Ofsted has been ordered to undertake an “immediate review” of the safeguarding policies in state and independent schools amid the Everyone’s Invited abuse allegations.
The Department for Education said today that the review will “look at the extent and the severity of the issue and ensure schools have appropriate processes in place to allow pupils to report concerns freely, knowing these will be taken seriously and dealt with swiftly and appropriately”.
A press release added: “It will make sure there is sufficient guidance on how schools should deal with sexual harassment and violence allegations, and whether the current inspection regimes in both state and private schools are strong enough to address concerns and promote the welfare of children.”
It will make sure the current inspection regimes in both state and private schools are strong enough to address concerns
The review aims to find where safeguarding arrangements and processes are good and have worked well and where improvements are needed.
The inspectorate will work with social care, police, victim support groups, school and college leaders and the Independent Schools Council. The review will conclude by end of May.
Also, a new NSPCC helpline will go live tomorrow to provide children and adults who are victims of sexual abuse in schools with appropriate support and advice.
Spielman ‘deeply troubled’ by sex abuse claims
An investigation by Schools Week first revealed that state schools also featured in the allegations. The website has since stopped naming schools amid concerns they were taking a “disproportionate amount of blame”.
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said she had been “deeply troubled by accounts of the sexual abuse and harassment”.
“Schools have a crucial role to play in teaching young people about sexual consent and respect for women and girls,” she added. “They must also be places where all children feel safe, and where they are able to report any incidents of abuse or harassment and be confident that what they say will be acted upon.
“We will set out the terms of the review shortly.”
The DfE said they will not “hesitate to take action” where schools are “failing to meet strict safeguarding standards”.
“Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate will inspect any schools where there are concerns and ensure they either improve their practices or are forced to close,” they added.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “While the majority of schools take their safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously, I am determined to make sure the right resources and processes are in place across the education system to support any victims of abuse to come forward.”
Scrutiny turns to DfE’s private school inspection refusal
Ofsted has repeatedly asked government for greater powers to check on private school inspectorates.
Ofsted is required to report on the quality of inspections by the Independent Schools’ Inspectorate (ISI), which inspects roughly 1,000 larger private schools, and the Schools Inspection Service, which inspects often smaller private schools such as Steiner schools.
Spielman unsuccessfully lobbied the government to let her inspectorate carry out “unannounced on-site monitoring visits”, to check inspection report findings match the evidence gathered and to carry out termly safeguarding checks.
The inspectorate has previously said it’s unable to make an official recommendation for either inspectorate because of “the limited monitoring activity commissioned by DfE”.
The ISI is now conducting an internal review in to its inspection of safeguarding in schools, with a “particular focus on how we gather pupils’ views on inspection. We look forward to sharing our findings with Ofsted as part of the wider review,” a spokesperson added.
The dedicated NSPCC helpline number is 0800 136 663. Anyone with concerns should visit to find out how to get help: https://stopabusetogether.campaign.gov.uk/