Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 28th March 2019

National Education Union Secretary suspended

A teaching union representative has said that it is better that one child is stabbed than to have schools erect knife detector arches. In response to an announcement re plans to introduce knife arches and detecting wands in schools made by an East London council borough, Redbridge National Education Union joint divisional secretary Kash Malik stated (in an interview with the Ilford Recorder and confirmed to the Tes) “Knife arches are not the answer. I have never been in favour of them and schools shouldn’t have to worry about it, it should be an environment where you should be focusing on studying.” Malik went on to say “It is better to have one child stabbed at school than to have an environment where no one is stabbed at school and everyone carries knives outside of school.”

Malik’s argument that knife arches would “normalise carrying knives except at school” and comments have been met with much criticism on social media. Sean Harford, HMI and National Director, Education of Ofsted tweeted:

Our Safeguarding Director, Sam Preston, also contributed questioning “Where is the evidence base that introducing arches & wands in schools would increase the number of incidents elsewhere or that more knives would be carried? Let’s look at why children are carrying knives – sometimes it’s because they don’t feel safe – and work to change the culture.

Following his much-publicised comments, the National Education Union (NEU) has suspended Malik. Fewer than half of London’s secondary schools and FE colleges have taken up the Mayor of London’s offer of free knife-detecting wands, indicating that the strategy of such equipment as part of safeguarding strategies is still a subject for debate.

Lessons from London

Following on from the blog by our Safeguarding Director (We know what works, we need capacity now, 13/03/19) Mike Sheridan, Ofsted’s regional director for London, has said that too few schools are brought around the table to deal with knife crime. Sheridan’s statement follows the publication of Ofsted research, which looked at how children are protected from knife violence in school and taught to be safe outside school settings.

The research findings, based on survey responses from over 100 secondary schools, colleges and pupil referral units across London, found that stronger multi-agency partnerships are needed to support schools to deal with knife crime and to iron out inconsistencies in the approach to counter the complex societal problems which lie behind the rise in knife crime.

The report also identified that no single body has a clear grasp of “managed moves”, a process which involves moving pupils who carry knives to other mainstream schools or pupil referral units. In order to help monitor this process, the report calls for the DfE to collect and publish data to evaluate what happens to these children, if the process keeps them safe and to measure their educational outcomes.

Whilst identifying that the valuable role schools, academies and colleges can play in local partnerships is not being realised, the report falls short from identifying how capacity issues to enable this participation by staff from educational settings may be achieved.

Serious Violence Summit

Yesterday in the House of Commons Prime Minister Theresa May announced that a Serious Violence Summit will convene next Monday to gather evidence, which will then be examined in a series of round table discussions, to develop the Serious Crime Strategy. We will be following and reporting on the outcomes from the summit and subsequent discussions.

Contextual Safeguarding – is our Child Protection system fit for purpose?

As promised in last week’s bulletin, we are keeping you up-to-date with evidence presented to the Home Affairs Committee on subject of serious violence. This month, Dr Carlene Firmin (MBE Principal Research Fellow at University of Bedfordshire), Dr Simon Harding (Professor in Criminology University of West London) and Junior Smart (Business Development Manager at St Giles Trust) gave evidence outlining their thoughts on the increase in serious violence in the last few years.

The panel heard evidence highlighting the intersecting factors thought to be responsible for the escalation in serious violence and gang membership which included the lack of resource to respond, the loss of youth services as community guardians (which also impacts on safe spaces for young people) and contextual safeguarding which places young people at risk of exposure to violence. The evidence presented identified the different forms of serious violence now experienced clearly as child protection issues however, it highlighted the failings of using the current child protection system which is designed to deal with abuse within families not outside family situations. The current child protection system has not been resourced or equipped to cope with contextual safeguarding and manage or protect children.

In 2007-09, following an increase in knife crimes and shootings, children were moved out of urban spaces into care placements in rural counties. Many of these rural areas were, and still aren’t, equipped to manage and support the relocated children who have been groomed into violence. It is also pertinent to question if this relocation model has contributed to the phenomena known as “County lines”, as many are relocated within easy travelling distance to their original areas and, with access to mobile and social media networks, remain in contact with those putting them at risk.

It is clear that the current safeguarding framework is ill equipped to adequately support teenage children and that the “referring in” system simply isn’t working. Current assessment processes do not adequately access or reflect the child’s lifestyle and way of thinking e.g. evolution into gang culture, and referrals are compromised by secure family assessments. The result is that vulnerable children who have such secure family assessments do not meet thresholds for intervention and, because of this, there is no process to resolve the contextual risks of exposure to abuse and involvement in serious / violent crime.

We are featuring a blog on gang evolution in next week’s bulletin and will continue to keep you up-to-date with the further evidence presented to the committee in future bulletins.

