Co-written with safeguarding and regulatory expert, Kaleigh Grainger.
The Everyone’s Invited movement, set up to highlight and tackle rape culture in education, has effectively forced the Government to order an “immediate review” of safeguarding policies.
The deeply concerning number of anonymous testimonies already received by Everyone’s Invited highlight widespread experiences of sexual abuse, harassment and misogyny. A significant number of the testimonies speak of how teachers and education settings turned a blind eye or ignored the experiences of victims.
The overarching message is clear: schools and other education settings must do more to make children feel they are able to report incidents. Many of the named schools have announced they are conducting independent reviews into the issues raised by testimonies.
Schools and colleges have a statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children at their school or college and are required to have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State. The statutory guidance ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ highlights that all staff have a responsibility to provide a safe environment in which children can learn, and any staff who have a concern should follow the appropriate referral processes. In addition, the statutory guidance states that governing bodies and proprietors must ensure that policies, procedures and training in their schools or colleges are effective and comply with the law at all times.
In addition, Ofsted has said that they are beginning an immediate review of the safeguarding policies and procedures in state and private schools in order to determine whether guidance for schools around sexual harassment needs to be improved. Ofsted’s review is expected to conclude in May 2021.
Our top tips to schools:
- Regularly review your safeguarding policy (at least annually), to ensure that it remains effective and appropriate;
- Check that your website has an up-to-date safeguarding policy on it;
- Review if your reporting and referral procedures are effective and how well known they are;
- Consider whether sufficient and appropriate training has been provided;
- Appropriately investigate concerns raised;
- Consider what steps could be taken in order to promote a positive culture in which people feel able to raise any concerns; and
- Consider writing to parents, carers and key stakeholders to reassure them that you are alive to the issues and committed to ensuring the safest and most supportive environment for all in your care.
Finally, please note that the May 2018 Department for Education guidance titled “Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges” is expected to be updated in September 2021. You should be familiar with this document and ensure any changes that need to be made after the update are reflected in your policies and procedures.
Anthony Collins Solicitors provides specialist support and advice for education organisations in relation to all aspects of safeguarding children.
Ofsted’s chief inspector, said she was “deeply troubled” by the accounts of sexual abuse and harassment that young people had suffered, and welcomed the education watchdog leading the review, which is to include representatives from social care, the police, victim support groups, and school and college leaders.