Ofsted Review – Sexual Harassment and Safeguarding Concerns in Schools

10 Jun 2021 Andy Robinson

Today (June 10th 2021), Ofsted has published a review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges in light of the recent Everyone’s Invited campaign which encouraged children to report their own experiences with sexual harassment. In response, the Government ordered an urgent review of sexual abuse in schools.

The report showed some shocking statistics surrounding the extent of sexual harassment on and offline along with some alarming safeguarding concerns around reporting. It was seen that sexual harassment was now considered a commonplace amongst children and young people. So much so, that they didn’t feel it was necessary to report incidents to the school.

The problem appears widespread. Of the schools that were reviewed it was shown that:

  • ‘Nearly 90% of girls, and nearly 50% of boys, said being sent explicit pictures or videos of things they did not want to see happens a lot or sometimes to them or their peers.’
  • ‘92% of girls, and 74% of boys, said sexist name-calling happens a lot or sometimes to them or their peers.’

The lack of reporting often came from fear of being singled out by peers along with concerns over how parents would react and whether they would be blamed or even believed. This seemed to occur even when schools actively encouraged reporting.

Wider problems

The review showed a distinct lack of reporting for these incidents yet advised schools to assume that this behaviour is regularly occurring without their knowledge. It was advised that school environments adapt to clearly show what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour whilst actively encouraging support and reporting routes.

Despite this, there were wider problems relating to beyond the schools’ capabilities. Professionals are unable to monitor and respond to all aspects of sexual harassment and the responsibility should not land on them alone. It was stated that issues such these are something that the Government should address in the Online Safety Bill.

David Wright Director of UK Safer Internet Centre at SWGfL:

The Ofsted safeguarding review has shown essential considerations to take forward into the future. The sheer extent of the issues highlighted in this review not only affect children and young people but professionals as well, meaning extensive work needs to be taken in order to address some underlying concerns in regards to online safety and safeguarding within schools. The UK Safer Internet Centre works to protect children and young people from harm online with many of our services directly formed to support these issues. As many of our services are funded by the EU as part of the UK Safer Internet Centre, it is crucial that funding can continue by the UK government to carry on the support in tackling online harms whilst working towards developing adequate online safety within schools

Reporting Solutions and Advice 

In light of this report, it is essential for schools to seek the necessary support to address what has been found.

Professionals Online Safety Helpline: If you are a professional working with children or young people and have an online safety concern or safeguarding question, you can phone for advice from our online safety experts.

Report Harmful Content: If you have been a victim to or witnessed harmful content online, you can report it via our website. Content can include unwanted sexual advances, online abuse, bullying and pornographic content.

Whisper: The communication tool for schools that allows students to report incidents and concerns without worry. Children don’t need to give their names or personal details; reports can be made anonymously.

So You Got Naked Online: A free resource that offers children, young people and parents advice and strategies to support the issues resulting from sexting incidents

Childnet have made a lot of resources specifically about online sexual harassment as part of deshame. These include resources for educators to use with 9-12 year olds, for use with 13-17 year olds, advice for parents and carers, and advice for young people about online sexual harassment.

If you need to report images of young children being abused, you can contact the Internet Watch Foundation

Share your experience

In collaboration with Prof Andy Phippen at Bournemouth University and as part of our work to support teachers and schools with online sexual harassment, especially where they are victims, please do share your experiences and perceptions by completing the survey.

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