This new guidance is DfE advice and so highlights best practice, but is not statutory guidance. The Statutory guidance will come when Keeping Children Safe in Education is updated in September 2018.
It contains much that is new, while remaining true to the underlying safeguarding principles of
• protecting all children from harm, • the welfare of the child is paramount • listening to the voice of the child.
Sexual violence and harassment between children should be considered within the wider safeguarding context of the school and be consistent with the whole school approach to peer-on-peer abuse.
The key messages are
• Protecting all children from harm. • Sexual violence and sexual harassment are never acceptable and will not be tolerated and are not an inevitable part of growing up. • All victims (victim, alleged perpetrator and witnesses) are to be taken seriously and offered appropriate support. • Sexual violence and harassment are potentially traumatising. • The alleged perpetrator may have their own unmet needs and their behaviour may be a symptom of their own abuse. • The response should always be proportionate and robust. However, each incident should be considered on a case by case basis: the response to a one-off incident of sexualised name-calling is likely to be vastly different from that for a report of rape. • A multi-agency approach is key to investigation and support. • The importance of information sharing, while giving consideration of the victim’s wishes and issues of confidentiality and anonymity. • The importance of good record keeping. • The need for appropriate training and a planned curriculum.
This guidance places huge responsibilities on schools, in particular on the DSL. The DSL is expected to lead:
• on the management and investigation of the incident, • issues of support for the victim, the alleged perpetrator and other children, • conducting and managing risk assessments • issues of anonymity and confidentiality, including social media.
Further, there is an implication that multi-agency work may require perseverance. On page 27, it is suggested that re-referrals to social care might be necessary. Equally, schools are told explicitly not to wait for the outcome of a police investigation before protecting the victim, alleged perpetrator and other children (page 28). Yet, this must be done without prejudicing any possible police investigation or prosecution; a very difficult balancing act.
Schools and DSLs are going to need more support and training in this area to make the guidance truly effective to support all children.
1. What is sexual violence and harassment between children 2. Schools’ and colleges’ legal responsibilities 3. A whole school approach 4. How to respond to reports of sexual violence and harassment
The guidance relates to anyone under 18 and applies to all schools and colleges. The guidance uses the terms ‘victim’ and ‘alleged perpetrator’, but we must remember some victims will not see themselves as such, and so we must choose our language carefully. Equally that, as a child, any alleged perpetrator is entitled to and deserving of support and should be treated differently to an adult perpetrator.
• This can be varied and involve a single child or a group, either as victim or perpetrator. • Abuse can occur on and off line and both places simultaneously. • The impact is stressful and distressing. All incidents should be taken seriously. • All sexual violence and harassment must not be tolerated, or dismissed and must be challenged. • Girls are more likely to be the victims and the perpetrators are more likely to be boys. • Those with SEND are more vulnerable. Disabled and deaf children are 3 times more likely to be abused than other children. Abuse may also be more difficult to identify as behaviour may be considered part of a disability. Further, communication issues may make disclosure more difficult. • Lesbian, Gay, Bi, or Trans (LGBT) children can be targeted by their peers. In some cases, a child who is perceived by their peers to be LGBT (whether they are or not) can be just as vulnerable as children who identify as LGBT.
The guidance then considers:
• The definitions of rape, consent and harassment, including the definition of sexual offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
• Sexual harassment is considered to be ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’ that can
occur online and offline. Sexual harassment is likely to:
o violate a child’s dignity, o and/or make them feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated o and/or create a hostile, offensive or sexualised environment.
This needs to be considered in board terms to ensure that there is not an atmosphere which normalises inappropriate behaviours.
• “Harmful sexual behaviours” is a useful umbrella term and includes behaviour both on and off line.
o Children’s sexual behaviours exist on a wide continuum, from normal and developmentally expected to inappropriate, problematic, abusive and violent. o Problematic, abusive and violent sexual behaviours are developmentally inappropriate and may cause developmental damage. o ‘Harmful sexual behaviours’ can, in some cases, progress on a continuum. Addressing inappropriate behaviour can be an important intervention that helps prevent problematic, abusive and/or violent behaviour in the future. o Children displaying harmful sexual behaviours have often experienced their own abuse and trauma.
• All schools are required by law to have a behaviour policy and measures in place to prevent all forms of bullying. • All maintained secondary schools must teach sex and relationship education (SRE). • Sexual violence or harassment contravene human rights legislation. • Schools should have awareness of equality guidance and their Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) • Good record-keeping and monitoring of sexual violence and sexual harassment reports are essential.
Everyone should be involved in this issue and it should be part of the school’s wider safeguarding approach, including staff training and learning through the curriculum. The curriculum should include in an age and development stage appropriate manner:
• healthy and respectful relationships; • what respectful behaviour looks like; • gender roles, stereotyping, equality; • body confidence and self-esteem; • prejudiced behaviour; • that sexual violence and sexual harassment is always wrong; addressing cultures of sexual harassment.