Cuckooing

Cuckooing, closely linked to the phenomenon of County Lines (where gang members, or vulnerable people under their control, cross the border of their county into another county with the intention of selling drugs). It is a relatively new term used to describe how criminal gangs target the most isolated, vulnerable members of a community, befriending them with the intention of taking over their homes to create bases to deal drugs and carry out other criminal activities. There is no age limit to those being targeted however, older adults that are socially isolated can become easy targets with tactics of befriending, moving in and then taking over.

Cuckooing can take on many forms. Common used tactics are:

  • To befriend a socially isolated older person who lives alone with no family or friend support network. The older person is made to believe they have gained a friend who they then allow to stay at their home. They don’t realise that drug dealing activity is taking place or that they are being taken advantage of;
  • Where a female befriends a vulnerable male to become their “girlfriend” and then introduces “friends” into the vulnerable adult’s home, where drug dealing activity then takes place. The so called “girlfriend” may be a victim of exploitation used by the drug dealing gang;
  • Targeting a vulnerable person and supplying them with drugs to build up a debt they cannot repay enabling exploitation, threatening behaviour and violence. The vulnerable person becomes too frightened to seek help whilst their home is used by the gang.

Cuckooing is an exploitative practice directed at the most vulnerable in society which can also include current and ex drug users, socially isolated individuals, those with mental health difficulties, physical or learning disabilities. 

Local Authority rated “inadequate” due to Child Protection concerns

A damning Ofsted report has downgraded Stoke-on-Trent Local Authority Children’s Services to “inadequate” citing that “poor leadership” is failing to protect children.

Downgraded for overall effectiveness due to a raft of child protection failures during an inspection in February, the report specified that leadership, support for children in need of help and protection and support for care leavers and children in care were all inadequate with ineffective management of risk and thresholds not being consistently applied. Inspectors warned that “vulnerable children are not safeguarded in Stoke-on-Trent”.

The lack of foster placements was a particular area of concern with 56 children at the time of the inspection being placed in unregulated placements, some of which had not been fully assessed or approved by the authority and were known to be “unsafe”. Inspectors found that the rationale and management decisions of such placements were “missing from all children’s case records.” 

Previously rated “requires improvement” in 2015, and despite a focused visit in 2018 which highlighted concerns about high social worker caseloads and the quality of record keeping, this latest Ofsted inspection found that most of its recommendations had not been acted upon stating “Children are not being protected, and they experience serious and widespread delays in having their needs met across children’s services.”

In a Local Authority response to the report findings, leader Ann James said they ” take the ruling by Ofsted extremely seriously and are very concerned by the findings. It means that our practices are not robust enough to provide the best protection to meet the needs of our city’s vulnerable young people. This is unacceptable and we are committed to improving our service at pace for our children.”

#selfharm

Despite the widespread criticism of Instagram following the sad case of Molly Russell, the 14-year-old who took her own life after viewing self-harm images, a BBC investigation has found further evidence of children swapping graphic images of weight loss and advice on how to make their illnesses more extreme.

The BBC investigation found posts, hashtags, images and search terms promoting and glamorising eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia to be common on Instagram despite the platform, which is owned by Facebook, stating they were committed to removing all graphic self-harm images. In a statement Instagram said it does not allow content encouraging or promoting eating disorders and removes it when aware.

NHS Digital data shows a rise of more than 130% in those aged 19 and under suffering from eating disorders being admitted to hospital in England since 2011. In 2018 there were more than 2,000 admissions for children aged 15 or under – an increase of 163% on 2011 admissions.

In addition, on this subject, Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield recently tweeted: “In February, we searched Instagram using #selfharm and it brought up 640,000 results. Today the same search brings up 700,000 results.

It is clear that despite concerns and commitment to action, this issue is spiralling with vulnerable young people finding peer groups supporting their behaviour online. Together with warning young people and reinforcing the message that this is a form of online abuse, we can also safeguard children by recognising some of the signs of an eating disorder. The charity Beat recommends being mindful of behaviours which can include:

  • becoming obsessive about food
  • changes in behaviour
  • distorted belief about their body size
  • being often tired or struggling to concentrate
  • disappearing to the toilet after meals/ eating
  • starting / maintaining an excessive exercise regime

Safeguarding – holiday / ‘after hours’ provision

In the run up to Easter holidays when children may be accessing sports and other activities clubs, it’s very tempting to assume they meet safeguarding standards. But much publicised cases e.g. football coach Barry Bennell, tennis coach Daniel Sanders have shown that even clubs governed by national organisations can fail to meet statutory and best practice standards.

So, if your school / academy is contracting holiday activity provision, or looking to extend your after-school club provision, robust service level agreement checks are essential. Click here to see the 6 key things to consider before entering into contractual arrangements.

Welsh Government plans to ban smacking

The Welsh government plans to introduce a new ban on smacking children by ending the legal defence of “reasonable punishment” which may be currently used to counter common assault charges.

Currently it is illegal to hit a child in England and Wales however, parents or persons acting as parents have a legal defence that allows them to cite reasonable force unless the physical punishment leaves a mark on the child or if the child is hit with an implement. The introduction of the ban follows research published by the Welsh government in 2018 which found that 81% of parents disagreed it was sometimes necessary to smack a “naughty” child.

