Safeguarding in Qatar, the UAE and KSA: Key issues for educational establishments to consider

  • Market Insight 08 September 2023 08 September 2023
  • Middle East

  • Education

Safeguarding (meaning to protect from harm or damage with an appropriate measure) is essential to promote wellbeing. It ensures that students, staff and visitors are safe and protected from harm. Safeguarding issues are typically extremely sensitive and require swift action, with multiple other issues to manage simultaneously, such as reputational risk and reporting obligations, together with the potential implications of those. In this article, we provide a brief summary of the key considerations in relation to safeguarding for educational establishments in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

Internal obligations 

Do you have safeguarding policies in place? What do they say? Implementing robust safeguarding policies and procedures is the foundation to creating a framework of information to ensure that everybody has a road map to promote the safety and wellbeing of students and, to provide a safe and secure environment and to prevent incidents from occurring. As safeguarding is complex and involves a web of factors, whilst a standalone safeguarding policy is a good place to start, several other policies will also be important to support an establishment’s safeguarding ethos and strategy. These may include policies relating to recruitment of staff and visitors on site, protecting and securely storing data, physical building safety, and codes of conduct. 

The key, however, is to ensure, firstly, that your policies set out clearly what is expected and the processes to be followed where safeguarding concerns are identified, and, secondly, that they are properly and consistently implemented. This involves everybody, including staff, students and parents, being aware of and understanding the policies and provisions in place to support them. Students need to, for example, be able to be comfortable enough to raise any worries or concerns they may have. Staff also need to be able to understand how to practically implement procedures, and to do so, they need to have the confidence to be able to act appropriately should an issue or incident occur. To make sure this is the case, establishments should provide regular and practical training, raise awareness of the importance of safeguarding and create an environment in which any concerns can be raised and addressed.


If an incident does occur, consideration needs to be given as to whether an investigation needs to be undertaken, and the form and extent of any investigation needed. It is prudent to consider how to approach an investigation at the outset and to work through the potential outcomes and implications, before proceeding. Local laws such as penal codes and laws relating to juveniles will need to be considered when deciding strategy on a case-by-case basis and this will also influence how a process may play out. If investigating, it is important to gather the relevant details of an incident (i.e., Who? What? Where? When?), and understand what the issues are quickly, to determine whether an allegation is well founded and what next steps, if any, need to be taken. Those investigating should have appropriate training in relation to, for example, interviewing, managing the expectations of the parties concerned and recording the information collated. Consideration should be given to whether an external investigator should be appointed; this can be beneficial where, for example, the allegations are particularly sensitive or involve a very senior individual. Investigations can also be time consuming and appointing an external investigator also has the advantage of reducing the administrative burden internally. 


As there are often several parties involved in safeguarding issues, it is important to manage communications carefully. There may not only need to be internal communications but external communications too, such as with parents, and potentially to the press, depending upon the circumstances. If there is no immediate publicity attracted and it is anticipated that it will, an establishment may need to prepare for press questioning and how it intends to respond, including drafting statements. The extent of communications will depend upon the information that people have and what they have heard. Establishments will also need to consider local laws (i.e. in relation to defamation), when determining what information can be communicated and when. 

Reporting obligations 

Depending upon the nature of a safeguarding incident, reporting obligations may arise to third parties, such as the Police or a regulator. Establishments will need to comply with any obligations they have but, when doing so, they will need to consider (a) at what point the obligation arises (e.g., what level of “knowledge” is required) and (b) the nature and extent of the information that should be disclosed, and to whom. Other interested parties may also threaten to report an incident or issue and so an establishment may need to manage this also.

Follow up action 

When a safeguarding issue arises, the appropriate outcome and follow-up actions need to be considered. This may involve, for example, disciplinary action against impacted staff; practical measures to prevent the issue occurring again; or managing relationships moving forward (i.e., can those impacted work together in the future and how can this be supported? Will mediation or emotional support potentially help?) 

It is always also a good idea to reflect on how policies and processes have worked or have perhaps not worked so well following an incident. Any learning points should always be considered, together with any steps that can be taken to prevent a similar incident and improve your safeguarding strategy moving forward. 

Local law

Whilst there are commonalities between each jurisdiction, each has its own legal system, including labour laws, penal codes, and child protection laws, which impose slightly different obligations on an establishment. These all need to be considered when considering and implementing safeguarding processes and systems and when addressing safeguarding issues. The applicable child protection laws in each jurisdiction, for example, typically impose certain requirements in terms of what establishments should inform staff regarding safeguarding issues and how such safeguarding issues should be addressed (for example, through confidential reporting channels). The need for confidentiality and what is communicated will also need to be navigated carefully in the context of local laws relating to data protection and defamation, which include onerous penalties for breaches. 


There are many challenges facing establishments in respect of safeguarding, which need to be navigated by having a clear safeguarding framework, which works in the context of the culture and legal landscape of where you are based; and also, potentially which needs to work in the context of the safeguarding rules and practices of any country to which the establishment is affiliated. Each element of safeguarding, such as policies, training, and communications, need to be integrated together, for safeguarding to be effective. 

Our team of education specialists can support with preparing or reviewing safeguarding policies in the context of applicable law as well as advising on safeguarding issues should they arise. Please contact one of the authors below. 


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