A new helpline to support potential victims of sexual harassment and abuse in education settings has been launched.
The dedicated number, run by the NSPCC, is now live to provide both children and adults who are victims of sexual abuse in schools with the appropriate support and advice. This includes how to contact the police and report crimes if they wish. The helpline will also provide support to parents and professionals too.
The government has also asked Ofsted to undertake an immediate review of safeguarding policies in state and independent schools. The review will look at the extent and the severity of the issue and ensure schools have appropriate processes in place to allow pupils to report concerns freely, knowing these will be taken seriously and dealt with swiftly and appropriately.
It will make sure there is sufficient guidance on how schools should deal with sexual harassment and violence allegations, and whether the current inspection regimes in both state and private schools are strong enough to address concerns and promote the welfare of children.
Ofsted will work with representatives from social care, police, victim support groups, school and college leaders and the Independent Schools Council. The review will conclude by end of May 2021 and will seek to establish where safeguarding arrangements and processes are good and have worked well and where improvements are needed.
Both the helpline and review come after numerous anonymous testimonials of sexual harassment and abuse were submitted to the website Everyone’s Invited.
Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said: “Like everyone else, I have been deeply troubled by accounts of the sexual abuse and harassment young people have suffered at school and in the community. So I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement and the opportunity for Ofsted to lead this review.
“Schools have a crucial role to play in teaching young people about sexual consent and respect for women and girls. They must also be places where all children feel safe, and where they are able to report any incidents of abuse or harassment and be confident that what they say will be acted upon.
“We will set out the terms of the review shortly.”
The dedicated NSPCC helpline number is 0800 136 663.