The Bill is due to be presented to the National Assembly and, following scrutiny by the Children and Young People’s Committee, findings will be debated by the full Assembly. If passed by the Assembly, the Bill could be still be halted though by referral to the Supreme Court or if the Secretary of State for Wales bans it being sent for Royal Assent.

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Safeguarding – holiday / ‘after hours’ provision

Contracting holiday activity provision, or looking to extend your after school club provision? Here are 6 key things to consider before entering into contractual arrangements.

  1. Does the club / organisation have a Safeguarding policy in place? It is essential to compare their policy with your governance arrangements to ensure all your expectations will be met. If the club / organisation doesn’t have a policy in place you may wish to build the relevant key areas of the school / academy’s policy into your service level agreement. This is important to not only protect the children attending, but your organisation, from potential litigation.
  2. Do you have the details for the club / organisation who you can contact if you have any concerns? Its important to have contact with the main organisation, not just the person providing the activity.
  3. Are safer recruitment procedures being adhered to? Its highly likely service provider staff will be working in “regulated activity” so check appropriate DBS vetting checks have been completed. (This should be recorded on your contractor section of the Single Central Record). Note: we would only recommend statements of assurance re DBS vetting are accepted from key agencies e.g. the Police, Local Authority or Health staff. All other providers should submit full DBS details for your records.
  4. Have the service providers completed safeguarding training? This should be accredited and meet all statutory requirements.
  5. Have service provider staff completed first aid training? If not and delivering services on your site, you will have to ensure this support is available.
  6. Are there written procedures on how any accidents or injuries will be managed? This includes both procedures for immediate response to accidents / incidents and reporting to you / parents.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 21st March 2019

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

Monday saw CSE Awareness day, the annual event to raise awareness of this issue within everybody’s child protection remit. CSE is a form of sexual abuse where people under 18yrs are manipulated / coerced into sexual activity in exchange for money, gifts, accommodation, affection, status or under threat.

This abuse exists online too through the use of social media platforms and also on Dark Web sites (the unindexed part of the internet only accessible by means of special software which allows users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable). Only 2% of Dark Web sites are attributed to contain sexually exploitative content however, more than 80% of all Dark Web users access this area, which has content including the cataloguing of sexual images of children categorised by age and characteristics.

CSE can happen to any child, anywhere, in many forms- do you and your staff know the signs? Click through to our checklist.

Music teacher spared prohibition order

A music teacher has avoided a ban from teaching after a professional conduct panel found that his touching of pupils was “not for sexual gratification”.

Simon Marsh, a former teacher at St Mary’s Catholic Academy, Blackpool, was accused of having massaged a pupil’s shoulders during a lesson, having placed his hands on or near a pupil’s waist whilst she was near a piano keyboard and having played with a pupil’s hair. He was also said to have commented “I’m glad you’re wearing shorts” when a pupil’s skirt blew up. Marsh denied all of the allegations.

Despite being aware Marsh had previously been given a formal warning for inappropriate proximity to a female student, the professional conduct panel of the Teaching Regulation Agency found that, whilst the accusations in their view had been proven, they considered them to fall short of unacceptable professional conduct stating “there was absolutely no evidence that Mr Marsh’s actions were in pursuit of sexual gratification”. The panel did find the proven actions to be “misconduct of a serious nature which fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession”.

Even though concerns had been raised with Marsh as part of formal disciplinary procedures, the panel did not consider he had in response adapted his behaviour in accordance with the advice given. However, the panel felt that publication of their report was “sufficient to send an appropriate message to the teacher, to demonstrate the standards of behaviour that are not acceptable and meet the public interest requirement of declaring proper standards of the profession” and recommended that no prohibition order should be imposed.

Plea for financial support for adult CSE survivors

Tuesday saw a question in the House of Commons which asked “what steps are being taken to improve the experience of victims giving evidence in court?” Whilst the Victims Strategy published last September includes measures for victims giving evidence in court and there are further commitments in draft Domestic Abuse Bill, Sarah Champion MP raised the issue that there was no current statutory duty for adult survivors of CSE to get paid leave to give evidence. Currently they have to take unpaid leave or holidays placing them at a financial loss or not being able to give evidence. Champion stressed that not hearing the evidence of CSE victims had a direct impact on securing convictions and that no victim should be financially at a loss for seeking justice. Edward Argar MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice agreed to meet with Champion to discuss the issue.

Terrorist attack prompts doubling of funding

Following the terrorist attack in Christchurch which claimed the lives of 50 people and injured a further 40, here in the UK HM Government are to double next year’s Places of Worship fund to £1.6 million in order to reassure communities and provide further protection for worshippers. Home Secretary Savid Javid said “The horrific events in New Zealand are a direct attack on the values of tolerance and freedom of worship that unite us all. Nobody should ever fear persecution of their faith and it’s vital we stand together to reject those who seek to spread hatred and divide us”. To increase uptake in the fund and ensure it reaches those most vulnerable to hate crime, the bidding process will also be simplified so organisations no longer have to prove they have previously experienced a hate crime incident directly. In addition, a new £5 million fund (over 3 years) is to be opened to provide security training.

