Safeguarding Blog Curriculum Blog

Ofsted’s review of sexual abuse in schools – key takeaways and tips to support your whole school approach

(once you’ve read this blog, head to to read more about Ofsted and safeguarding and the new handbook)

This month’s review makes compelling reading, advocating a zero tolerance and whole school approach – but what exactly does good practice look like and how can schools respond?

You can read the full report here but to make it easier, we’ve put together some key findings, practical tips and resources for DSLs, RSHE leads, parents, staff and governors to help safeguard young people from harm – at school, online and beyond:

Background: In April, Ofsted carried out a review of sexual abuse in response to thousands of testimonials on the ‘Everyone’s Invited’ website from young people describing sexual abuse by peers. As well as exploring the curriculum and victim voice, the review looked at reporting and safeguarding arrangements, bringing to light significant insights and concerns.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Sexual harassment and online abuse are prevalent “For some children, incidents are so commonplace that they see no point in reporting them.” Girls reported that the pressure to send nude pictures (‘nudes’) is far more widespread than adults realise – some students even consider harmful sexual behaviours normal due to their frequency. Nearly 90% of girls, and 50% of boys said being sent explicit pictures or videos happens a lot or sometimes, whilst 92% of girls, and 74% of boys admitted the same sexist name-calling. Reasons given for professionals underestimating the scale and prevalence of online sexual abuse include a lack of awareness or perception that sexual harassment and sexualised language are problematic.
  2. Significant barriers to disclosure – “One governor reported that ‘blokeish banter’ was just part of growing up.” Girls are particularly reluctant to talk about sexual abuse, fearing reputational damage or being branded a ‘snitch’, whilst many students felt embarrassed talking to someone from a different generation about sex. Some felt that teachers were willing to condone sexualised name-calling and harassment, several fearing they would not be believed or be blamed, and that the process would get out of their control.
  3. Language matters: “Current guidance does not clearly reflect the language that children and young people use, particularly for online sexual abuse.” E.g ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ uses the term ‘sexting’ which is outdated as young people refer to it as sending ‘nudes’ Students also revealed that homophobic and sexualised language like ‘slag’ and ‘slut’ were commonplace, but felt staff were often unaware, dismissing it as ‘banter’ and not prepared to challenge it – some children themselves perceived the use of derogatory language as ‘banter’ or ‘just a joke’ and were subsequently wary of challenging their peers.
  4. What about the RSHE/PSHE curriculum? “Children and young people were rarely positive about the RSHE they had received. They felt that it was too little, too late.” Whilst many students felt that the curriculum did not reflect the reality, staff generally lacked confidence to deliver the new curriculum, including the ‘online’ element. Key issues included weak implementation and a lack of subject knowledge on topics like consent, healthy relationships and sharing of sexual images.
  5. Ofsted Recommendations: The review recommends a zero-tolerance culture, whereby schools “act as though sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are happening, even when there are no specific reports, and put in place a whole school approach” through a carefully sequenced RSHE curriculum with time for discussion of topics such as consent and online behaviour, high quality training for teachers delivering RSHE, support for DSLs, awareness training for all staff and relevant governors and multi-agency collaboration

How we can help – tips and resources to support your whole school approach:

  1. For RSHE/PSHE leads:
    • visit for age-appropriate, cross-curricular resources covering healthy relationships, consent and sharing ‘nudes’ –  you can filter by key stage, audience and topic e.g. bullying, pornography, sexting, apps, gaming, body image etc..
    • ask pupils to take the RSHE Online Safety Quiz at
    • for guidance on whole-school delivery and mapping resources to your existing curriculum, sign up for FREE Online Safety Goes Whole School – to RSHE & Beyond training
  2. For DSLs:
    • Reinforce key safeguarding messages at your next staff cpd/briefing with our ready-to use 5-minute spotlight activities on topics from using appropriate language and victim-blaming to online sharing, snitching and overlooking banter at  
    • Visit for resources to support students and parents on child sexual exploitation and online sexual abuse
  3. For Parents – our one-stop ParentSafe website offers parents/carers support and advice including:
    • the new Home Truths video from the Internet Watch Foundation to raise awareness of how 11-13 year old girls are most at risk of being tricked into taking nude images in their own bedrooms, and their TALK campaign for tips on talking to your child
    • Childnet’s I want to tell you video on what children might want to tell you but don’t know how
    • Find these and other tips on topics from bullying and sharing online content to pornography at – and don’t forget to share the link via your parent newsletters, website and communications
  4. Reporting and disclosures:
    • Are you students aware of the new:
    • We’ve also created a pupil audit to encourage pupil disclosures and staff poster to facilitate referrals at
  5. ALL staff and governors:

Hope this has been helpful in shaping your response, building staff confidence and promoting effective practice and procedures across your school community – we’d love to hear your feedback and do let us know if you need anything else!

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