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Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment between children in schools and colleges (DfE, 2017)

‘Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment’ is new government guidance, published in December 2017. This advice to schools has been heralded for a number of months, after an increase in reports of such behaviour. A lack of guidance has been blamed for schools continuing to place victims and alleged perpetrators together in classrooms, even where an alleged offender is on bail.

The guidance covers:

  • what sexual violence and sexual harassment is
  • what schools’ and colleges’ legal responsibilities are
  • creating a whole school or college approach to safeguarding and child protection; and
  • how to respond to reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment

Usefully, the document starts off with relevant definitions, to develop a shared understanding. Sexual Violence refers to criminal acts: rape, assault by penetration and sexual assault, as defined by the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Sexual harassment is described as ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’. Importantly, the definition of consent is stated and will help pupils begin to understand it more clearly.

There is an emphasis in the guidance of seeing sexual violence and sexual harassment in the context of developing a whole-school safeguarding culture, where sexual misconduct is seen as unacceptable, and not ‘banter’ or an inevitable part of growing up. It should be recognised that these issues are likely to occur, and so schools should have procedures in place to deal with them. Groups at particular risk include girls, students who identify as LGBT+, or are perceived by peers to be LGBT+, and pupils with SEND.

The guidance is clear that victims and alleged perpetrators can be kept apart in classrooms and other shared spaces, and that consideration should be given about travel to and from school. The emphasis should be on ensuring that the victim can continue their normal routines. Schools can consider the conduct of the alleged perpetrator as part of their behaviour policy on the ‘balance of probabilities’ and apply appropriate and proportional consequences.

It is important that schools record incidents across the whole spectrum of sexual violence and sexual harassment, so that they can understand the scale of the problem in their own schools and  make appropriate plans to reduce it.

The guidance can be implemented straightway and further consultation is anticipated ready for September 2018.

In response to the document, schools will need to include the topic in training, develop the knowledge of DSLs, ensure that there are policies and procedures to cover sexual violence and sexual harassment, and understand how to risk assess such behaviours when they occur.

You can download the document here:
Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment between children in schools and colleges (DfE, 2017)

Other useful resources:
Harmful Sexual Behaviour Framework (NSPCC)
Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool (Brook)

Members of safeguarding.pro can download the video, the slides used to create the video and further information on implementing the new guidance here: Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment between children in schools and colleges (Safeguarding.Pro)

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