropriately vetted in line with the practice and procedures operated by their employing authority and outlined in DE Circular 2013/01 Disclosure and Barring Arrangements: Vetting Requirements for Paid Staff Working in or Providing a Service for Schools.

Child Protection Support Service (CPSS)

The CPSS came into operation in April 2006 following a review of the arrangements for providing child protection support and advice to schools.  They provide advice and training for schools on child protection matters.

From Monday 3 September 2018 the Child Protection Support Service (CPSS) will have one dedicated regional helpline which can be utilised by schools and EA services seeking advice and support from the CPSS.

The new helpline number is 028 9598 5590 and will operate from Monday to Friday from 9.00am until 4.30pm

Publications on the issue of safeguarding/child protection and guidance for schools can be found at:

Child Protection Senior Officials Group

The Child Protection Senior Officials Group (CPSOG) provides strategic direction and a joined up approach to the issue of Child Protection across Northern Ireland, within the overarching policy framework set out in Co-operating to Safeguard Children and Young People in Northern Ireland | Department of Health (  The group is chaired by the Deputy Secretary for Social Services Policy / Chief Social Work Officer within the Department of Health (DoH).  Other senior officials also attend from the Department of Health,  Department of Justice, Department of Education, Department of Finance and the Department for Communities (DfC).

CPSOG was established in 2018. Since that time, it has directed, overseen and co-ordinated activity across departments relating to Child Sexual Exploitation, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and, more recently, Child Criminal Exploitation.  It is supported by a sub-group, which it established in 2021.

CPSOG works in accordance with an approved work plan and has agreed to report on progress against the plan. The first published report reflects the broad programme of work undertaken by CPSOG from its inception in 2018 up to February 2022.  It demonstrates significant progress across government in connection with child protection against a backdrop of significant challenges, including significant Covid-19-related pressures on services and staffing during 2020-22.

Child sexual exploitation

Child sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse in which a person(s) exploits, coerces and/or manipulates a child or young person into engaging in some form of sexual activity in return for something the child needs or desires and/or for the gain of the person(s) perpetrating or facilitating the abuse.

Please see links to the DE circular - letter to schools on child sexual exploitation

Schools received a copy of ‘False Freedom’, the new film made by young people in NI for young people, to highlight the issues around child sexual exploitation (CSE). This resource is intended to help schools understand the issues around CSE and generate discussion about the issues with the aim of empowering young people to make safe choices for themselves.
The film shows how grooming for exploitation can be played out in real life, and depicts a young girl who finds herself in an exploitative relationship.
The young people volunteered through Barnardo's Safe Choices, and both wrote and acted in the film.

The aim of the DVD and the accompanying resource pack is to alert young people to the dangers around sexual exploitation and generate discussion about the issues with the aim of empowering young people to make safe choices for themselves. False Freedom is designed to be used in any setting from schools to youth clubs with young people aged 12 years and above. 

The DVD and resource pack is free of charge and is available from Barnardo’s NI. For further information contact:

CSE guidance

Guidance on child sexual exploitation can be accessed at the link below issued by the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland.

The circular below provides guidance for schools on managing information about persons who may pose a risk to pupils.

DE Action Plan

The document below outlines the DE response to the recommendations for education arising from the report of the independent inquiry, led by Professor Kathleen Marshall, into child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland. Links to that independent inquiry report are contained in the body of the DE/CSE Action Plan.

A composite Implementation plan has also been produced.

The Department has issued the following guidance to all schools on preventing child sexual exploitation

Progress Report

A progress report has been prepared on the DE CSE Action Plan and can be accessed using the link below.

A progress report has also been prepared on the Composite CSE Action Plan and can be accessed using the link below.

e-Safety guidance

The Department has issued the following guidance to all schools on e-Safety:

Please see below a link to the Child Exploitation and Online Child Protection Centre:

Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has advised DE that a Beta version of their new website for parents and carers is now live at:

The new site offers a completely refreshed suite of articles and guidance on all aspects of child internet safety.

Internet Safety

The UK Safer Internet Centre offers e-safety tips, advice and resources to help children and young people to stay safe on the internet. The site also offers advice for teachers and parents on issues such as setting parental controls on games and gaming devices.

For free independent expert advice on dealing with internet safety problems, you can contact the Professionals Online Safety Helpline ( or telephone 0844 3814772)

Back to top