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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.

Speak up for those that are silenced: Self-Injury/Harm Awareness Day

Posted by SSS

“If we can stamp out childhood abuse and neglect, we give young people a greater chance of cutting the cycle of self-harm and injury and give them a voice”, says safeguarding specialist Sam Preston this Self-Injury/Harm Awareness Day…

The link between abuse and neglect during childhood and self-harming behaviour as an adult has long been researched and founded. However, just last year, the number of children in England and Wales being hospitalised due to self-harm has risen sharply, highlighting a serious need for early intervention. This Self-Injury/Harm Awareness Day, we ask the big question: who will speak up for children and young people silenced by abuse?

Nearly 19,000 children were treated in hospital for self-harm last year, representing a 14 percent increase in cases over the past three years. Those aged between 13 and 17 were identified as highest risk by the NSPCC. Whilst different issues have linked to this rise, including social pressures and the rise of social network usage, the fundamental issue of abuse, whether that be bullying by peers, through to serious child protection issues, is still a large influence in those that go on to self-harm. The fact that we are seeing children as young as 12 taking such violent and drastic steps to alleviate their emotional pain and suffering is an urgent call to action.

One area that we deal with in our training courses, is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); a practice which leaves far more than physical scars on its victims. Girls as young as three years-old are subjected to this brutal practice and thus, there are strong links to a multitude of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Sadly, for some, self-harm is the release they use to deal with this drastic form of child abuse. As FGM is a cultural issue, it is not typically viewed as an abuse issue by the victim’s family, so it really is down to frontline professionals in our schools, doctor’s surgeries and hospitals to identify and report it.

Children and adults alike, often try to keep self-harm a secret because of shame or fear of discovery and typically, it is often down to close family and friends to notice it and open discussion. However, for many children who have gone on to self-harm due to abuse, it could be family or a friend that’s still responsible for that abuse. So, what more can be done to help those silenced by abuse to find their voice and open up about self-harm? This is where frontline professionals play an increasingly important role. Doctors, nurses, teachers together with voluntary workers are now legally bound to support, intervene and report suspected cases of abuse in the UK. In many cases, it’s their vigilance that is helping to protect so many children and young people, and for some, to cut the cycle of self-harm by helping them to open up about the problem.

To support young people, we must acknowledge that self-harm is a symptom rather than the core problem. It masks underlying emotional and psychological trauma and our strategies must take this into account. Effective safeguarding practice across the public sector is central to this strategy. A greater investment in quality, individual training for front-line professionals across all modern-day safeguarding issues which may be impacting upon a person’s mental health and wellbeing is critical. The deeper we can understand abuse and neglect cases and intervene early, the greater chance we have of reducing levels of self-harm amongst young people.

This Self-Injury/Harm Awareness Day we commend the thousands of frontline professionals working tirelessly to protect children and young people in Britain in a bid to provide a voice for those that are silenced.

FGM: Is it a British priority?

Posted by SSS

On International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM 2017, we ask the big question: is this really a British priority?

Over 130 million girls and women globally have experienced some form of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); an extreme type of child abuse affecting girls as young as three years-old. But, as estimated statistics show, it mostly happens to girls outside the UK, so should this be a British priority?

“You wouldn’t look the other way at knife or gun crime, and FGM is no different. It’s a violent crime, an abuse and defilement of human rights resulting in long standing physical and emotional difficulties. Shockingly, an estimated 5,700 UK resident girls and young women have been cut so clearly FGM remains a British safeguarding priority”

- Sam Preston, e-learning & training director, SSS Learning Ltd.

Classed as an honour-based crime, whereby acts of violence are committed to protect the perceived reputation and / or beliefs of the family or community, FGM isn’t right and certainly isn’t legal. Violence against women committed in the name of “honour” is a growing problem in Britain with UK police forces reporting 11,744 honour based crimes between 2010 and 2014. These figures include FGM abuse.

In most European countries, HBV is almost entirely associated with immigrant communities maintaining the tribal or cultural values of the country of origin. Research indicates that HBV is more prevalent in first-generation immigrant populations, which highlights the importance of greater integration of minority communities as key to reducing this violence.

