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Staying relevant in a (very) ‘different’ online world

Posted by Sam Preston

Every teacher and parent out there will know that uncomfortable feeling that washes over you the first time a teenager or child knows more about the subject we’re challenging them with, than we do. Cue the rolled eyes and feet shuffling (and that’s just us adults!). A natural part of evolution some might say, however, in the case of the online world, this puts us in grave danger of disengaging young people and our e-safety advice falling on deaf ears.

The digital divide between adults and young people is ever widening, and not simply in the language and technologies they are using, but also in their knowledge of IT infrastructure and how to circumvent the ‘system’ to access the latest apps, games and subsequent dangers.

400 to 550 times larger than the public internet we all know and access, the dark web is a worrying example of where children and young people are using their technological knowledge to ‘meet’ virtually undetected. Used to describe a section of the internet which offers the person viewing, and the websites that they view, total anonymity, young people are accessing the dark web to prevent parents and teachers from monitoring their online activity.

Demonstrating advanced IT skills, children as young as 12 are using special Tor browsers to do this, which wrap every bit of the information request sent out to the internet in multiple layers of encryption. The Mirror’s shocking headline ‘Children as young as 12 use dark web to deal in cocaine, MDMA and ketamine with cryptocurrencies’ just last month is evidence of this we cannot afford to ignore.

The fear of children and young people accessing the dark web has been further amplified by the forthcoming age-checks on porn sites which comes into force this May. Whilst Ministers say the move is part of a plan to make the UK “the safest place in the world for children to be online”, the new requirement for people to prove they are 18 before accessing UK websites, some fear could push children towards the dark web and exposure to illegal activities and more extreme material.

And it’s not just hidden platforms that young people are now manipulating to keep their online lives a secret. Experts have recently warned of a worrying new finsta trend whereby teenagers are creating fake Instagram accounts to torment their peers. This has seen young teenager’s personal details shared online and harmful words written by the impersonators to damage children’s reputations.

Research conducted by Digital Awareness UK and HMC recently revealed that 45 per cent of teenagers check their phones in bed and 23 per cent checked as many as 10 times during the night. Almost all (94 per cent) of these students are on social media after going to bed. So, as practitioners, how can we stay abreast of the latest trends, technologies and terminology young people are using online and provide them with the right and relevant information during the school day?

We fully support last year’s research findings from BESA (British Educational Suppliers’ Association) which prompted a call for e-safety to be a part of every teacher’s ongoing CPD. Its survey of more than 1,300 ICT lead teachers in schools showed that 51 per cent of teachers in their primary schools, and 49 per cent in secondaries, “need training in e-safety issues”.

Reported in the TES, Patrick Hayes, director at BESA said there was no “silver bullet” to solve the problem, but e-safety should be a part of every teacher’s CPD so they can keep up with an area that changes rapidly.

Schools and academies play a key role in promoting and ensuring e-safety. As such, e-safety training should be a key element of every school or academy safeguarding training remit. The digital world is an ever-changing environment and it is vital for training to keep pace with IT infrastructure and progress. Therefore, it is critical that governance, staff and volunteers have a clear understanding of this topic to effectively safeguard themselves, the organisation, pupils, staff and visitors.

In SSS Learning’s latest e-safety course you will learn about:

To find out more, visit: https://ssscpd.co.uk/e-safety/

National CSE Awareness Day: our schools deserve a promotion

Posted by Sam Preston

To stamp out Child Sexual Exploitation, we must involve all agencies which are influencing the lives of children and young people. So, the HM Government proposal to focus its latest Keeping children safe in education guidance around a strengthened tri-partnership between local authorities, healthcare services and the police, highlights a huge missed opportunity in including education as a key partner.

Omitting educationalists as key partners is unfathomable, and a decision I believe should be reconsidered if we are to benefit from a truly multi-agency approach to safeguarding.

