Safeguarding guidance updated with advice on tackling sexual violence

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

A new “Part 5” has been added to the Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) statutory guidance to help schools tackle and respond to peer-on-peer sexual harassment, abuse and violence.

The updated document, which will come into effect from September 3 this year, has been published by the Department for Education (DfE) alongside an updated version of its standalone advice to schools – Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges.

It comes after the government published the findings of the recent consultation over updates to the KCSIE guidance.

Other updates in the new guidance include further advice on the use of restraint and reasonable force as well as information on safeguarding duties around student exchange visits.

The new Part 5 addresses issues such as responding to reports of sexual violence and harassment, including the immediate response and risk assessments, actions to take following a report, and referrals, including to social services or to the police. On-going victim support and other considerations are also included.

A key part of the advice discusses the importance of keeping victims and alleged perpetrators apart while the facts of the incident are established.

The guidance states: “The starting point regarding any report should always be that sexual violence and sexual harassment is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Especially important is not to pass off any sexual violence or sexual harassment as ‘banter’, ‘part of growing up’ or ‘having a laugh’.”

It adds: “Reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment are likely to be complex and require difficult professional decisions to be made, often quickly and under pressure. Pre-planning, effective training and effective policies will provide schools and colleges with the foundation for a calm, considered and appropriate response to any reports.”

It comes 18 months after an investigation by MPs found that sexual harassment had become a “normal part of school life” for many female students and that schools were failing to tackle the issue effectively.

The MPs on the Women and Equalities Select Committee found that one in three 16 to 18-year-old girls have experienced unwanted sexual touching while at school and were alarmed at the inconsistent nature of how schools responded to incidents.

Other findings in the MPs’ report, published in September 2016, include that 22 per cent of girls aged seven to 12 have experienced jokes of a sexual nature from boys, while 71 per cent of 16 to 18-year-olds say they hear sexual name-calling with terms such as “slut” or “slag” used towards girls at schools on a daily basis or a few times a week.

The updated guidance and the revised advice document have been welcomed by teachers and school leaders.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: “If school leaders are alerted to a problem, they should have the confidence that their action will result in an appropriate response from social services. Early intervention rather than crisis management is better for all parties and so we need more responsive services at the point of first identification.

“It is also really important that there is time in the curriculum for schools to help young people understand their rights and responsibilities. The best way to do this is through statutory PSHE.”

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “To make real progress school staff need to be empowered to think about the whole school environment and how sexism influences students’ language, attitudes and behaviour. This requires education professionals having access to training and professional development which our research shows teachers do not have.

“Sexism is normalised in schools as in every other area of life. Tackling harassment through schools needs to start with understanding the link between sexist ideas and sexual harassment. We must challenge sexist ideas about girls and boys in every form.

“Real investment in training, high-quality relationships and sex education and a commitment to statutory PSHE is needed.”

  • Keeping Children Safe in Education, Department for Education (last updated May 2018 – comes into force on September 3, 2018): http://bit.ly/2bI2Zsm
  • Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges: Advice for schools and colleges, Department for Education (last updated May 2018): http://bit.ly/2ASbvks
  • Consultation Outcome: Keeping Children Safe in Education, Department for Education, May 2018: http://bit.ly/2k9U8oj


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