Since its opening on 1 April 2021, an NSPCC run abuse helpline has received over 500 reports of abuse from students and parents and these numbers continue to increase. The service was set up by the Department of Education as a response to anonymous testimonies from school and university students alleging abuse on the website “Everyone’s Invited”.
Everyone’s Invited received thousands of allegations following its creation in 2020, many of a sexual nature involving harassment in education systems by young men against young women from children as young as nine. The online testimonials followed a post on social media in June 2020 sharing experiences perpetuated by what founder Soma Sara termed the “rape culture” in the UK.
Following on from the website, the helpline has been dedicated to assisting and supporting individuals in coming forward and to ensuring that their allegations are appropriately managed. The helpline works largely as an advice and triage service, making referrals to agencies such as the police and children’s services, where appropriate. The reports are wide ranging in respect of the alleged abuse, varying from less serious incidences to reports of sexual assault. The reports come largely from schools and universities, from both the pupils themselves and parents who consider their children not have been appropriately safeguarded.
Ofsted have in response completed a review of the safeguarding policies in state and private schools to determine whether guidance for schools around sexual harassment needs to be improved and to consider the effectiveness of safeguarding arrangements more generally. The review was concluded at the end of May and is dated June 2021.
In consideration of the Ofsted report and in conjunction with the ongoing helpline reports of inadequate safeguarding, schools should review policies and procedures in respect of safeguarding and ensure all staff are trained and competent in recognising and addressing safeguarding concerns, and that evidence of compliance can be provided.
Beth Albuery, Paralegal, BLM