This news comes off the back of an extremely worrying year for safeguarding in the UK. In the past month alone, we’ve witnessed the disturbing historical sexual abuse allegations uncovered in Telford and received news that child sex crime allegations have reached a record high in the UK. In almost 14,000 cases, the complainant was aged 10 or under, with 2,788 of the alleged offences perpetrated against children aged four or under.

The consultation on changes to Keeping children safe in education closed in February. The new guidance on how to deal with sexual assaults and sexual harassment committed by children on other children is a very positive step, however, I sincerely hope that the consultation will provide greater clarification of the individual roles and responsibilities of each agency, particularly schools, together with how multi-agency liaison will be improved.

Reflecting on the past 12 months, it is clear there is a real necessity this year to invest in learning and professional development to inform practice on the changes in legislation and guidance and development in the ways children and their abusers are accessing information and interacting.

The online world, for example, is constantly evolving, presenting new safeguarding challenges, so it is critical that every frontline professional working with children has the most up-to-date effective training to safeguard children and young people.

Ahead of National CSE Awareness Day, I’m championing the critical role all educational settings play in child protection and making the case for education’s place as an official partner in the government strategy. Let’s embrace this expertise in prevention and management of those at risk.

Daily contact

Outside of family life, school is where children spend the most time and where many trusting relationships are built between children and adults. Teachers have deep knowledge of each child’s behaviour and are in the strongest position to detect if a child displays worrying signs something isn’t right or if they are being negatively affected by social circumstances.

Early intervention

Daily contact with pupils, combined with quality safeguarding training and CPD, sees schools identifying and managing low level safeguarding concerns daily. Early intervention is critical to child protection and schools contribute significantly to this process.

Official attendance

Once in the education system, non-attendance is officially recorded and flagged. In some families where abuse is occurring, we see disengagement with health services – from missed doctor’s appointments and vaccinations, or visits to the dentist. Parents are legally bound to send their children to school, so any change in the norm is quickly identified and intervention can take place.

A trusted ear

For many children being abused, their safe place is not at home. Educational settings provide stability for these children, a safe place where there is routine and support from someone they can trust. In many cases they are a lifeline for abused children. 

Contact with families

In addition to ensuring academic progress, effective schools develop partnerships with parents and others to support the learning process, nurturing self-esteem and confidence in young people. While ‘hard to reach’ parents pose a significant challenge, schools have some of the strongest strategies for nurturing positive parental engagement.

Educators: the unsung heroes of International Women’s Day

Posted by Sam Preston

To mark International Women’s Day, I want to celebrate those who work tirelessly every, single, day, with thousands of girls and young women to protect them from abuse and neglect and make determined steps towards gender equality and parity. This is a time to celebrate achievements; to look at how far we've come, how far we must go, and what we've learned along the way.

Let’s celebrate those that take safeguarding as seriously as teaching the curriculum, those that strive to learn all they can about abusive behaviour and how to spot it, and those that are an ear, sometimes the only safe person a child can confide in.

Whilst the UK has made huge strides in industry to support women’s talent; engineering and construction are just two that stand out to me, the state of the nation is, if we do not stamp out violence against women, equality and parity will never be achieved. And it’s the tireless work of our education staff, GPs, nurses and voluntary workers that puts us in the strongest position to do this.

Yes, there’s always lots more to be done to stop British girls falling victim to abusive behaviours – Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), forced marriage, child sexual exploitation, breast ironing, need I go on? But, in our education system, we must recognise our educators are spectacular people, who really care and are doing their utmost to take abuse out of the equation for every child.

Immersed in school safeguarding training every day, I can hand on heart say, there is not a strong enough push from Government or regulatory bodies to ensure that high quality safeguarding training is effective and completed regularly enough to make this difference just yet. There are a myriad of different forms of abuse, regulations, advice and strategies out there, and it’s complex. Changes in an abused child’s behaviour or attitude can be so subtle, it could easily be missed, yet under the Duty of Care, frontline professionals must be equipped to spot them. This takes some serious training, and I don’t mean sat in a room with 10 other teaching colleagues listening to a PowerPoint presentation. I mean individually assessed, quality training on each and every abuse subject, to be absolutely sure our frontline professionals have the tools to protect our children.

