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As you all return to the classroom after the Easter break, we are providing an update on the increasing level of interest in and news coverage of the distressing testimonials posted on the Everyone’s Invited website.

Sexual abuse, sexual violence and sexual harassment in any form are abhorrent and it is vital that reports of abuse are appropriately investigated and victims supported and protected.

We know that the majority of schools and colleges take their safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously but the Everyone’s Invited campaign has reminded us that there is more we need to do.

You will now be aware that on 31 March, the Secretary of State announced that he has asked Ofsted to undertake a thematic review into sexual abuse across state and independent schools and colleges. Amongst other things the review will look at whether schools and colleges have appropriate processes in place to allow pupils to report concerns freely, knowing these will be taken seriously and dealt with swiftly and appropriately.

Ofsted has recently published its Terms of Reference and further information can be viewed here: Ofsted review of sexual abuse in schools-terms of reference. The review will include a number of research visits that Ofsted will carry out. In some schools, where it is appropriate, Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate will visit together. The review will not report on individual schools and colleges but instead present a picture of good and poor practice across the country and make recommendations for improvement. We are encouraging you to fully engage with the review if your school or college is visited as part of this important research. The review will conclude by the end of May 2021.

A dedicated NSPCC helpline is now available to support anyone who has experienced sexual abuse in educational settings or has concerns about someone or the issues raised. The dedicated NSPCC helpline number is 0800 136 663 and more information is available at: Dedicated helpline for victims of abuse in schools NSPCC.

Our statutory safeguarding guidance and departmental advice are very clear on schools’ and colleges’ legal duties and the policies and processes that should already be in place to safeguard children. These resources should help you handle and respond appropriately to any reports of abuse in your school or college.

In particular, Part 5 of Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) provides schools and colleges with detailed guidance about child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment, including responding to reports of abuse and protecting victims. Part 5 also signposts to the wider specialist support that is available.

Alongside this, our sexual-violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges advice supports schools and colleges to understand what child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment looks like, how to prevent it, how to respond to reports of it, and how to support victims.

We wanted to take this opportunity to confirm that we will pause publishing revised KCSIE and sexual violence advice, following the recent public consultation, until after Ofsted report at the end of May.

Working together to safeguard children is very clear on how schools and colleges should work with their local multi-agency children’s partnerships as a relevant agency and how any concerns about a child should be referred. Do look to contact your local multi-agency children’s partnership for further advice and support.

The curriculum for Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) became mandatory from September 2020. Recently published schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance clarified that schools may choose to focus this year’s RSHE teaching on the immediate needs of their pupils, such as being safe, and staying healthy, introducing a more comprehensive RSHE programme in September 2021.

In teaching the new RSHE curriculum, schools must have regard to the statutory guidance which will ensure that children understand what positive, healthy and respectful relationships look like, on and offline. Domestic violence, rape, harassment and abuse are explicitly taught about in the ‘Being Safe’ topic, as part of relationships education. Schools should teach pupils the knowledge they need to recognise and report abuse, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse. To support teachers to deliver these topics safely and with confidence, a one-stop page has been published for teachers, including non-statutory implementation guidance ‘Plan your Relationships, Sex and Health Education Curriculum’ and teacher training modules, developed with subject matter experts and teachers. Each module covers safeguarding to make sure teachers, pastoral staff and the designated safeguarding lead are equipped to deal with sensitive discussions and potential disclosures.

We always have and will continue to take these matters very seriously. The Everyone’s Invited campaign has rightly served to focus our minds on the need to continue to work together to protect children.