Last Updated on 19th July 2021

Latest Update 17th June 2021:

Ofsted has warned UK schools that they need to act as though sexual harassment and online sexual abuse is happening to them – even if they haven’t been named othe Everyone’s Invited websiteThe education watchdog published the results of their rapid review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges on the 10th of June, 2021.

review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges

Our update brings you the key findings and additional service and guidance for tackling harmful sexual behaviour and peer on peer abuse in schools.

Ofsted Key Findings

  • The review found that issues around sexual abuse and harassment are so widespread that they need addressing for all children and young people”

  • For some young people, sexual abuse and harassment is so commonplace, that they see no point in reporting it

  • Children and young people were rarely positive about the relationship and sexual education (RSE) they had received   

  • There may be a lack of awareness among teachers that abuse is happening  

  • Online sexual abuse is prevalent and group chats are a problem   

  • Boys are less likely to be aware of the problems than girls 

  • Young people are learning more from pornography than RSE   

  • Sexualised and homophobic language is common

  • Children report that teachers “do not know the reality” of their lives

Furthermore, the review states that ‘leaders should take a whole-school/college approach to developing a culture where all kinds of sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are recognised and addressed’ while also highlighting how Ofsted believe this can be achieved.

Ofsted concludes that, even if they are no specific reports or allegations, that all schools, colleges, and multi-agency partners should act as though sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are happening.  

The report also includes a series of recommendations and actions for:

  • Schools and College leaders
  • Multi-agency partners
  • Government
  • Actions for the inspectorates

Statistics from ‘Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges’

Out of those students surveyed by Ofsted:

  • Nearly 90% of girls, and nearly 50% of boys, said being sent explicit pictures or videos of things they did not want to see happens a lot or sometimes to them or their peers

  • 92% of girls, and 74% of boys, said sexist name-calling happens a lot or sometimes to them or their peers

  • 54% of those aged 16 and above and 40% of 13- to 15-year-olds said unwanted touching occurred a lot or sometimes

Report Abuse in Education Helpline

The NSPCC has a free and anonymous helpline for children and young people who have experienced abuse at school or for adults, professionals who need support and guidance.

0800 136 663 or (Monday to Friday – 8am-10pm) and weekend (9am-6pm)  

A Safeguarding Update from the Head of Safer Schools

Context – Everyone’s Invited

In the last number of months, we have been monitoring the situation with disclosures made on the Everyone’s Invited website. After looking closely at the content on the site and listening to law enforcement agencies, we wanted to share our briefing note with you.  

Although most disclosures have come from England, we think it’s essential that all safeguarding professionals across the UK have access to this information.  

We have provided you with a Focus on the Facts and four things you can do right now including a basic safeguarding checklist on harmful sexual behaviours.  

Colin Stitt – Head of Safer Schools

An Update on the Facts:

Updated 16th June 2021

  • After being founded in 2020, Everyone’s Invited now holds thousands of testimonies. That’s thousands of people who have shared their stories of experiences like verbal harassment, sexual abuse, exploitation, and rape. 

  • Thousands of schools have been named. Many schools have been mentioned multiple times.  

  • Many of the individuals report previously taking their allegations to someone in a position of trust, only to be suppressed, dismissed, or ignored. 

  • It has previously been reported thata disproportionate amount of private schools had been named in the allegationsFollowing Ofsted’s review in England, there have been calls in other parts of the UK for similar reviews into abuse in schools.  They also want to avoid mischaracterising the reality that abuse is only happening in some schools. The campaign says the focus should be on all schools and universities.  
  • Scotland Yard is currently reviewing the testimonies shared on the site to establish whether any potential victims in London could be encouraged to report crimes. Police have encouraged victims and survivors to come forward. 

Four things you can do:

1. Culture – Creating, Shaping and Maintaining a Safeguarding First Culture  

  • A whole-school approach that challenges harmful sexual behaviour should involve everyone in the school, including the governing body and all staff, pupils, parents, and carers.

  • This means leading by example and reinforcing your commitment to a safeguarding first philosophy and practice. This should place the safety of the young and vulnerable ahead of reputation.

  • It also means a zero-tolerance approach to misogynistic, sexist, and other harmful and offensive behaviour.

2. Communication – Ensuring Communication and Reporting Pathways are Signposted and Accessible

  • Check that all pupils, parents, and carers know who the designated staff members are with responsibility for safeguarding and child protection.

  • The contact details of these staff should be communicated publicly, and anyone with a concern should know how they can communicate with them.

  • Staff should feel confident in signposting to other organisations, so pupils, staff and parents/carers know where to seek support outside of the school environment. This may include Childline, the NSPCC Helpline, Children’s Social Care or therapeutic services for victims and survivors.

3. Complaints – Engaging with Established Reporting Procedures in Your School

  • You should revisit your school’s reporting frameworks and policies regarding allegations of sexually harmful behaviour between pupils and abuse from adults in a position of trust or authority.
  • Staff should be aware of the signs, symptoms, and patterns typical of peer-to-peer abuse and harmful sexual behaviours.
  • Staff should be familiar with how complaints and allegations are managed, including when and how to involve other safeguarding professionals.
  • Engaging with allegations and supporting victims should go beyond your procedures to empower staff to actively address suspicions and rumours.
  • Careful consideration is needed to create a victim-centric approach that avoids blaming or shaming children or young people who make disclosures.
  • Children and young people who have allegations made against them should also be supported appropriately.

4. Checklist –  Use our Basic Safeguarding Checklist to review your Safeguarding Practice and conduct a health check on your School Culture and Safeguarding Procedures. 

Download pdf checklist

Further Resources

  • Fearless – A Young Person-Friendly Version of Crime Stoppers, where Young People can make Anonymous Reports about Crime

  • Contextual Safeguarding Network Resources for schools to tackle Harmful Sexual Behaviours including guidance and self-assessment tools.

  • NSPCC Harmful Sexual Behaviours Framework (Resource)

  • Department for EducationSexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Between Children in Schools and Colleges (Advice)

  • NSPCC Helpline Further information on the Report Abuse in Education Helpline.

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