The department accepted the findings of Ofsted’s review in full and immediately began working on delivering a multi-agency, cross-departmental response, tackling the issues identified.
Local statutory safeguarding partners should support schools to address harmful sexual behaviours and sexual abuse. The department’s immediate response involved asking all 135 safeguarding partners to review working arrangements with schools and colleges in their area. We ran several events with safeguarding partners, educational establishments and sector experts, ascertaining emerging practice and barriers to effective working. This information will be shared across all safeguarding partners.
The department has published strengthened statutory Keeping Children Safe in Education Guidance in 2021, ensuring schools have clearer guidance on dealing with sexual abuse. We are further strengthening this guidance and a draft version was published in May and will take effect in September 2022. Additionally, the Child-on-Child Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment guidance have been revised.
The department has worked with the Home Office on development of the Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service, assisting professionals, such as teachers and designated safeguarding leads (DSLs), to tackle harmful sexual behaviours.
DSLs have a pivotal role in supporting and protecting children in school which is why we have provided more support to DSLs, enabling them to identify and address issues more confidently. We have extended our pilot of supervision and training for DSLs working alongside the Child Sexual Abuse Centre of Expertise and What Works Children’s Social Care. Later this year an online hub for DSLs will be launched, in conjunction with professionals and the sector, delivering further advice and guidance.
To address safeguarding issues online and on social media platforms, alongside the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, we asked the Children’s Commissioner to immediately explore how children’s access to pornography and harmful content can be reduced. We have worked with the Children’s Commissioner’s Office to develop and publish a Parent’s Guide: Talking to your child about online sexual harassment. Additionally, Ministers and the Children’s Commissioner have sought reassurance from technology companies that they will identify further information which they can share, and continue to make available resources to parents, teachers, and children.
To ensure children and young people are educated about these issues, the department is supporting teachers to implement the compulsory Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) curriculum, including through producing non-statutory guidance to strengthen content and clarity on when relevant topics should be taught and asking schools to prioritise delivery of the full RSHE curriculum this academic year.
Where children and young people are affected by these issues, they continue to be supported by NSPCC’s Report Abuse in Education helpline (0800 136663). The helpline is open to anyone who has suffered sexual abuse or harassment in educational settings, and those concerned for someone else.
Work on safeguarding and child protection continues across government, including the Home Office’s Violence Against Women and Girls and Tackling Child Sexual Abuse strategies, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Online Safety Act, the National Crime Agency’s response to abuse and exploitation, and Cabinet Office’s Stop Abuse Together campaign.