National CSE Awareness Day: our schools deserve a promotion

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.

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

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:

  • Potential internet related threats.
  • The development of e-safety procedures in accordance the legislative framework.
  • How to implement effective controls on the use of the school network and the internet.
  • Measures to ensure that all stakeholders use technology in accordance to school e-safety policies.
  • How to allow the benefits of the internet to be enjoyed whilst protecting the e-safety of students and staff from the dangers of the internet.

To find out more, visit:

Educators: the unsung heroes of International Women’s Day

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.