A recent Times Education Supplement (TES) report stated that nearly half of teachers they surveyed thought that there wasn't enough official guidance on allegations of sexual harassment.
The 2015 guidance https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sexual-violence-and-sexual-harassment-between-children-in-schools-and-colleges, does give clear advice to schools. However the TES report might suggest that schools do not feel it is being disseminated enough in safeguarding training and/or they don’t feel comfortable/equipped taking responsibility for this aspect of child safeguarding?
Whilst more clarity would help, the issue here is that in serious cases until the police have completed their investigations, the alleged perpetrator is legally not guilty of any crime and so should be able to continue to access their education. For less serious cases, the school's disciplinary systems will guide their next steps.
The Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment between Children in Schools and Colleges guidance (DfE, 2018) says, in allegations of rape 'Whilst the school or college establishes the facts of the case… the alleged perpetrator should be removed from any classes they share with the victim. The school or college should also consider how best to keep the victim and alleged perpetrator a reasonable distance apart on school or college premises and on transport to and from the school or college, where appropriate. These actions are in the best interests of both children and should not be perceived to be a judgement on the guilt of the alleged perpetrator.' (see Paragraph 63)
For cases of sexual violence or sexual harassment 'the proximity of the victim and alleged perpetrator and considerations regarding shared classes, sharing school or college premises and school or college transport, should be considered immediately.'
As you all know Ofsted are carrying out a review into peer-on-peer sexual abuse (set to conclude at the end of this month) as it is considering a number of areas (re: sexual abuse), including:
- Whether the safeguarding guidance to schools is strong enough to safeguard children;
- How schools can be further supported to teach the new RSHE curriculum;
- Multi-agency safeguarding arrangements; and
- How well schools and colleges listen to the voices of children when reporting sexual abuse
- It will be interesting for us all to see what comes out of Ofsted's review.
Please do use the The Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment between Children in Schools and Colleges guidance (DfE, 2018) to help guide you when these situations arise, and the ESAT are here to offer any support and guidance that we can