Court appearance for peer charged with historical sexual offences

Lord Ahmed, the former Labour peer who was charged last month with two counts of attempted rape and one count of indecent assault in the 1970s, appeared in court on Tuesday. The charges against the 61-year-old peer relate to two complainants – a boy and a girl – and to alleged incidents between 1971 and 1974, when he was a teenager. The indecent assault charge relates to a boy under 14. His solicitor stated Ahmed would be pleading not guilty to all charges.

Ahmed appeared at Sheffield magistrates court alongside his two brothers, Mohamed Farouq (68) and Mohammed Tariq (63). Farouq is charged with four counts of indecent assault against a boy under 14 and Tariq is charged with two counts of indecent assault against a boy under 14. All three men were granted bail to appear at Sheffield Crown Court on 16th April 2019.

Repercussions for Facebook user

Jo Campbell, Executive Head Teacher at Shaw Wood Academy has announced that the member of staff who posted content described as “abhorrent” on Facebook is no longer employed by the academy. The member of staff at the Doncaster school posted “Oh how the tables have turned, how does it feel being on the receiving end” beneath an article about the Christchurch terrorist attack. In her initial response to being alerted to the post, Campbell stated “I would like to reassure you that I, our staff and our governors share your abhorrence at the content of the Facebook post and that it is no way reflective of our school or the community it serves”.

This incident serves as a reminder to all schools, academies and colleges to ensure social media usage is addressed in their organisation’s ICT Acceptable Use policies and user agreements. These documents are a crucial element for governance to state their expected behaviour of employees and volunteers.

Please do let us know what you think of the e-Bulletin:
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Please feel free to share our e-Bulletin. We are passionate about the role we play in safeguarding children and the more people that know about it the better. They can sign up to our Thursday safeguarding e-Bulletin by clicking here.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Signs & Indicators of Child Sexual Exploitation

Physical Signs:

In our child protection remit we must be aware and vigilant to identifying the signs and symptoms that may indicate CSE. Whilst not solely attributed to CSE (some of the signs listed could be typical teenage behaviour) these physical, psychological and behavioural indicators should prompt practitioners to consider that this form of abuse may be happening. So here’s a quick reminder:

  1. Injuries that are unexplained or where the explanation is not plausible;
  2. Substance misuse (including drugs and alcohol);
  3. Rapid changes in appearance;
  4. Repeat miscarriages or pregnancies;
  5. Health / Sexual health related problems including sexually transmitted infections;
  6. Self harm;
  7. Attempted suicide.

Psychological Signs:

  1. Eating disorders;
  2. Disassociation with friends, family or other individuals /groups;
  3. Depression;
  4. Anxiety;
  5. Being secretive and / or withdrawn;
  6. Displaying feelings of helplessness;
  7. Self harm activities / overdosing;
  8. Suicide ideation;
  9. Post traumatic symptoms;
  10. Sleep disorders;
  11. Psychotic episodes.

Behavioural Signs:

  1. Receiving money or gifts- this may be as a reward in the grooming process or as a reward for recruiting others into CSE;
  2. Regularly arriving late or going missing from home;
  3. Being known to regularly travel from their home area to other locations (County Lines model) / having knowledge of locations they have had no previous connection with;
  4. Staying out at night with no explanation of where they were or what they were doing;
  5. Non/ low attendance, unexplained absence and school exclusions;
  6. Demonstrating defensive behaviour when questioned about where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing;
  7. Volatile behaviour;
  8. Aggressive behaviour / conduct problems;
  9. Reduced contact with family, usual friends or other groups;
  10. Known or reported to be in a relationship with a much older adult;
  11. Associating with an unknown adult and / or new groups of friends;
  12. Association with a series of unknown adults;
  13. Association with other young people at risk or known to be sexually exploited;
  14. Frequenting pubs / bars with unknown adults;
  15. Being seen in known hotspot areas;
  16. Involvement in criminal offending;
  17. Repeat criminal offending;
  18. Gang membership or association;
  19. Accepting money, gifts, mobile phone credit, drugs or alcohol;
  20. Sexualised/ risk taking internet and mobile phone activity (including sexting);
  21. Having multiple mobile phones / SIM cards;
  22. Refusing / withdrawing a sexual assault complaint following initial disclosure;
  23. Breakdown of care placements due to behaviour;
  24. Reported to be exchanging / selling sexual activity.

This checklist is not exhaustive but is designed to promote awareness of potential CSE indicators. Remember it is not your duty to investigate or to categorise types of abuse but to share any concerns.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out more about our Child Sexual Exploitation course click here

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 14th March 2019

Oxford Street Terror Attack Foiled

A 27-year-old man has been jailed last week for planning an attack on the UK’s busiest shopping street. The investigation led by Counter Terrorism Police resulted in Lewis Ludlow being sentenced at the Old Bailey to life, serving a minimum of 15 years before consideration for parole.

