William Eichler 29 June 2021

Ofsted publishes new guidance for confronting sexual abuse

Ofsted publishes new guidance for confronting sexual abuse image

Ofsted has published updated education inspection handbooks, clarifying how inspectors will assess how schools and colleges confront sexual harassment, abuse and violence among children and young people.

The updates follow Ofsted’s recent ‘Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges’, which found that sexual harassment has become ‘normalised’ for children and young people.

Following the report’s recommendations, inspectors will expect schools and college leaders to assume that sexual harassment, online sexual abuse and sexual violence are happening in and around their school and to have put in place a whole-school approach to address them.

Inspectors will also consider how schools and colleges handle allegations and incidents of sexual abuse between children and young people when they do occur.

‘The findings from our recent review have revealed just how commonplace sexual harassment has become in schools and colleges,’ said Sean Harford, Ofsted national education director.

‘So, even when there are no specific reports, schools and colleges must assume that it is taking place and plan to address it accordingly.

‘Our updated handbooks are clear about how we will assess the approach schools and colleges have taken to tackle these issues head-on.’

Inspectors will look at the preventative measures schools and colleges have put in place to guard against sexual harassment and abuse, including behaviour policies, pastoral support and the relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) curriculum.

Ofsted will also expect schools and colleges to be alert to factors that increase children’s potential vulnerability to sexual abuse, and to understand and address the barriers that could prevent a child or young person from reporting an incident.

Mr Harford added: ‘We will expect schools and colleges to have created a culture where sexual abuse and harassment is not acceptable and never tolerated. And where pupils are supported to report any concerns about harmful sexual behaviour and can feel confident they will be taken seriously.’

Where schools and colleges do have not adequate processes in place, it is likely that safeguarding will be considered ineffective. This can impact on the ‘leadership and management’ judgement and the overall grade is likely to be ‘inadequate’.

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