This should be addressed through a planned and high quality Sex and Relationships Education and PHSE.
‘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.’ (page 16)
Decisions should be made on a case by case basis by the DSL working in a multi-agency context considering the following statutory elements:
• a child under the age of 13 can never consent to any sexual activity; • the age of consent is 16; • sexual intercourse without consent is rape; • rape, assault by penetration and sexual assault are defined in law; • creating and sharing sexual photos and videos of under-18s is illegal (often referred to as sexting). This includes children making and sharing sexual images and videos of themselves.
The basic safeguarding principle is: if a child has been harmed, is in immediate danger, or is at risk of harm a referral should be made to children’s social care. Further, there should be the involvement of police, if a crime has been committed.
Local authority and partners should be developing and publishing protocols to advise and support schools with this. There is considerable support available and listed in the guidance (page 18).
As an initial response, the report should be taken seriously. It is essential that the victim is reassured that they are not creating a problem by making the complaint or made to feel ashamed. The school needs to consider an appropriate response, if disclosure is not made by the victim. The example is given of a friend. The issue of a report by a parent is not mentioned.
The school has the same responsibility, if the incident occurs in or out of school, if it involves 2 pupils from the same school.
The rules for managing a disclosure of Sexual violence or harassment are the same as with any other safeguarding concern. However, particular consideration needs to be given to confidentiality, including balancing this with the victim’s wishes and the duty to protect the victim and other children. If information is shared against the victim’s wishes, this needs to be explained to them carefully and appropriate support offered.
Where an allegation is progressing through the criminal justice system schools need to be aware of anonymity, witness support and criminal processes. This will be new to many schools. CPS: Safeguarding Children as Victims and Witnesses gives advice and support. There is a need to protect the victims’ identity in school and should be considered when involving staff and delivering support to children. This should also be considered in relation to with social media.
When a report is made of sexual violence, the DSL needs to make an immediate risk and needs assessment. For a report of sexual harassment, the need for a risk assessment should be considered on a case by case basis. These assessments should consider:
• The victim • The alleged perpetrator • Other children (and if appropriate staff)
They should be written and reviewed and would be in addition to and go alongside risk assessments carried out by other agencies. This can be supported by the Brook: Traffic light tool
The initial response after a report should consider:
• the wishes of the victim in terms of how they want to proceed. Victims should be given as much control as is reasonably possible over decisions; • the nature of the alleged incident(s), including: might a crime have been committed and consideration of harmful sexual behaviour • the ages of the children involved; • the developmental stages of the children involved; • any power imbalance between the children (e.g. is the alleged perpetrator significantly older); • if the alleged incident is a one off or a sustained pattern of abuse; • are there ongoing risks; • other related issues and wider context.
Where incidents and/or behaviours are associated with factors outside the school or college and/or occur between children outside the school or college, the DSL should be considering contextual safeguarding taking into account the wider environmental factors present in a child’s life that are a threat to their safety and/or welfare. It is important that schools and colleges provide as much information as possible as part of the referral process. This will allow an assessment to consider all the evidence and the full context of any abuse.
Consider particularly proximity in classes, around the school and on school transport in the interest of both children, but this should not be perceived to be a judgement on the guilt of the alleged perpetrator.
Consider when and how to inform the alleged perpetrator. This would normally be done within consultation with other agencies.
All must be in line with the school’s safeguarding policies and zero tolerance approach to of sexual harassment and violence.
The guidance emphasises the importance of accurate record keeping.
1. Manage internally (There is a case study on page 25 of a non-violent one-off incident.)
2. Early help The school or college may decide that the children involved do not require statutory interventions, but may benefit from early help. Early help means providing support as soon as a problem emerges, at any point in a child’s life. Providing early help is more effective in promoting the welfare of children than reacting later.
3. Referral to children’s social care Where a child has been harmed, is at risk of harm, or is in immediate danger, schools and colleges should make a referral to local children’s social care. This would be part of a multi-agency approach and actions to safeguard all involved should be immediate. The school needs to inform parents, unless there is a compelling reason not to. Such decisions would be made with the support of social care.
There is an interesting paragraph on page 27:
‘In some cases, children’s social care will review the evidence and decide a statutory intervention is not appropriate. The school or college should be prepared to refer again if they believe the child remains in immediate danger or at risk of harm. If a statutory assessment is not appropriate, the DSL should consider other support mechanisms such as early help, specialist support and pastoral support.’
