Ofsted review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges ‘positive first step’, says ISC

Associations in the independent sector have responded to Ofsted’s review of sexual abuse in education, saying they ‘fully support’ the recommendations that have been made for schools

The chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC) has said Ofsted’s review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges represents a “positive first step” in tackling the issue of ‘normalised’ sexual harassment that the review revealed.

“The Ofsted review findings further demonstrate the urgency of the challenge we all face as a society in addressing sexual abuse and harassment among young people,” said Julie Robinson.

“Reading that these behaviours are often considered normal is deeply troubling. Schools have an important role to play in tackling this issue and want to be part of the solution. Ofsted’s review represents a positive first step and we fully support its recommendations.”

Ofsted was asked by the government to undertake a review of sexual harassment in schools and colleges after anonymous testimonials of sexual abuse were published on the website, Everyone’s Invited.

Ofsted’s inspectors visited 32 state and private schools and colleges, and spoke to more than 900 children and young people about the prevalence of sexual harassment.

The review found that children and young people often don’t see the point of challenging or reporting sexual harassment because it’s seen as a normal experience.

Around 9 in 10 of the girls said that sexist name calling and being sent unwanted explicit pictures or videos happened ‘a lot’ or ‘sometimes’.

Schools have an important role to play in tackling this issue and want to be part of the solution – Julie Robinson, ISC

Robinson continued: “School leaders are taking this issue extremely seriously. Alongside actions that are being, and will be, taken in school – such as high-quality staff training and the delivery of effective relationships, sex and health education – they will of course be looking beyond the school gates at what parents can do to help as well as the roles played by local safeguarding partners.”

Chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), Sally-Anne Huang, said several HMC schools welcomed the opportunity to contribute directly to the report.

She said: “Our members are already working closely with local safeguarding authorities and the police. They have commissioned reviews of their safeguarding processes and, of course, have been in close dialogue with parents and pupils as well as encouraging further conversations with students and seeking to share best practice.

“However, today’s report outlines the amount of work that is needed across all of society to address the issue of sexual harassment and misogyny, which exists everywhere, not just in schools.

“HMC will take due care and time to examine the findings and recommendations of this report, as it deserves, and work with schools, their heads, students and parents, to introduce procedural changes where appropriate and needed, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children.”

Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) chief executive, Donna Stevens, added: “Listening to ALL young people lies at the heart of addressing these complex issues, but we must always be mindful that peer on peer abuse is overwhelmingly directed towards girls and young women; schools and wider society must not fail to give girls a voice and fulfil the trust they have placed in us by speaking out through Everyone’s Invited.”

Ofsted’s recommendations for schools, colleges and partner agencies

  • School and college leaders should develop a culture where all kinds of sexual harassment are recognised and addressed, including with sanctions when appropriate.
  • The RSHE curriculum should be carefully sequenced with time allocated for topics that children and young people find difficult, such as consent and sharing explicit images.
  • Schools and colleges should provide high-quality training for teachers delivering RSHE.
  • Improved engagement between multi-agency safeguarding partners and schools.


Read the full report here

Anyone affected by sexual abuse in schools can seek support and advice through the dedicated NSPCC helpline on 0800 136 663

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