'Time to act on sexual abuse findings' - Judicium in Education Today

'Time to act on sexual abuse findings' - Judicium in Education Today

Posted  28th June 2021

Time to act on sexual abuse findings

Comment by HANNAH GLOSSOP, Judicium’s safeguarding service lead

Ofsted’s recent review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges made for jarring reading.

Their findings - based on interviews with more than 900 children and young people in 32 schools and colleges, as well as school leaders, governors, parents and local safeguarding partners - reinforced the Everyone’s Invited revelations that began in the spring and delivered a few extra shocks of its own.

These included the startling statistic that 92% of girls and 74% of boys say that sexist name-calling happens a lot or sometimes to them or their peers. Worryingly, the review said incidents like these were so common that students saw little point in reporting them.

The review identified seven key actions for schools to create a culture of zero tolerance of sexual harassment and online sexual abuse. Here’s my advice on how schools can meet each of those recommendations:

  • A carefully sequenced RSHE curriculum. In line with the DfE’s statutory guidance, schools need to give RSHE the time and thinking that it deserves. The curriculum should be thoroughly evaluated so that students understand and remember key concepts such as consent.
  • High-quality training for teachers delivering RSHE. It is important to remember that the majority of RSHE teachers are non-specialists. In the same way that non-specialist maths teacher get support to teach algebra, schools should ensure RSHE teachers have the tools to teach the more challenging parts of the curriculum, with space to discuss and reflect with the subject lead and other specialists.
  • Routine record-keeping and analysis of sexual harassment and sexual violence, including online. Ofsted asks that these records are available by 8am on the day of an inspection, yet the review notes that 48% of schools visited did not have this data. Recording and reviewing this information as an SLT will mean all school leaders are able to identify trends – and address them.
  • A behavioural approach, including sanctions when appropriate, to reinforce a culture where sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are not tolerated. When reviewing record-keeping, it is also important to check what actions are taken to impress upon alleged perpetrators that their behaviour will not be tolerated. Is your behaviour policy as clear on this as it is about missed homework?
  • Working closely with LSPs. Local safeguarding partners can draw on a range of support that can be offered to victims and alleged perpetrators. Local network meetings are also a good place to learn about best practice.
  • Support for designated safeguarding leads (DSLs), such as protected time in timetables to engage with LSPs. The DSL role in schools is ever-expanding. Check your safeguarding team have the time and resources they need to confidently respond to sexual abuse.
  • Training for all staff - and governors, where relevant. Many sexual abuse incidents are too sensitive to be shared with all colleagues, but it is important that all staff, volunteers and governors are alert to the risks in their school. Staff must be able to spot indicators of peeron-peer abuse and consistently demonstrate that sexual harassment or violence will not be tolerated.

Hannah Glossop is a former designated safeguarding lead who now heads up Judicium’s safeguarding service. Further information is available at www.judiciumeducation.co.uk/safeguarding-service and @JudiciumSG on Twitter.

If you’d like to learn more about Judicium’s services, please feel free to contact Georgina de Costa on georgina.decosta@judicium.com or 07399 185 443