School child abuse helpline receives hundreds of calls in first 6 weeks

Home education faces increased scrutiny after the deaths of three children.

A helpline set up to report child abuse in education in the wake of the allegations posted to the Everyone’s Invited website has been contacted over 350 times.

The Department for Education (DfE) commissioned the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) to set up the helpline to provide support for those who have experienced sexual abuse and harassment in education after thousands of abuse allegations were published online.

The NSPCC has received 353 calls between April 1 and May 16. Of these, 65 have been referred to external agencies such as the police and children’s services.

Abuse by peers is most common

The NSPCC said that sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment by peers was the most common issue reported.

The helpline supports children and young people who want to share current and non-recent sexual abuse, as well as those who have witnessed such incidents.

It is also available for those who work within a school setting and need support, adults who previously experienced abuse and parents and carers who are concerned about their own or other children.

The incidents reported ranged from pupils looking up classmates’ skirts to the sharing of indecent images and rape.

The NSPCC said trained safeguarding staff provided advice and guidance to the victims who were not referred to external agencies.

Of the 353 contacts, 203 related to sexual abuse and exploitation with references to harmful sexual behaviour and peer abuse.

In 70 cases where additional information about the victim was known- 49 were female, 16 were male and five did not identify their gender.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said he wants “all victims of abuse to be supported and feel confident to report any allegations”.

“That is exactly why we set up this additional specialist NSPCC helpline – so there is a dedicated route for raising concerns or reporting an incident which may require appropriate action from authorities”, he said.

Kam Thandi, NSPCC helpline lead thanked all those who had “found the courage to contact the helpline”.

She said the calls have provided “much needed support” and also revealed “the devastating impact this abuse can have later in life if it’s not addressed”.

The Everyone’s Invited website has so far published over 16,000 testimonies of sexual abuse and harassment in its bid to highlight the issue and eradicate rape culture.

Future of helpline still unknown

The NSPCC has been funded to run the helpline for six months.

Baroness Berridge, the academies minister, previously said her department will “review” the scheme after three months, adding on its future: “Nothing has been ruled off the table and it might be that in future we will have to have not just a phone line but a new platform”.

Berridge said it was hoped that children would report such issues to an adult within the school environment, “but we might have to accept that it will be a phone line or other platform”.

Ofsted review to wrap up this week

In light of the Everyone’s Invited allegations, Ofsted was also ordered to undertake an “immediate review” of the safeguarding policies in state and independent schools.

The DfE previously stated the review would “look at the extent and the severity of the issue and ensure schools have appropriate processes in place”.

Schools Week revealed Ofsted will only inspect around 30 education settings as part of its investigation to establish the “extent and severity of the issue”.

Berridge previously said the inspectorate would talk to “over 900 children and young people” during the review.

The review will conclude at the end of the month. While the publish date for the review is not currently known, Williamson today stated it would be “published shortly”.

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