Sexual violence and harassment in schools

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched new guidance for school leaders, safeguarding professionals and governing bodies/proprietors on peer-to-peer sexual violence and sexual harassment.

Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges” is also referenced in the proposed new Keeping Children Safe in Education document (see this previous blogpost) for September 2018.

The guidance stresses that schools absolutely must take all forms of sexual violence and harassment seriously and explains how it exists on a continuum, so it is essential that behaviours sometimes considered as ‘low level’ are treated seriously and not allowed to perpetuate. Schools need to take action on a range of issues and the document makes specific reference to behaviours which are often tolerated or treated as minor misdemeanours, such as bra-strap flicking and the careless use of language.

The LGfL DigiSafe team was proud to contribute to document’s development whilst it was being drafted, and we think the new DfE document provides clear guidance and helpful case studies to show schools what to do in certain situations. The following is taken from a summary of the document given in KCSIE.

  • Schools and colleges should consider the following:
    • It is more likely that girls will be the victims of sexual violence and more likely that sexual harassment will be perpetrated by boys.
    • Schools and colleges should be aware of the importance of:
      • making clear that sexual violence and sexual harassment is not acceptable, will never be tolerated and is not an inevitable part of growing up;
      • not tolerating or dismissing sexual violence or sexual harassment as “banter”, “part of growing up”, “just having a laugh” or “boys being boys”; and
      • challenging behaviours (which are potentially criminal in nature), such as grabbing bottoms, breasts, vaginas and penises. Dismissing or tolerating such behaviours risks normalising them.
    • Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) can be especially vulnerable. Disabled and deaf children are three times more likely to be abused than their peers. Additional barriers can sometimes exist when recognising abuse in SEND children (see paragraph 96 in Part 2 of this guidance).

The document will be updated again in response to the KCSIE consultation for September 2018, but already provides very useful guidance for schools and colleges. Its release is timely support for schools, coming shortly after two other useful documents on similar issues were published, by Childnet and the National Education Union/Feminista respectively: ‘Young people’s experiences of online sexual harassment‘ and ‘It’s just everywhere – a study on sexism and how we tackle it‘.

Both those studies are useful for schools to read: Childnet revealed that in the last year alone, 25% of 13 – 17 year olds had experienced online rumours about their sexual behaviour, 24% had received an unwanted sexual message or image, and 10% had been pressured to share a nude image of themselves. And the NUE report revealed that a quarter of all secondary teachers witness gender stereotyping and discrimination at school every day, and an even higher number (27%) did not feel confident about knowing what how to respond to a sexist incident at school.

Against this background, the publication of clear guidelines from the government on dealing with all levels of sexual violence and harassment can only be welcomed as a very positive step. So have a read and see how you can adapt your policies, procedures and strategic responses to incidents to begin making a change today.

Proposed KCSIE update for September 2018

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a consultation to find out what schools think about proposed changes to the key safeguarding document Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE), which will be revised for September 2018.

The current KCSIE document came into force in September 2016, bringing in various changes such as new specific mentions and an appendix for online safety, as well as ‘appropriate filtering and monitoring’. The Department for Education is now consulting on proposals for the next update, so it is worth having a look and having a say before the consultation ends just before February half-term.

You can find all the relevant documents and links on this DfE page. These include:

  • An overview document of the consultation and changes (at the bottom of the page in ‘related docs’)
  • The proposed new KCSIE document itself (also in ‘related docs’); Appendix H on p92 shows a useful list of changes
  • A link to an online survey to gather your views

To help see the changes at a glance, we have also compiled a Word document that shows tracked changes between the two versions, which may be particularly useful for those who are familiar with the 2016 version.

The consultation is also being used to find out what you think of the excellent new DfE guidance also published at the end of last week on sexual violence and harrassment in schools (more on that here). Make sure you read that document, as it is very helpful and will help you make a difference in this key area, which is covered in the new KCSIE with several paragraphs dedicated to the issue.

The online safety section has not been changed; however, DfE specifically ask for suggested amendments as part of the consultation, so if you have views, now is the time to share them.

Check out one of the links above to find out more about key changes that will affect your safeguarding practice.

Supporting parents who want to film, photograph or stream school events

Why not show this to parents before you start this year’s Nativity play at school? Food for thought…

It’s that time of year again where parents will be filing into the school hall for a Nativity play or other Christmas extravaganza, devices at the ready (if you are reading this at another time of year, the same applies to sports days, trips, plays and other school gatherings on school site and beyond).

But is your school ready? Have you made it clear to parents what your rules are to keep children safe, conform to data protection rules, and ensure everyone can enjoy the experience without having to peer around a tablet the size of a bucket? And have you considered that someone who you think might be filming the event could actually be livestreaming it? The mind boggles, but in a world where seemingly everyone videos and shares everything, it happens.

