Ofsted’s review of sexual abuse in schools will see the watchdog visit a “sample of schools and colleges” where abuse and violence cases have been highlighted.
The review itself will “not report on individual schools or cases”, but identification of “serious and widespread” failures in safeguarding arrangements will lead to an immediate full inspection.
Ofsted has published the terms of reference for its review, which was commissioned by the government in response to allegations of abuse shared on the Everyone’s Invited website.
The review will look at whether schools and colleges have “appropriate processes in place to allow pupils to report sexual abuse concerns freely, knowing these will be taken seriously and dealt with swiftly and appropriately”.
It will also seek to establish whether there is “sufficient” guidance for schools on how to deal with allegations, and whether they implement it well.
The review will also look into whether the existing safeguarding framework and guidance for inspectors is “strong enough to properly assess how schools and colleges safeguard and promote the welfare of children”.
Joint working between schools and “local safeguarding partners”, including local authority children’s social care, the police, health services and other support will also be reviewed to see if it needs to be “strengthened”.
Visits to ‘sample’ of schools planned
In its terms of reference, Ofsted said it would look into whether the current system of safeguarding in schools listens to the voices of children reporting abuse, and what prevents children from reporting it.
It will also consider whether victims receive “timely and appropriate support”, and whether its own inspections and those by the Independent Schools Inspectorate have been “robust enough in relation to the issues raised”.
To do this, Ofsted will review a “sample” of recently reported evidence of sexual violence and abuse involving pupils, and then visit a sample of schools and colleges “where cases have been highlighted”.
These visits, conducted with the ISI where necessary, will “look at how well safeguarding is working and to discuss the wider issues raised by the evidence”.
During the visits, Ofsted will speak to school and college leaders, pupils and students.
Ofsted won’t report on individual schools, but visits may prompt full inspections
Ofsted has said the review will not report on individual schools or cases, but “present a picture of good and poor practice across the country”.
However, if the watchdog finds “serious and widespread failures in a school or college’s safeguarding arrangements we will immediately carry out a full inspection which will result in a published report”.
The review will consider the “range, nature, location and severity of allegations and incidents, together with context”, the extent of schools’ knowledge of specific incidents, their safeguarding responses to known incidents and their “safeguarding knowledge, culture and effectiveness”.
It will also consider the adequacy of school relationships and sex education curriculum and teaching.
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said she had been “deeply troubled by the allegations of sexual abuse posted on the Everyone’s Invited website”.
“Many of the testimonies reveal that girls have not felt able to report incidents of sexual abuse to their schools. We hope that by listening to young people’s experiences first-hand, this review will provide much needed insight into what these barriers are and how they can be overcome.”
She said schools played a “vital part in promoting a culture of respect among young people – including between boys and girls”. The review, she said, would consider “how schools can support and encourage appropriate behaviour, from the lessons in the classroom to the culture in the corridors”.
“And when children do speak up about their experiences, it’s vital that schools have the support and structures in place to take them seriously and respond appropriately.”
The review will conclude by the end of May 2021.