Last updated: 19.03.21

Virtual College creates a course about learning from serious child safeguarding incidents

Virtual College have created an extremely valuable course to improve safeguarding responses to children and their families through the learning from Serious Case Reviews (SCRs). It also covers the management of serious child safeguarding incidents under Working Together 2018.

Virtual College, a digital training provider with more than 25 years’ experience behind them, works closely with a number of Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships (LSCPs) across the country. After talks with Sutton LSCP, a long standing customer, it became clear that there was a significant gap in readily accessible resources to implement learning from serious case reviews and the new requirements to manage serious child safeguarding incidents under Working Together 2018.

In order to change this, Sutton LSCP and Virtual College worked closely to develop a course designed to support all those confronted with child neglect and abuse, or young people being exploited and going missing.  

The course focuses on 10 principles, based on a local SCR, and refers to the importance of keeping clear and detailed records; never making assumptions; information sharing; not being afraid of challenging decisions, clear, concise and consistent communication, supporting your staff, safeguarding being everyone’s responsibility and to keep listening to the voice of the child.

It draws on 10 case scenarios based on the real-lived experiences of children who have been seriously injured or died and were selected to cover some of the most commonly repeated SCR themes. Domestic abuse and violence are a feature in many of these SCRs. 

Sutton LSCP explains why this course is so important:

‘This is part of our longstanding commitment to raise awareness about critical learning from Serious Case Reviews - potentially it can help save lives by equipping those who come into contact with children with the knowledge and understanding they need to identify and refer concerns, assess and intervene and work effectively in the multidisciplinary safeguarding system.”

Virtual College recognised this course’s importance and relevance to everyone who comes into contact with children. They also understand that different roles have different levels of responsibly which means that the course was developed with a number of roles in mind such as students and trainees; front-line practitioners; designated safeguarding leads; managers; senior leaders, academics and the judiciary.

The e-learning has been split into five modules, and each level of training needs have been informed by the experiences of children and recommendations in SCRs published in the last two years. Anyone can progress to the next level to advance their knowledge.

  • Introduction contains an animated case study on a non-accidental brain injury followed by a “what happened next” animation of the serious child safeguarding incident process, and a downloadable flowchart.
  • Level 1 is for those at the awareness level
  • Level 2 for those who come into contact with children but don’t have safeguarding responsibilities as part of their role
  • Level 3 is for those who are in direct contact and have safeguarding responsibilities as part of their professional role
  • Level 4 is best suited for those who are in a safeguarding specialist, supervision or management or leadership role within their organisation.

As this is a topic that will be beneficial nation-wide, the decision was made to make the course available for all free of charge.

Sarah Baker, Chief Learning Officer at Virtual College, explains why they are providing the course free of charge:

 ‘We understand that this Learning from Serious Case Reviews course will make a significant contribution to improving safeguarding responses to child abuse, neglect and to prevent all forms of exploitation. A great deal of thought has gone into to making the learning relevant and easily accessible to busy professionals. The input from safeguarding professionals in the London Borough of Sutton has ensured that this free course will help address the training needs of all those who have a role to promote the welfare and safeguard children from harm“.

 To find out more about the course and register for free access, visit:


Further information

The serious incident notification system requires Councils in England to report all incidents of death or serious harm involving children in their area to the Department for Education (DfE), which publishes the data. They are also required to inform the Education Secretary and Ofsted if a child who is in care dies, regardless of whether they suspect abuse or neglect.

In the period between July 2018 and the end of December 2019, 126 serious case reviews were completed and submitted to the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel. The messages from all these reviews are striking. They represent the lives of children who have been seriously harmed or have died – the overwhelming majority at the hands of their parents or other family members.

Whilst many children who die or are seriously harmed come from families not known to services other than universal provision, in 54% of the cases children’s social care services were working with children and families at the time of the incident. In 13% of cases (70) children were on a child protection plan and in 15% of cases (80) children were looked after at the time of the incident.

The most recent DfE Triennial Analysis of SCRs found that mental ill health, domestic abuse, alcohol or substance misuse, and parental criminal records as well as other adverse childhood experiences featured strongly in these cases. As in previous national analyses, domestic violence/abuse was a common finding (reported in 59% of SCRs).

Under Working Together 2018, the requirement to undertake Serious Case Reviews has changed and they are no longer undertaken by local safeguarding partners. The new requirements involve undertaking multi-agency Rapid Reviews within 15 days, and if the criteria is met for undertaking a Child Safeguarding Practice Review this should be completed within the statutory 6 months’ timescale and then be published.