The Office of Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) have published a plan to review measures to prevent sexual abuse in secondary and further education.
Trigger Warning: sexual abuse
On 7 April, Ofsted announced they have begun to look into the policies and processes to protect students at state and independent schools and colleges.
The review has a few focuses. The first is looking at whether internally set policies and processes at schools and colleges are adequate at preventing sexual abuse. The second is whether current government guidance is understood by schools and colleges.
It will also look at whether the current guidance from the government allows for schools to respond effectively to allegations of sexual assault.
The review was called after concerns over student safety became national news. Students on the website ‘Everyone’s Invited’ named several British educational institutions in testimonials of grooming, abuse, and sexual assault.
Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, responded to the news on Twitter. He stated: “The allegations that I have heard in recent days are shocking and abhorrent.”
The allegations that I have heard in recent days are shocking and abhorrent
– Gavin Williamson
He went on to say: “Any victims of these sickening acts that we’ve seen reported should raise their concerns with someone they trust, whether that’s a family member or friend, a teacher, social worker, or the police. We will take appropriate action”.
The government has stated that some schools will be visited, due to being named in testimonies. Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, said: “We hope that by listening to young people’s experiences first-hand, this review will provide much needed insight into what these barriers are and how they can be overcome”.
She also said that schools were a place where a “culture of respect” was learnt, and that Ofsted would be looking at how schools helped to promote this.
She concluded: “when children do speak up about their experiences, it’s vital that schools have the support and structures in place to take them seriously and respond appropriately”.
The review is set to conclude in May 2021.
Several higher education institutions have also been named online. The Office for Students is set to publish guidance on how to tackle the issue at universities. There currently appears to be no plan for a similar, national policy review of universities sexual abuse policies.
For anyone who has been affected by the issues raised in this article, there are lots of places you can turn to for help and support. Warwick Wellbeing Support Services are available through the Wellbeing Portal, online or over the phone. NHS Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust are offering online or over the phone urgent support for anyone suffering from mental health issues. More information can be found on their website. Charities such as MIND also have information, guidance and support available online.