The MET police has published new guidance for schools and colleges that outlines what action they should take when concerns are raised relating to the following:
- Child sexual exploitation
- Abuse linked to faith or belief
- Female genital mutilation (FGM)
- Honour based violence
- Forced marriage
- Breast ironing/flattening.
This guidance, designed to be used in all education settings alongside existing policies and procedures, provides useful information for schools to clarify the police's response to these sensitive topics.
It is designed to support schools to enhance their curriculum by providing specialist advice on handling sensitive issues, enhance responses to disclosures from pupils and identify possible warning signs of abuse. The document provides guidance to enable the safe sharing of information via existing referral pathways.
From September 2020, relationships education for all primary pupils, relationships and sex education (RSE) for all secondary pupils and health education for all pupils will be compulsory. The focus on healthy relationships in both primary and secondary will help children who are experiencing, involved in or witnessing unhealthy relationships to identify them as such, know where to seek help and report abuse as well as address inappropriate behaviour, harassment, abuse or exploitation.
The government has been clear that, as part of RSE for secondary pupils, children should know the concepts of, and laws relating to, sexual consent, sexual exploitation, abuse, grooming, coercion and harassment at an age-appropriate point. They have further strengthened the guidance on being safe to include content on female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage (FM), and rape, given the safeguarding case for doing so.
The guidance complements the government's actions by including a 'schools charter on ending harmful practices', which seeks to encourage the delivery of high-quality, safeguarding focused inputs on harmful practices across all schools and colleges. This is to promote a preventative approach to tackling these sensitive issues and inspire collaboration between stakeholders in education, police and third sector organisations. It also contains "considerations for schools and colleges", which are a very useful set of questions for schools to reflect on.
First published 11 February 2020