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Government announces immediate review into school sexual abuse
31 March 2021, 19:02
The Government has announced an immediate review into sexual abuse in schools, while a helpline has also been set up following thousands of allegations from students.
It comes after more than 10,000 reports were posted on the Everyone's Invited website, where students can anonymously share their experiences of misogyny, harassment, abuse and assault.
England’s education watchdog Ofsted will look at safeguarding policies in state and independent schools.
Ofsted will assess "the extent and the severity of the issue" and ensure there are appropriate systems in place to allow pupils to report concerns, the Department for Education said.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson also announced a new helpline, run by the NSPCC, to support potential victims of sexual harassment and abuse in schools, including guidance on how to contact police and report crimes.
The number, which goes live on Thursday, will provide advice to children and adults, including parents and professionals, the DfE said.
Mr Williamson said: "Sexual abuse in any form is abhorrent and it is vital that these allegations are dealt with properly.
"While the majority of schools take their safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously, I am determined to make sure the right resources and processes are in place across the education system to support any victims of abuse to come forward."
"This is a watershed moment thanks to those who have found the courage to speak out," said NSPCC chief executive officer Sir Peter Wanless.
He added: "All children should be able to grow up in a safe community that is free from sexual violence where their rights are respected."
The DfE said the review will also look at ensuring there is enough guidance on how schools should deal with sexual harassment and violence allegations, and whether current school inspection systems are strong enough to address concerns.
Ofsted will work with social care, police, victim support groups, school and college leaders, as well as the Independent Schools Council, with the review expected to conclude by the end of May.
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: "Like everyone else, I have been deeply troubled by accounts of the sexual abuse and harassment young people have suffered at school and in the community.
"So I welcome the Secretary of State's announcement and the opportunity for Ofsted to lead this review."
The Report Abuse in Education helpline can be reached on 0800 136 663, on Monday to Friday 8am-10pm, or 9am-6pm at weekends. It can also be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org