New support to tackle sexual abuse following Ofsted review

Ofsted has published the findings from its review into sexual abuse in education, following testimonies posted on the Everyone’s Invited website which highlighted cases of sexual abuse and harassment of children and young people, including in education settings.

As a result, the Department for Education has unveiled a range of measures to tackle the issue. Teachers and school leaders will be better supported to recognise sexual harassment and abuse and teach confidently about issues of consent, online pornography and healthy relationships.

School and college leaders will be encouraged to dedicate inset day time to help train staff on how to deal with sexual abuse and harassment among pupils and how to deliver the Government’s new compulsory Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum (RSHE).

Strengthened safeguarding guidance will also be introduced to boost teacher confidence in identifying and responding to these issues, as well as supervision to dedicated members of school and college staff in up to 10 more local authorities, whose role it is to identify safeguarding concerns among pupils, with a specific focus on sexual abuse.

In its 8-week review, Ofsted looked at safeguarding measures in schools and colleges, as well as assessing whether extra support is needed for teaching about sex and relationships, working alongside social care, police, victim support groups, education leaders and the Independent Schools Council.
Ofsted’s findings demonstrate that incidents of harassment and abuse have been ‘normalised’ by their frequency, with the majority of the more than 900 children and young people surveyed experiencing some kind of unsolicited images or sexist comments – whether in person at school or college, or online or via mobile phone.

To address this, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden have asked the Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza to join a roundtable discussion in the coming weeks with tech companies, law enforcement, children’s charities and schools to talk about preventative measures ahead of legislation on age restrictions for app downloading and sharing, and how to support parents and children to make more informed and safer choices online.

Building on the work that the Government has set out on the Online Safety Bill, it follows a joint letter to Dame Rachel from Mr Williamson and Mr Dowden last month asking her to support the Government’s drive to protect children from harmful online content and to ensure the voices of children are heard and represented in this work.

This will include working with schools, parents and charities to support them around building strong social norms against underage access to pornography, around children using the internet safely and educating those groups on the impact that some internet content can have on healthy sex and relationships.

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