From a child protection perspective, the known statistics are largely unhelpful; every girl living in the UK should be protected from abuse. As frontline professionals, it’s our legal duty to report all suspected cases to the police.

“You wouldn’t look the other way at knife or gun crime, and FGM is no different.”

Amongst the vast research and projects being conducted globally, it is encouraging to see fantastic new work being done in the UK and Ireland. Just this month, ActionAid Ireland has launched new research as part of its its AFTER (Against Female Genital Mutilation / Cutting Through Empowerment and Rejection) project to empower women in Ireland to reject FGM, whilst rights-based group Oxford Against Cutting is releasing its ‘Are You Ready to Know?’ film, documenting the impact of FGM on our women. Great things are also happening across Europe as we saw BanFGM take place in Rome last week. The conference drew together campaign groups, United Nations (UN) officials and government ministers to discuss how to end the practice and called for attention to be focused beyond Africa.

What is the challenge in Britain?

Whilst work around the world focuses on discouragement of FGM in practicising communities, the challenge in the UK is altogether different. Here, we must focus efforts on training our frontline professionals to proficiently spot the warning signs and intervene early, before British girls undergo FGM. We cannot afford to sit back and wait for daughters to report their families to the authorities, this is something that will just never happen.

“If FGM practitioners and communities are to be brought to prosecution under UK child protection law, we must arm teachers, doctors, nurses and voluntary sector workers with the right training to embed this concern in the child protection remit.”

- Sam Preston, e-learning & training director, SSS Learning Ltd.

FGM is ILLEGAL in Britain and has been since 1985 - that’s the bottom line. Interestingly, during ActionAid Ireland’s AFTER research last year, it was discovered that less than 1 in 5 women’s health service providers were aware that FGM is also illegal in Ireland and less than 30% of the participants had received some training on FGM as part of general trainings on violence against women.

So, what can be done in times of austerity and budget uncertainty here in the UK? If the latest news is anything to go by, then reform is much needed - just this month we’ve witnessed the closure of a top London FGM clinic, with Ealing Council citing budget constraints as the key deciding factor. The Acton African Well Woman Centre has helped over 1000 women deal with the trauma of FGM.

We believe that high quality e-learning is an effective solution, replacing cost prohibitive face-to-face training and embedding informed practice across the public sector. Our online training courses alone have already helped over 100,000 frontline professionals to become individually certified in the latest child protection issues. In addition, where prevention is too late, our training also ensures professionals are properly equipped to support FGM victims. A key point addressed in the Government’s ‘Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy 2016 - 2020’ is that, in order to tackle violence against women and girls, it must be everybody’s business. From health providers to law enforcement, educationalists, employers, friends and family we all need to be equipped to play our part.

UNICEF says that as many as 30 million girls could be cut in the next decade - let’s work together to address this and do our part in ensuring British women do not contribute to this figure!

What is Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting?

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting or FGM/C refers to all procedures that involve partial or total destruction of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. In some countries around the world, mainly in Africa, FGM/C is a harmful cultural practice and an extreme form of sanctioned violence and discrimination against women.

Tagged with: FGM News
Feb 6, 2017

A different kind of Christmas ‘party’ – young girls mutilated

Posted by Sam Preston

Aisha* is seven years-old and like many children her age, is excited about the presents and parties most of us look forward to at Christmas here in the UK. However, for Aisha, her ‘special party’ involves traveling abroad to be brutally mutilated to ‘fit in’ with her family’s culture.

This Christmas, girls as young as three years-old are at risk of being subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as their families make the trip during the extended school break. Over 5,700 British girls were subjected to this abuse just last year.

This form of abuse is most common in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, however it is happening both here in the UK as well as abroad. If a girl is British born, she is protected under our law, and FGM is illegal whether it’s conducted here or abroad.

Carried out as a cultural ‘rite of passage’, girls are subjected to intense physical and emotional pain as they fall victim to one of four types of FGM, all resulting in the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. Carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15, most commonly before puberty starts, the health implications of FGM are both immediate and long-term, affecting sex, relationships, childbirth and mental wellbeing throughout a woman’s life. Sadly, families who support the practice of FGM don’t think of it as abuse so it’s up to us as frontline professionals to support and protect these young girls.