Police had evidence of Ludlow pledging allegiance to Daesh recorded on a mobile phone which he had tried to dispose of by throwing in a storm drain. In the recovered mobile phone video footage Ludlow stated “we (Daesh) love death as much as you love life”.

In footage released by Counter-Terrorism Policing UK on Twitter, Ludlow is seen to be scoping out and taking photographs on Oxford Street, where he planned to hire a vehicle and drive it into the crowds. However, officers from Counter-Terrorism Policing South East were watching as he carried out his reconnaissance of potential sites. Ludlow was being monitored by counter-terrorism detectives after his passport was confiscated when he attempted to travel to the Philippines, where he had been sending money to fund terrorist activity.

Police are urging the public to be vigilant and support the ACT campaign (Action Counters Terrorism) by reporting any suspicious behaviour to gov.uk/ACT or 0800 789 321.

Landmark FGM Sentence

The 37-year-old Ugandan mother, the first person in the UK to be convicted of female genital mutilation, has been jailed for eleven years with an additional two-year sentence for the possession of indecent images and extreme pornography. During sentencing, Mrs Justice Whipple described the mother’s act of FGM as “a barbaric and sickening crime”.

The woman, who cannot be named to safeguard the 3-year-old victim, enlisted another woman (whom she referred to as a “witch”) to mutilate her daughter at their east London home in 2017. Suffering severe bleeding, the 3-year-old was taken to hospital where her mother claimed the child had fallen from a work surface onto a cupboard door whilst trying to reach biscuits. However, during surgery the consultant surgeon found three separate sites of injury typical of Type 2 FGM, which involves the mutilation of the clitoris and removal of the labia minora.

Her former partner was cleared of involvement in the FGM offence however, following a guilty plea to two charges of possession of an indecent image of a child and two charges of possessing extreme pornography, he was sentenced to eleven months in prison, which he has already served on remand.

A police search of the family home found evidence described as “spells, curses and witchcraft” which included two cow tongues bound in wire with embedded nails and a blunt knife. Police also found limes and fruit containing the names of police officers, doctors, the director of public prosecutions and the social worker assigned to the case, thought to be a bid to silence them. While there are no direct links between FGM and witchcraft, cases attributing witchcraft have been documented. Examples include grinding up the female genitals in rituals to promote fertility or wealth, using FGM to rid a girl deemed a witch of a curse or naming the victim as a witch if death occurs during or following the act of FGM.

FGM

Despite previous delays, The Children Act 1989 (Amendment) (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill had its third reading in the House of Commons this week. The amendments agreed state that proceedings under Section 5A of, and Schedule 2 to, the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 are family proceedings.

This is a small but important change to the Act which rectifies an omission in existing child protection law and enables the Family Courts to direct Local Authorities to make interim care orders under the Children Act 1989 in child cases relating to FGM. (Such powers already exist for other types of abuse e.g. Forced Marriage).

Legal Action following Parsons Green Bombing

The foster parents of a teenager jailed for life for the Parsons Green tube train bombing are suing Surrey County Council for negligence, claiming they were not told about his terrorist past. The couple claim that the council did not inform them that the teenager, in a January 2016 immigration review, had admitted he had been trained to kill by the Islamic State terrorist group.

The teenager, Ahmed Hassan, received a life sentence aged 18 last year after being found guilty of planting a bomb in September 2017 on a tube train at Parsons Green. The bomb, made by Hassan, partially exploded injuring 51 people. Hassan, an Iraqi national, had previously been identified as an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child (UASC) in October 2015 and taken into the care of Surrey County Council.

Following the trial, Surrey County Council stopped the couple, who previously fostered 269 children over a 47-year period and were awarded MBEs in 2010, from fostering.  This action has resulted in the couple also claiming that their right to a family life, under the Human Rights Act, has been breached. The couple are also taking the legal action to ensure that other foster carers are made aware of serious concerns about young people being placed with them.

The letter to Rt Hon Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Home Office Affairs Select Committee, following the Parsons Green Review said: “There was an apparent lack of formal, documented plan to manage and mitigate Ahmed Hassan’s vulnerabilities and associated risks.” The committee also recommended all social care staff and managers should receive training around radicalisation.

A Surrey County Council spokesman said: “We are defending this claim. However, we acknowledge this has been a very difficult time for Mr and Mrs Jones and their family”.

Ofsted research- knife crime

Ofsted have published Safeguarding children and young people in education from knife crime, which outlines findings of research carried out in 29 schools, colleges and pupil referral units (PRUs) in London.

Click here to read our Safeguarding Director Sam Preston’s comments on the report findings.

Please do let us know what you think of the e-Bulletin:
e-bulletin@ssslearning.co.uk

Please feel free to share our e-Bulletin. We are passionate about the role we play in safeguarding children and the more people that know about it the better. They can sign up to our Thursday safeguarding e-Bulletin by clicking here.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Ofsted research- knife crime

Ofsted have published Safeguarding children and young people in education from knife crime, which outlines findings of research carried out in 29 schools, colleges and pupil referral units (PRUs) in London.

