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.