We’re already working with over 175,000 people to protect children and young people from abuse and in the next 12 months we aim to add thousands to this number so that by International Women’s Day 2019, thousands more girls are protected, enabling them to achieve their full potential unhindered by abuse.

So, in the spirit of celebration, here are just some the safeguarding campaigners, specialists and heroes from across the industry SSS Learning is keen to commend on International Women’s Day (and a handy list of their Twitter handles!):

Ceri Stokes (@CeriStokes) – Assistant Head Designated Safeguarding Lead and Boarding Housemistress interested in all safeguarding issues and PSHE topics @UKPastoralChat lead.

Paul Murphy (@e21cTrust) – CEO of E21C Bromley’s Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) and Headteacher of @RavensbourneSch.

Claire Lotriet (@OhLottie) – Assistant head. SLE: maths, computing, KS2. Author: @SwitchedOnComp Learn to Code. @TES columnist. @NAACE Award Winner. @proudofmyselfie creator. Google Cert.

Hibo Wardere (@HiboWardere) – Anti-FGM campaigner, author, global & public speaker. Survivor of FGM.

Charlotte Avery (@headmistresssmc) – Headmistress of St Mary’s School, Cambridge @StMarysSch | Vice President of The Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) @GSAUK.

Amanda Spielman (@amanda_spielman) – Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Ofsted.

Jim Gamble (@JimGamble_INEQE) – Safeguarding, Social Networks, Criminal Justice & Media commentator.

Prof Kalwant Bhopal (@KalwantBhopal) – Professor of Education and Social Justice, University of Birmingham. Interests: Race, Racism, Gender, Class, Inequalities, Social Justice, Equity.

Keziah Featherstone (@keziah70) Co-founder & National Leader of #WomenEd. Member of #HTRT. School Leader. Mum. Writer of stuff. Currently being 10% braver.

Bruce Adamson (@Bruce_Adamson) – Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland - promoting and safeguarding children’s rights.

Maria O’Neill (@DaringOptimist) – Passionate about CPD, Founder of @UKPastoralChat.

Anne Longfield (@ChildrensComm) – Children’s Commissioner for England - she promotes and protects children’s rights.

Adi Bloom (@adibloom_tes) – Journalist at @tes, and author of The Tes Little Book of Grammar.

Ann Mroz (@AnnMroz) – Editor and Digital Publishing Director, Tes (Times Educational Supplement).

Sarah Champion (@SarahChampionMP) – Labour member of parliament for Rotherham.

Take great care when interpreting child protection data trends

Posted by Sam Preston

This month’s BBC Panorama episode “Children Abusing Children” revealed a steep rise in peer on peer abuse in the UK. A shocking statistic – yes, however, whilst these figures are alarming, we do need to carefully consider how to accurately define what they actually indicate.

As a result of freedom of information requests, latest statistics evidence a 71 per cent rise in reports of peer on peer abuse from 2013, 4,603 reports, to 7,866 in 2016. According to figures obtained by BBC Panorama, 74 per cent of these reports resulted in no further action being taken. All forms of child sexual exploitation are abhorrent but what is particularly worrying is that during the same period there have been 2,625 reported sexual offences, including 225 cases of rape, alleged to have taken place on primary and secondary school premises.

As with all areas of child protection, great care must be taken when interpreting data trends. New areas of data capture, for example online sexual offences, not previously included in categories, which may present a skewed representation of increase. Additionally, where an increase in offences is shown this may not necessarily mean this activity is becoming more prevalent, it may reflect improvement in detection rates.

What the data across the UK does indicate is that allowing for new types / methods of sexual abuse, there is a pattern of increase in detection and offence rates. As at 31st March, in England reports of sexual offences against children have increased sharply by 19%.

Children aged 16 and 17 are to a great extent not included in this statistic as the data on crimes such as rape and sexual assault is grouped with adult statistics. Due to this method of data collection, the true scale of sexual offending against all children under 18 cannot be analysed.