4. Reporting to the police (there is a case study) Where a report of rape, assault by penetration or sexual assault is made, as an allegation of a criminal offence, this should be passed to the police as a starting point. The school also should work with social care, including about informing parents. They should work with the police about informing staff, protecting the victim and their anonymity
• Changes in police bail means that a child is less likely to be attending school while on police bail, but even without this police support should be sought to support all involved and manage the school’s safeguarding responsibilities. • The school should act to protect all involved and not wait for the outcome of a police investigation. An important consideration should be to ensure that the victim can continue in their normal routine, including continuing to receive a suitable education. • School should consider disciplinary action against the perpetrator but without jeopardising the police investigations. Multi-agency work is going to be key here. • If the child is convicted or receives a caution this must be managed in school protecting both them and the victim. • If there is ‘no further action’ or a not guilty verdict: It needs to be remembered that the burden of proof in the criminal system is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, so the fact that an allegation cannot be substantiated does not necessarily mean that it was unfounded. In such an incidence there needs to be careful consideration of support for both the victim and the perpetrator.
Need to provide support ongoing response to victim
This needs to consider:
• The age and stage of development of the victim, the nature of the allegation and risk of further abuse. • Relationship of victim and perpetrator, including any power imbalance; • Priority should be to make the victim’s daily experience as normal as possible, so that the school or college is a safe space for them. • Consider the proportionality of the response. Support should be tailored on a case-by-case basis. • Accessing outside agency support. • Victims may not disclose the whole picture immediately. They may be more comfortable providing information on a piecemeal basis. Therefore, it is essential that dialogue is kept open and encouraged. The school needs to consider identifying a designated trusted adult for the victim to talk to about their needs. The choice of any such adult should be the victim’s. Schools and colleges should respect and support this choice. • It may require timetable changes to ensure that school is a safe place. • The victim may need protection from further bullying and harassment. • If the victim requests alternative provision (following discussion with parents or carers) and then moves setting, the school should ensure information sharing to enable ongoing support. • Making decisions about keeping the victim and the perpetrator separate in school and consider implications under behaviour policy.
Support for alleged perpetrator The school or college will have a difficult balancing act to consider. On the one hand to safeguard the victim (and the wider student body) and on the other hand: providing the alleged perpetrator with an education, safeguarding support as appropriate, and implementing any disciplinary sanctions.
• The age and development stage of the alleged perpetrator; • Impact of allegations and/ or negative reactions of peers; • Proportionality of response working on a case by case basis; • The alleged perpetrator’s own unmet needs and that the abuse is a possible symptom of their own abuse; • If the alleged perpetrator moves setting, that information is shared to ensure going support and safeguarding of others; • Disciplinary action, while other investigations are taking place, based on the balance of probabilities, but without prejudicing a police investigation or prosecution; • The balance of support and discipline.
Working with parents and carers
In most instances, the school should involve and inform parents and carers. This needs to be managed carefully and consider what information is shared. This should be part of working with other agencies.
Good practice is to meet with both the victim and perpetrator’s parents and explain what is being done to safeguard them.
Safeguarding other children
• Witnessing is likely to be traumatic and require support; • Children may take sides. It is important to ensure that witnesses are not bullied or harassed, including by social media. • Consider issues of school transport; • Ensure there is a strong preventive education programme and to create a supportive culture; • Review of policies; • Identify and show awareness of patterns of behaviour;
• Consider the atmosphere within the school to ensure that there is an ethos where all allegations are taken seriously, and sexual violence and harassment are not tolerated, accepted or seen as an inevitable part of growing up. • Ensure detailed record keeping so that any patterns of behaviour are identified and tackled in a proactive manner. • Update safeguarding policies to set out the principles of how
o reports of sexual violence will be managed; o victims and perpetrators are likely to be supported; o parents and carers have access to support to manage what are inevitably very difficult conversations.
• Plan how to respond to incidents in advance, including discussions with police and children’s services. • Ensure that the school, and in particular the DSL, are aware of local and national sources of support, including specialist support (Annexe A contains a useful list of support services.) All police forces in England have specialist units that investigate child abuse. The names and structures of these units are matters for local forces. It will be important the DSL is aware of their local arrangements. • Consider training for all staff, so that all staff are confident to manage such disclosures. • ‘All schools are required by law to have a behaviour policy and measures in place to prevent all forms of bullying.’ Check your policy fulfils this. • ‘All maintained secondary schools must teach sex and relationship education (SRE). Any school required to teach it, or state-funded school that chooses to teach it, must follow the SRE Statutory Guidance’. Review your curriculum to ensure that it follows the guidance. • Check information sharing policies. Additional information on confidentiality and information sharing is available at Safeguarding Practitioners Information Sharing Advice • Does the DLS understand their duties in this area and do they have capacity, tools, training and support to fulfil them?
Posted in: Safeguarding
Tagged: child abuse, child protection, DSL, e-safety, governors, guidance, harmful sexual behaviours, HSB, online behaviour, online bullying, online safety, safeguarding, school leadership, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual violence, training