Click here to read our Safeguarding Director Sam Preston’s comments on the report findings.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

We know what works, we need capacity now.

The Ofsted report, Safeguarding children and young people in education from knife crime (2019), based on research carried out in 29 schools, colleges and pupil referral units (PRUs) in London was published yesterday. Recognising that no one agency can solve knife crime, the research details findings and recommendations based on the following questions:

  • What are schools, colleges and PRUs in London doing to safeguard children and learners from knife crime while on school premises?
  • How are schools, colleges and PRUs in London giving children the knowledge and skills to stay safer in their local communities?
  • How are exclusions being used when children bring knives to school?

Sadly, the findings and recommendations of this report are no revelation. In essence they focus on the usual suspects- that all practitioners, regardless of agency, are key to reducing crime and abuse by:

  • Improving partnership working and strategic planning
  • Providing early help and intervention
  • Improving information sharing
  • Extending the PHSE curriculum

However, whilst caution should be maintained as to the study’s transferability across England (the study sample is small and is London centric – a city supported by a bespoke violence reduction unit not in place in most other cities) there is one key element of the report worthy of focus, particularly as we are in the midst of transferring LSCB duties to local area tri-partnership arrangements, namely Recommendation 1:

Local community safety partnerships should fully involve schools, colleges and PRUs in developing and implementing local strategies that aim to address knife crime and serious youth violence.

In my opinion, this recommendation emphasises and strengthens the need for all educational settings within Tri-partnership localities to be designated as named partners. (Tri-partnerships consist of 3 safeguarding partners: Local authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups and Chief Officers of Police).

The information schools, academies, PRUs and colleges hold is crucial if we are to truly understand what is happening at a local level and best inform local strategies. Unlike any other, educational settings have the most frequent regular contact with children, young people and their families and, as the report highlights, we must develop better ways to access and use this intelligence.

This all sounds infinitely sensible, and dare I say somewhat familiar, but here’s the rub- resources. As a former strategy manager for school improvement I know how passionately Head Teachers, Principals and their SLTs feel about improving the outcomes for all children and young people and, given the opportunity, always value ways to help make a difference. I don’t doubt that for a second. But in thinking just how this strategic collaboration might work effectively, particularly with core educational roles being stretched to capacity, I fear we may face similar problems currently experienced in other services who feel seriously under resourced and underfunded.

For example, this week Chief Constable Sara Thornton (CBE QPM Chair of National Police Chiefs Council) gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry on serious violence, which included a focus on knife crime. The Chief Constable reported to the committee on the findings following the second summit of Chief Constables and the Home Secretary.

In her evidence to the committee it was clear that strategically, the Police know what tactics work, where hotspots exist, how County Lines exacerbate the problem and the impact organised crime has on serious violence. The restriction in effectively doing this, described by Thornton as “suppressing the violence now”, is one of capacity.

In her statement “we (the Police) can’t arrest our way out it it”, Thornton highlighted that violent crime is not solely a policing problem. In acknowledging the vulnerability of excluded / off rolled pupils, children in care or who are homeless becoming involved in violent crime she, like this Ofsted report, recognises the need for better collaborative strategic approaches.

But like education, policing faces similar problems. Staff shortages, with many having left policing, has placed stress and strain on core policing. Even the 970M funding increase pledged for 2020 will not replace the officers who have left the force. In responding to serious incidents e.g. the response to the recent fatal knife crimes in Birmingham, Chief Constables are faced with transferring resources in a model Thornton described as “robbing Peter to pay Paul” i.e. in essence there is no capacity to carry out the core work when police officers are drafted elsewhere.

In the education world this has a familiar resonance. There is no slack capacity in teaching or supporting pupils. Most staff have multiple roles within their organisation as the norm. Gone are the days of supply staff budgets to release staff for external commitments.

In summary, whilst the focus of this Ofsted report is useful in directing an overarching strategic lead, it does little to contribute to the dilemma that has existed for many years now- how to effectively make these overarching targets a reality in practice without substantial investment and new models of collaborative working. The report states it is produced to highlight areas of practice for further consideration by central government, local government and school leaders. I’m not convinced they are telling them anything they didn’t already know and as Chief Constable Thornton said “we know what works, we need capacity now”.