In Scotland, in 2016 reports of sexual offences against children under the age of 16 have increased sharply by 7% and over the past decade, sexual offences against this age group have increased by 68%. 2016 data shows that in Northern Ireland, reports of sexual offences against children have increased with a 26% increase in offences of sexual assaults and 24% increase in offences involving sexual activity. There were 46 offences of sexual grooming recorded compared to 4 in the previous year.

As the case studies featured in the programme demonstrate, despite the increase in legislation and statutory guidance and inspection requirements to demonstrate the prevention and management of peer on peer abuse, best practice models are not being robustly implemented. This indicates a need to refocus our best practice models, ensure all staff in schools and academies are equipped to recognise and support potential and actual victims of this type of abuse together with appropriate action for the perpetrators. The need for high quality training and individual assessment of staff knowledge to ensure best practice is absolutely essential, otherwise more children will be failed as those featured in the BBC programme.

Tagged with: CSE
Oct 18, 2017

Knowledge saves lives
National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day 2017

Posted by SSS

This National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day, SSS Learning is raising awareness of the many types of child sexual exploitation (CSE) uncovered and investigated every day in the UK. We urge government and the public sector to make stronger recommendations concerning the depth and frequency of safeguarding training for frontline professionals tasked with protecting children and young people.

Our big message on this important day, is this: “knowledge is power – frontline professionals need better access to training and resources to stay on top of the latest legislation updates, support and intervention techniques.”

CSE is a type of sexual abuse, which can be a violent as well as degrading experience, requiring sound knowledge and expertise by professionals to identify those at risk and/or support victims.

In the case of sexting and use of modern technology, CSE does not always involve physical contact. According to figures released by the Labour Party, sexting; sharing of sexually explicit images, photos or messages by under 16s, rose by an astonishing 1204% in two years. Whilst much is being done in schools to empower young people to keep themselves safe and develop proficient ICT and mobile phone usage policies, staff must also be trained to spot signs of certain behaviours to identify children at risk of this form of abuse outside the school gates. New sexting guidance for schools was released by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety last September to support educators.

Witnessing high profile CSE cases such as former Crewe Alex youth coach Barry Bennell, now charged with 20 counts of suspected abuse, and former independent school teacher Patrick Marshall, it is clear that child abuse is very much part of the national consciousness and public debate in Britain right now. To stop this legacy continuing, more must be done to ensure that teachers, doctors, nurses and voluntary workers clearly understand their legal responsibility and acquire the expertise to deliver appropriate services.

The world of legislative protection for young people is continuously evolving in line with case learnings and outcomes. For example, the Department for Education has released updates to its ‘Working together to safeguard children (Sep 2016)’ statutory guidance and “Child sexual exploitation: definition and guide for practitioners” (Feb 2017) which impacts upon the CSE legal requirements placed upon schools. It is essential that any frontline professional trained before these dates, understand the latest requirements they are required toembed in everyday safeguarding practice.

The more we learn from cases; historic and current, the stronger the case becomes for safeguarding to be firmly embedded in CPD. Whilst public sector officials are wrestling with budget uncertainties and pressure to cut training reserves, the fact that over 57,000 children are currently identified as needing protection from abuse in the UK, is a stark reminder of the situation we are dealing with. Furthermore, it is estimated that, for every child identified as needing protection from abuse, another eight are suffering abuse.

In the current financial climate, ensuring your staff are one hundred percent up-to-date might feel daunting, however by changing our approach to safeguarding training and using modern approaches it is achievable. Supported by a quality safeguarding partner, you will be alerted to changes in legislation and guidance and provided with updated resources to share with staff.

Here’s a useful checklist for senior frontline professionals tasked with procuring CSE training. The content should:

  1. Comprehensively define Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE);
  2. Provide a comprehensive understanding of legislation and statutory requirements within educational settings;
  3. Enable staff to recognise the key CSE risk indicators;
  4. Include the role of school or academy governance regarding CSE;
  5. Identify individual staff roles in protecting pupils from / responding to incidents of CSE;
  6. Provide details on when and how to refer children and young people.

