Consent workshops and reviews: schools respond to sex abuse claims

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published its final report

A school named on the Everyone’s Invited website, set up to tackle rape culture, is to run compulsory “consent workshops” for pupils as young as 11, while others form staff working groups to review abuse.

The avalanche of sexual abuse allegations has also pushed other schools, not named on the website, to take stock of their safeguarding procedures.

Everyone’s Invited (EI) allows young survivors of sexual abuse to tell their stories anonymously. It has far received more than 16,000 testimonies, ranging from reports of rape to “slut shaming”.

However, Ofsted will only inspect 30 education settings under its investigation to establish the “extent and the severity of the issue”.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the testimonies have sparked a “renewed focus and activity around safeguarding” in schools.


‘We’re starting the consent conversation much earlier’

St Benedict’s School, an independent Catholic school in west London that was named in an Everyone’s Invited testimony, is extending “consent workshops” to all pupils in year 7 and above.

The school previously ran Schools Consent Project workshops for pupils aged 15 and up.

The workshops focused on consent, as well as dealing with harassment, revenge porn and sexting.

Luke Ramsden, senior deputy headmaster and safeguarding lead at St Benedict’s, said the school was starting the “conversation about consent, and appropriateness of behaviour towards each other, much earlier”.

All pupils in year 7 and above will have attended a workshop by the end of term. They will take place during timetabled PSHE lessons.

The school is also rolling out the wellbeing “check-in” app Skodel free. It allows all pupils to provide daily updates of how they are feeling and to raise concerns with staff quickly.

Ramsden said it would provide a “new avenue of communication”.


Sex abuse review action plans for schools

The Olympus Academy Trust is setting up in-school working groups to review sexual violence, sexual harassment and peer-on-peer abuse across each of its nine schools.

Its Bradley Stoke Community School in Bristol was named on EI.

Reviews are due to be finished next month when an action plan will be drawn up to address any areas of concern.

“We’re reviewing our processes in light of what’s going on,” said Dave Baker, the trust’s chief executive. “We’re taking it really seriously”.

Olympus has also updated its safeguarding and child protection policy to include more “specific” information on sexting, abuse and sexual violence.

Meanwhile, Queen Mary’s Grammar School in Walsall is reviewing its policies, with the local authority.

The school has held assemblies and told parents that anyone who has experienced or witnessed abuse or behaviour should speak to staff.


Pupils need ‘culture of visibility’ to report abuse

Charlotte Aynsley, a safeguarding consultant at Impero, a safeguarding software company, said it was “incredibly hard” to get pupils to disclose issues such as peer-to-peer abuse. A culture of reporting and visibility was needed in schools.

Sue Bailey, the safeguarding lead at The Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, said it was drawing up a strategic plan “to strengthen what we do”.

That included reviewing safeguarding policies, culture, reporting systems and curriculum to highlight potential areas of improvement.

“You can never be complacent because the safeguarding world changes so much,” she said.

None of the trust’s schools was named on EI.


Details of Ofsted sex abuse investigation emerge

Ofsted told Schools Week it would visit about 30 schools as part of the sexual abuse review announced last month.

Complaints about the schools have been made to Ofsted and the EI website or through other “regional intelligence”.

Visits will be conducted over two days and led by a Her Majesty’s Inspector. inspectors from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) will shadow a small number of visits, which are due to conclude at the end of this month.

Baroness Berridge, the academies minister, previously revealed the inspectorate would talk to “over 900 children and young people” during the review. She also planned to meet some heads of schools in which allegations of sexual abuse had been made.

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