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Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 7th March 2019

Serious Violent Crime

Following the deaths of teenagers Jodie Chesney (17) & Yousef Ghaleb Makki (17) from violent knife crime last weekend, Home Secretary Sajid Javid MP addressed the House of Commons on Tuesday. He highlighted that serious violence is on the rise describing it as “a cycle of senseless violence that is robbing people across the UK of their lives”. Of the 726 people murdered last year in the UK, 285 of these deaths occurred by the use of a knife or bladed weapon, the highest ever recorded level. In his speech, Javid described the complexity of tackling serious crime and the need for “coordinated action on multiple fronts”. Javid described this action as:

  • A strong law enforcement response (as detailed in our previous bulletin the new Offensive Weapons Bill includes new offences for knife crime);
  • Early intervention the through the Early Intervention Youth Fund (which funds local projects) and knife crime prevention orders aimed at preventing young people carrying knives;
  • Improved Police resourcing – next year HM Government plans to increase Police funding by 976M;
  • Gaining a better understanding of drugs misuse and the relation this has to violent crime (an Independent Drugs Misuse Review has been launched);
  • The need for all parts of the public sector to prioritise tackling serious violence. There will be a new consultation on introducing a new statutory duty to combat violent crime and protect young people.

Child gang activity – a national safeguarding priority

The children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has called for child gang activity to be made a national safeguarding priority. Her report based on the study Keeping Kids Safe: Improving safeguarding responses to gang violence and criminal exploitation estimates that 27,000 children in England are in gangs of which only a quarter are known to children’s services or youth offending team. The report also estimates that 34,000 children, who are gang members or who know a gang member, have been victims of violent crime in the past year.

Longfield’s report calls for:

  • Joint inspections by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, the Police and probation inspectorates to be rolled out across England;
  • Greater emphasis on early years within the Serious Violence Strategy, with the Department for Education setting a clear target and plan for reducing the number of children beginning school with very low levels of development, along with a national plan for improving special educational needs identification in the early years;
  • More support from the NHS, to include better mental health support for children at risk of gang membership and exclusion; An urgent commitment to what will replace the soon-to-expire Troubled Families programme, alongside a long-term family-based approach to supporting children at risk of gang involvement;
  • Ensuring councils have enough resources to provide the youth and early help services required to meet the needs of children at risk.

The report also identifies a number of “early warning signs” that gang violence among children is rising which include:

  • Referrals to children’s services where gangs were identified as an issue rose by 26% between 2015/16 and 2016/17;
  • Permanent exclusions rose by 67% between 2012/13 and 2016/17;
  • Hospital admissions for children who have been assaulted with a sharp object rose 20% between 2015/16 and 2016/17;
  • The number of children cautioned/convicted for possession of weapons offences rose 12 per cent between 2016 and 2017.

The study also found that children in gangs were 95% more likely to have social and emotional health issues, were more than twice as likely to be self-harming, were 41% more likely to have a parent or carer misusing substances and were 8 times more likely to be misusing substances themselves.

Bradford Sexual Offences Convictions

Nine men, found guilty of a range of sexual offences against two young and vulnerable victims, have been sentenced at Bradford Crown Court to a total of more than 132 years.

The abuse began in 2008 when both girls (aged only 14) been placed in a children’s home run by Bradford Metropolitan District Council.  One victim was exploited by Basharat Khaliq over a three-year period with the other victim groomed and exploited by numerous men; including the other eight convicted defendants. The abuse of these two vulnerable victims continued after they left the care system to live independently.

The nine defendants were charged and convicted as follows:

  • Basharat Khaliq (38) of Allerton, Bradford: one charge of assault by penetration and five charges of rape. Guilty on all charges – sentence 20 years
  • Saeed Akhtar, (55) of Girlington, Bradford: two charges of causing or inciting child prostitution and one charge of rape. Guilty on all charges- sentence 20 years
  • Naveed Akhtar (43), of Manningham, Bradford: Guilty of two charges of rape and not guilty of one charge of rape- sentence 17 years
  • Parvaze Ahmed, (36) of Heaton, Bradford: guilty of three charges of rape- sentence 17 years
  • Izar Hussain, (32), of Girlington, Bradford: guilty of one charge of rape, not guilty to two charges of rape, and guilty of one charge of attempted rape- sentence 16 years
  • Kieran Harris, (28), of Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury: guilty of two charges of rape- sentence 17 years
  • Fahim Iqbal, (28), of no fixed abode: guilty of one charge of aiding and abetting rape- sentence 7 years
  • Mohammed Usman, (31), of Undercliffe, Bradford: guilty of two charges of rape- sentence 17 years
  • Zeeshan Ali, (32), Girlington, Bradford, guilty of one charge of sexual assault- sentence 18 months

Paula Craven from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “These two girls were deliberately targeted because of their vulnerability. Sadly, the exploitation followed a pattern which is all-too familiar in cases of this kind. These victims suffered an appalling catalogue of degrading emotional and sexual abuse which has deprived them of their childhood.”

Additional bans for former Eton Community Head Teacher

Following a Teaching Regulation Agency professional misconduct hearing, Sophie Rahman (former Head Teacher of Eton Community School in Ilford) can no longer hold a management position in a private school or be a state school governor. Rahman was previously banned from teaching for life after she allowed London Bridge attacker Khurum Butt to teach after school classes.

