Call for urgent Ofsted investigation into allegations of school sexual abuse | Rape and sexual assault

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 Call for urgent Ofsted investigation into allegations of school sexual abuse |  Rape and sexual assault


Serious allegations of sexual misconduct in schools must be investigated by Ofsted as part of a “full” investigation to determine why student complaints of rape, harassment and assault are not being made. still not taken seriously.

The call comes from Conservative MP Maria Miller, who oversaw a groundbreaking report on the issue in 2016, but believes a disturbing culture has been allowed to take hold.

“Nothing has changed over the past five years,” she said. “Ofsted must now examine the data it has collected to find out why the situation has not improved for the children. “

It comes as student accounts of rape, harassment and assault on the survivors’ website have surpassed 8,000 and police say revelations about rape culture at school could lead to the most sharp increase in reports of sexual abuse since the Jimmy Savile scandal.

A special national helpline is expected to be set up this week and police said the total number of allegations could exceed the 11,000 victims listed in Operation Hydrant’s national database, set up to record victims of sexual abuse.

Simon Bailey, National Police chief for child protection, said: “This could be the biggest explosion of sexual abuse since Jimmy Savile. It has the potential to be. The disclosures on Savile in 2012 led to a flood of calls and referrals to police about sexual abuse and dozens of convictions.

Amid the controversy over how police treat survivors of sexual abuse and investigate their allegations, Bailey said, “Any victim who comes forward will be believed, will be listened to and treated with sensitivity.”

Miller, who chaired the women and equality committee that investigated sexual harassment and violence in schools, said the government accepted many of the recommendations in her report, but that schools seemed to ignore the new directions.

“In particular, the government changed the statutory guidelines on how to tackle behavior in schools to make it clear that peer abuse was not acceptable and could never be justified in the context of growth.

“As a result of the investigation, Ofsted had to monitor how the sexual harassment was recorded and what action was taken. What I think now, very firmly, is that we need to ask Ofsted to take a deeper look at the issue of dealing with sexual harassment in schools.

Ofsted is under no obligation to investigate individual allegations, which are the responsibility of competent authorities such as the police or local authorities. Inspectors are, however, required to examine any safeguard concerns raised before or during an inspection.

Inspection teams also ask schools for all records and analyzes of sexual harassment or sexual violence, and follow up on any incidents that have not been properly addressed. Inspectors also verify that staff have received adequate training on how to deal with peer abuse. Ofsted was approached by the Guardian but declined to comment.

Gavin Williamson described recent accounts of sexual violence in schools, highlighted by the Everyone’s Invited website, which has now collected nearly 8,400 testimonies, as shocking and heinous and promised redress.

The Education Secretary tweeted: “Any victim of these sickening acts that we have witnessed should bring their concerns to someone they trust, whether it is a family member. or a friend, teacher, social worker or the police. We will take appropriate action.

“No school – whether it’s an independent school or a public school – should ever be an environment in which young people feel unsafe, let alone a place where sexual abuse can take place. . “

Labor accused the government of not doing enough to protect students and called for a new national strategy to tackle sexism and sexual harassment in the education system.

Jess Phillips, Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding, said: “The government has known for years the extent of sexual harassment and abuse in schools, colleges and universities and has not is doing enough to tackle this endemic problem… The government must act urgently to ensure that our education system never condones or allows such behavior or attitudes, and that all students are protected. “

In a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, Phillips and Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green demanded an independent investigation into the crisis and better training for staff who feel “ill-equipped” to deal with the reports of harassment and abuse.

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the National Association of Principals, said: “There is clearly an urgent need to ask what more we can all do to prevent sexual harassment and violence now and in the future.

“There is no doubt that schools can and should play a key role in this work, but it is an issue that extends far beyond the school gates.”

Calls are increasing for an independent investigation. Labor leader Keir Starmer said: “I am really worried about what we are seeing in the last few days, and I know a lot of parents will be, a lot of teachers and school staff and, of course, young people.

“There has to be an investigation and it has to start very quickly; this is serious, ”he told reporters during a visit to Milton Keynes.

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), also supported an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse, many of which targeted leading private schools.

He told PA Media: “I would have thought it would be helpful if it went beyond schools. Obviously, they are going to be looking at schools and there will be things that schools can do or should do that other officers cannot or do not want to do.

“But if this is an independent investigation, you’re going to want to look at the whole spectrum of institutions, and also incidentally of time, because we know it’s not a new problem.”

The Charity Commission is monitoring allegations about independent schools, most of which are registered charities. A spokesperson said: “We continue to closely monitor this situation to determine our next steps. In accordance with our guidelines, the charities named in these allegations have reported serious incidents to the commission. “

A new national helpline is expected to be operational this week to encourage victims to share their experiences, with allegations then being referred to police in their area. Miller said, however, that what was needed was a culture change in the schools. “A helpline will not solve the problem. This will only spark a reporting frenzy, which the police are unlikely to be able to handle. ”

A government spokesperson said: “We are very concerned about the large number of allegations recently posted on the Everyone’s Invited website. The abuse of children and young people in all its forms is abhorrent.

“The vast majority of schools, colleges and universities take their safeguarding responsibilities very seriously, so it is particularly shocking that allegations of abuse are made in connection with a place of education where everyone should feel safe and secure. protected.

“Working together, the Ministry of Education, the Home Office and the National Council of Police Chiefs are in contact with Everyone’s Invited to provide support, protection and advice to those who report abuse, including contacting the professionals or the police if they wish. ”

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