As the Christmas break approaches, it is vital that health, education and voluntary sector professionals are properly trained and extra vigilant. The Christmas holidays is a prime time for FGM to take place, as this allows more time for them to “heal” before they return to school. Teachers, doctors and nurses should listen out for certain terminology such as cutting, sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan, amongst others, or that young girls are being taken abroad for a ‘special party’.

If FGM is suspected, even if it’s not recently, all frontline professionals are legally obligated to report it to the police. There are now severe penalties for carrying out or facilitating FGM to be carried out, including taking a girl abroad for the procedure. In addition, if anyone (including teachers) is found guilty of failing to protect a girl from FGM, they can face up to seven years in prison.

In an education and societal system which promotes women’s rights, aims to blast the glass ceiling and help our young women excel in a plethora of career options including science and engineering, such deep-rooted inequality and discrimination has no place in the UK. If we unite as frontline professionals, the fight to end FGM is within our grasp!

If you suspect that FGM might take place, it is imperative that you follow the correct safeguarding and reporting procedures. The new statutory requirements for all professionals in relation to the reporting of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) introduced last October are available online here.

Key statistics:

  • In 2015, More than 1,300 new cases of FGM were reported in three months alone - with half of the victims in London (Oct-Dec 2015)
  • 35 women in those cases were first seen when under 18
  • Somalia, in Eastern Africa, accounts for more than a third newly recorded women and girls with a known country of birth
  • FGM has been a crime in the UK for 30 years, but there have been no convictions for the practice.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3481809/More-1-300-new-cases-FGM-reported-three-months-half-victims-London.html#ixzz4PzR04BIY

Tagged with: FGM News
Dec 7, 2016

Improved FGM training support for frontline professionals this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Posted by Sam Preston

This International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25th November 2016), I want to commend the tireless work our frontline professionals across education, healthcare and the voluntary sector are doing every single day to help protect Britain’s young girls from child abuse. To do this effectively though requires investment in individualised training readily available to all.

This year, we are focusing on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), an extreme form of violence against young girls’ way before womanhood is even on the horizon. Whilst to some it may appear to be an issue affecting distant parts of the world, the harsh reality is, that just last year 5,700 British girls as young as three years-old suffered this violation of human rights at the hands of ‘cultural beliefs’. It is every girl’s birth rite to grow up in a safe environment and enter womanhood free from abuse. Whilst our education, healthcare and voluntary sector workers strive to provide united protection, there is still much to be done to end FGM for Britons, let alone globally.

We believe that high quality e-learning provides the much needed investment injection to equip individual teachers, nurses, GPs, care workers and voluntary sector staff with the knowledge, skills and confidence to identify and support young girls at risk. In addition, where prevention is too late, training can also ensure professionals are equipped to support FGM victims. A key point addressed in the Government’s ‘Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy 2016 - 2020’ is that in order to tackle violence against women and girls, it must be everybody’s business. From health providers to law enforcement, educationalists, employers, friends and family we all need to play our part.

The report also emphasises the action needed to allow women to disclose violence as part of their everyday interactions so that we can support earlier identification and intervention to stop violence and abuse from escalating to critical levels.

Significant new legislation such as the Home Office Affairs Committee this autumn is now in place and s pecific offences related to failing to protect from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), however, the training I see as a safeguarding specialist, particularly in schools, demonstrates a need for a serious shake-up. Currently, there’s no official guidance or advice on methods of training, simply that it must take place annually. Educators play such an important role in child protection, should we not be approaching it in the same way as CRB checks, or even the driving test? Shouldn’t every single teacher/support staff member be individually trained, assessed and certified?