The panel found that Rahman knew or should have known that Butt, who had appeared on the documentary “The Jihadist Next Door” (Channel 4), was connected to members and former members of extremist jihadist organisation Al-Muhajiroun. Despite not having qualifications or experience and a caution for violence, Butt taught Qur’an at the school formerly known as Ad-Deen Primary School. The panel also found Rahman misled or attempted to mislead the Police and Local Authority about the number of children who attended Butt’s classes.

Butt was one of three men involved in the terrorist attack in London Bridge in June 2017, when eight people were killed and forty-eight injured. All three attackers were shot dead by police officers.

Eton Community School, an independent Muslim primary school, was closed in August 2017.

Domestic Abuse Victims – school priority?

A report produced by the charities Hestia and Pro Bono Economics is calling for an amendment to the draft Domestic Abuse Bill to make it easier for victims of domestic violence to transfer into another school if they have to move address. The report, which states that 500,000 children in the UK have been exposed to domestic violence, highlights that families escaping this abuse can struggle to get their children into another school. The report suggests that, similar to children in care or adopted from care, priority school places should be available to such children.

KCSIE 2018 Translated!

Educational not-for-profit organisation LGfL have translated KCSIE 2018 into ten languages including Polish, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Portuguese and Spanish. Click here to access this fantastic resource.

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Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 28th February 2019


Relationships and Sex Education- FGM

On Monday the DfE announced that the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) will be taught to all secondary school pupils. Included in the draft regulations presented in parliament this week for compulsory relationships and sex education (RSE), the new curriculum framework, if passed, will come into force from September 2020.

The new curriculum stipulates that secondary schools should;

  • address the physical and emotional damage caused by FGM
  • raise awareness of the support that is available
  • ensure pupils know that FGM is illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

The head of the National FGM Centre, Leethen Bartholomew, has called for earlier intervention highlighting that most girls become victims of FGM at primary school age.

Bartholomew stated that the work of the FGM Centre has shown this can be done “in a child-centred way that can achieve the intended outcome of safeguarding children.”


Home Office

The Offensive Weapons Bill will make it harder for young people to buy knives online. New laws will require photo ID to be produced on receipt of knives bought online delivered to residential addresses. The Bill will also ban public and private possession of weapons such as zombie knives and knuckle dusters.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Last week we reported on the draft Domestic Abuse Bill. In further news HM Government is supporting the Bill with additional funding and increased capacity for services to support disabled, elderly and LGBT victims, recognising that domestic abuse occurs in all forms of relationships and that anyone can be a victim regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

In 2017 the Men’s Advice helpline, funded by the Home Office received 13,237 phone calls from male victims of domestic abuse.

All calls to the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline are confidential- 0808 2000 247.

Roman Catholic priest- guilty of child abuse

Father Francis McDermott, a 75-year old Roman Catholic Priest, has been found guilty of abusing 6 children in the 1970s and is due to be sentenced on 18 sex offences, which includes 15 indecent assaults. McDermott was also found guilty of 2 indecent assaults on a male and 1 charge of indecency with a child.

Whilst working in a number of different parishes in London, High Wycombe and Aylesbury between 1971 and 1979, the priest used his position to create friendships with families in order to gain the trust of children and sexually abuse them. McDermott is due to be sentenced next month.

In a speech made last week at a Vatican summit, Pope Francis stated that he wants the Catholic Church to “act decisively” to root out sexual abuse of children by priests.

Teacher banned following inappropriate social media use

A teacher who suggested a pupil send him pictures of his penis on Facebook has been banned from teaching. Benjamin Bird, the 37-year old pastoral lead at Bridge Learning Campus, has been banned from teaching following his inappropriate Facebook contact with pupils and former pupils. The teacher-conduct panel heard that Bird sent messages which included references to masturbation and a request for a pupil to send him a picture of his penis.

In Bird’s absence, the panel found him guilty of breaching professional standards and failing to observe proper boundaries appropriate to a teacher’s professional position. The panel’s report stated:

“The expressions he used in the messages were repeatedly of a sexual nature and we have found proved not only that the messages were sexual in nature, but also that Mr Bird sent them for the purposes of sexual gratification.”

Banned from teaching indefinitely and from teaching in any school, sixth-form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England, Bird has 28 days to appeal.

Anti-Slavery

Sara Thornton, a police officer with more than 30 years’ experience, has been appointed as the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

The role, effective from May 2019, has been created as part of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 with a UK-wide remit to give independent advice on modern slavery issues and how they should be tackled.

This includes:

  • encouraging good practice to drive an increase in the identification and protection of victims of modern slavery
  • ensuring the provision of enhanced support for all victims and survivors in the UK
    driving effective prevention of slavery and human trafficking offences
  • promoting an improved law enforcement and criminal justice response to modern slavery across the UK
  • engaging with the private sector and promote policies to ensure that supply chains are free of slavery
  • fostering constructive and targeted international collaboration to combat modern slavery

Thornton, who received the Queen’s Police Medal and was awarded a CBE in 2011 is “looking forward to bringing my long experience as a chief constable and in national policing to bear in this important role.”

Concerns can be made online or via the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

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