So here is a sample letter you can edit and share with parents (remember to make it fit your policies). You might want to take a more informal approach and share the above video – but be sure to add a couple of lines to make clear what your rules are, what you expect and why it is important to respect the rules.

As the letter explains in more detail for parents, there are very important reasons for restrictions which parents need to understand – or else they will think we are killjoys or just luddites who don’t understand the selfie generation. Namely:

  • Child protection – looked-after children often have restrictions for their own protection that hopefully very few parents and staff will know about; others may not be officially flagged but have family backgrounds which mean that sharing images in an identifiable context could put them in danger.
  • GDPR (the new General Data Protection Regulation) and the new Data Protection Bill. Sharing could otherwise potentially incur fines for contravention of data protection rules. Photos are personal data, after all (NB they become ‘special category data’ only when used with biometrics).
  • Some families may object for religious or cultural reasons, or simply for reasons of personal privacy – we must respect this.
  • Sharing images of children in school uniform helps identify them so should not be done unless avoidable.
  • We encourage young people to think about their online reputation and digital footprint, so we should be good adult role models by not oversharing (or providing embarrassment in later life – and it is not for us to judge what is embarrassing or not).

You might take one of the approaches described in the letter, insisting on personal use only, or providing staged opportunities at the end; you may decide to ban all recording devices and be done with; you may ban recording but hire a professional to record the event or a dress rehearsal to share with parents later (costs money but better quality and less disruption). If you do the latter though, just make sure you aren’t the ones falling foul of the rules – are parental permissions for school photography up to date?

Whatever you do, make sure everyone knows the rules, and remind them that apart from anything else, school events and activities are a lot more enjoyable for all concerned without a sea of phones and tablets; memories are a lot more likely to stick than a grainy image is to be regularly viewed. As it says at the end of the letter, “Remember, your child wants to see you looking at them, not at your phone”.


Want to find out more?

All I want for Christmas is… online

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting ipads, please put a bitcoin in the live-streamed hat… It isn’t long until schools can pack up for a couple of weeks (although it will feel like you’ve never left when you return in January). Here’s our whistlestop tour of how you might be able to support parents before and after Christmas.

Let’s cut to the chase and get the negatives out of the way. Things can go wrong, in all kinds of areas, so it’s good to know where to go for support. If you share two links with parents in a pre-Christmas newsletter (or any other time), you might want to share and The first is an overview of all the links we have collated that can support parents with online safety and safeguarding, on all the range of issues I will cover here; the second has all the major helplines, hotlines and advice lines – you don’t need to wait until things go wrong.

The Ofcom Children and Parents Media report came out at the end of November; as usual it contains many revealing statistics. For example, mobile phone ownership – not just use – has more than doubled among 5-7 year olds. And 96% of all children between 5 and 15 now have access to the internet at home. Yet 69% of parents do not use the baked-in parental controls and filters.

It’s a fair assumption that Christmas won’t lead to a drop in either of those numbers. So what better time to remind parents that there is plenty of support for them regarding settings. Two top tips from our parent resource collection are Internet Matters for how to turn on parental controls for your home broadband with any of the big providers, and call the NSPCC / O2 Parent Helpline on 0808 800 5002 for help setting up new mobile devices.

It’s not just about controlling, blocking and filtering, of course. Knowing what your child is doing online and offline is invaluable, and there are tools to help you with that. At we have selected guides to the apps young people use, to help you tell your CoD from your Roblox. As ever, it’s more about what they are doing, not where. And whilst the guides will help with that, the best way to find out is through conversation. Easier said than done? The Internet Matters tablet app will help with that, guiding parents through  the right questions to ask.

Christmas is a great time for guilt trips about excesses, but it’s not just eating or drinking but also screen time that often tops the list of parenting worries. So maybe a good time to remind parents that screen time isn’t the same as screen time. Any ‘official’ limits are fairly arbitrary in fact as there are so many factors that define what’s good and what’s bad. If you want to delve into all the research, start with Professor Sonia Livingstone’s work here. But for a great overview to share with parents, use this flyer: “It’s time to end the screen time scare”. And back that up with the Children’s Commissioner’s new idea of a Digital 5-A-Day – that’s your Boxing Day hike over the moors justified!

All of that, and I haven’t even mentioned livestreaming, gaming, sexting and all the other justified worries that parents and schools might be dealing with over the festive period and next year. Click on the links to find out more on those topics, and remember if it’s all getting too much, there is help for school staff too – get in touch with the Professionals Online Safety Helpline from the Safer Internet Centre for help and advice on specific cases too.

Merry Christmas – I won’t be sending you a card; I’m using an app this year…

UPDATE 11/12/17 – Now head over to this blog post from the Kent CC team for more useful links and a letter to send home to parents with advice on new tech they might buy for their children for Christmas.