To gather large groups of teaching staff together all on one day, once a year, to complete safeguarding training, usually conducted on an INSET day is no mean feat. People may be absent and like new staff members joining during the year, have to wait until the next planned session. Training in large groups makes it difficult to assess individual learning outcomes. In any group of people, there will be a varied range of prior knowledge, those more confident to participate and then there are those inhibited by informal hierarchies who are more comfortable sitting back and observing. How can we be sure in group training that every single person leaves the session competent and confident to deal with modern safeguarding issues? Whilst individual face-to-face training is unfeasible financially, e-learning is playing a key role in safeguarding training. Online learning anytime, anywhere is a mantra we advocate as educationalists, and this is making a huge impact in teacher training across many disciplines.

We’re already working with over 60,000 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 Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2017, thousands more girls are protected, enabling them to achieve their full potential unhindered by abuse.

Tagged with: FGM News
Nov 25, 2016

Hello from the new home of safeguarding

Posted by SSS

UK teachers are now being trained individually online how to identify those at risk or suffering from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and protect Britain’s young girls from extreme child abuse.

Developed by SSS Learning as a ‘much needed’ catalyst for change in safeguarding training the hour-long course is fully CPD-accredited and certifies individual educators, replacing ‘often insufficient’ traditional group training methods.

“Performed both in the UK and abroad on girls as young as three years old, FGM is a complex, cross-cultural issue which requires a thorough understanding of its origins, forms and how to efficiently identify those at risk” says SSS Learning Director Sam Preston.

As a former local authority child protection expert, Sam feels, when planning training it is vital “to consider that members of staff in all likelihood will have varied levels of understanding of the topic which may also include knowledge which is not evidence based, making individual assessment critical to ensure that the desired learning outcomes are properly understood.”

Historically, most training is delivered by INSET sessions on-site which is problematic. It relies on the provider having the specialist area skillset which may not be setting or inspection requirement specific, learning is not fully evaluated and those absent or staff recruited post INSET have to wait for refresher training which may be as long as a year later.

New statutory requirements for all professionals in relation to the reporting of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) were introduced in October 2015. By completing this module, teachers will gain the latest information on this topic, legislative requirements and a clear understanding of their role in supporting those affected and reporting pathways.

The course also meets the Department for Education (DfE) 2016 Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance which emphasizes the importance of regular updates and annual safeguarding / child protection training.

Sam adds: “Fundamentally, FGM is child abuse under UK law, and it is our mandatory duty to safeguard both those we deem vulnerable, and those where intervention has been too late. This new course will help every educator play an ever vital role in our cross-disciplinary approach to FGM child protection.”

The organisation works with over 60,000 frontline professionals across the education, healthcare & third/voluntary sectors.

Please visit ssscpd.co.uk/fgm or follow us on Twitter (@SSSLearning) for more info.

Tagged with: FGM News
Sep 27, 2016

Train, not blame!

Posted by Sam Preston

Whilst the recommendations of the Home Office Affairs Committee on FGM released today are welcomed, in reality how practically can we expect rapid progress within educational settings? As the report correctly identifies, FGM is child abuse and should be a key area of safeguarding for all frontline practitioners. However, in my experience as a safeguarding advisor the quality and current level of training inadequately prepares teachers and support staff to fulfil their FGM prevention, awareness reporting roles. In fact, I have never visited a school where the impact of FGM training has been assessed or evaluated in practice.

The call yet again for PSHE to be made a statutory part of the curriculum and include discussing FGM with pupils will require teachers to have a sound knowledge base together with transferable practice skills when FGM concerns are raised. The only way this can be achieved is by access to high quality training where learning is firmly embedded. I believe it is time to revisit traditional training models in schools and academies. Currently, training is delivered by INSET sessions on-site which is problematic. It relies on the provider having the specialist area skillset which may not be setting or inspection requirement specific, learning is not fully evaluated and those absent have to wait for refresher training which may be as long as a year later. Surely e-learning has a key role to play to reassure leadership that all new staff are trained as part of their induction and existing staff gain secure subject knowledge. This offers the opportunity for any further training to be setting specific, where bespoke protocols can be developed by informed staff.

On the BBC today Naz Shah MP, a member of the FGM Home Affairs Committee, stated frontline practitioners should lose their jobs if they fail to report FGM but perhaps her attention would be better focused on how we enable them to deliver a very full safeguarding remit.

Tagged with: FGM News
Sep 15, 2016