During National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day we’ll be sharing the great work being done to promote awareness. Please let us know what you’re doing to mark this important initiative via Twitter, or Facebook.

Here are just some of the great campaigns running:
Enfield residents urged to spot signs of child sexual exploitation (via Enfield Today)
Councillors in South Tyneside backing campaign to raise awareness of child exploitation (via ITV.com)
Isle of White Local Safeguarding Children’s Board joins the fight against child sexual exploitation (via On the Wight)

Tagged with: News CSE
Mar 17, 2017

Child Sexual Exploitation

Posted by Sam Preston

Whilst Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) has been firmly embedded in the safeguarding remit for schools and academies through legislative and inspection frameworks, the allegation of abuse made by former England international football player Paul Stewart now casts the spotlight on other organisations working with and supporting children and young people. In a BBC interview yesterday, Mr Stewart described how abuse of young boys training to become footballers was not uncommon, alleging he himself had been a victim over a four year period by a club coach. He stated that “the sport could face allegations on the scale of the Jimmy Savile scandal”. Within 24 hours of this statement four more footballers have spoken out about historical child abuse connected with the sport. Ex-Crewe player Andy Woodward has described having experienced abuse by former coach and football scout Barry Bennell who, in 1998, was sentenced to nine years in prison after admitting to sexual offences involving six boys.

Power and control are the powerful grooming mediums CSE perpetrators skilfully use to manipulate and dominate children. It is easy to see how young boys dreaming of a football career in a competitive environment could be vulnerable to such perpetrators, adults they believe are key to making their dream a reality. Whilst these allegations place scrutiny on the world of football, it would be naïve to believe this is the only sport where children are vulnerable.

Current legislation to protect children and young people only places demands for comprehensive safeguarding arrangements on those working within education, health and social care. Safeguarding children within sport and leisure activities is at the discretion of the organisation or club, there are no inspection frameworks to measure quality or performance. Most clubs / organisations now carry out Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) vetting checks however this is only a small part of the safeguarding agenda. Such checks will only prevent those legally prohibited or who have previous convictions from working with children. They provide no safeguarding measure against the perpetrator unknown to the police or state.

We need to widen the scope to protect children involved in sport and leisure activities at all levels. To do this effectively requires robust safeguarding policy and protocols, routinely audited to make sure they are transferred into everyday practice. All adults involved in the delivery and support of such services must have access to high quality, accredited training to enable a culture of collective responsibility. Only then will we foster the vigilance needed to protect and keep children safe.

Tagged with: CSE News
Nov 25, 2016

Children in London at risk because of “serious failings” by Met Police

Posted by Sam Preston

Following recent criticism in the handling of child missing cases and aspects of the serial killer Stephen Port investigation, today has seen further pressure on police forces to improve their child protection arrangements following the damming findings of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary on the London Metropolitan police’s performance in dealing with child sexual abuse.

Inspectors findings revealed that in over 75% of cases reviewed, practice was judged to be inadequate or in need of improvement. Much of the report focused on failings in leadership and management together with a lack of information sharing (internally and externally) however, the most worrying aspect revealed by the report is that staff, including child sexual exploitation officers, had not received any CSE training.

In a statement responding to the findings, the Met reassured the public that officers were “dedicated to protecting vulnerable young people” but, whilst no one would challenge the Met’s commitment to protect vulnerable children, surely high quality CSE training is a key priority to enable best practice.

In response, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has stated the report findings are “simply unacceptable and things must change” and plans to improve the service with “a new independent group of child protection experts”. Whilst this response is welcomed and will no doubt inform improvement, it falls short from addressing the key issue, that of failure to invest in high quality CSE cpd training for Met officers.

As we have seen in education, health and social care settings, without this investment practice will simply not improve and children will remain at risk.

Tagged with: CSE News
Nov 25, 2016