• Thursday, October 06, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

UK launches helpline to aid potential victims of sexual harassment in schools

Representational image (iStock)

By: Pramod Thomas

THE UK has launched a new helpline to support potential victims of sexual harassment and abuse in education institutions as part of the government’s Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy.

The dedicated National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) helpline number (0800 136 663) will help both children and adults who are victims of sexual abuse in schools on how to contact the police and report crimes if they wish.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has said that the government has also asked Ofsted to undertake an immediate review of safeguarding policies in state and independent schools.

It will look at the extent and the severity of the issue and ensure schools have appropriate processes in place to allow pupils to report concerns freely, knowing these will be taken seriously and dealt with swiftly and appropriately, a statement said.

Ofsted will work with representatives from social care, police, victim support groups, school and college leaders and the Independent Schools Council, and the review will conclude by end of May 2021.

Both the helpline and review come after numerous anonymous testimonials of sexual harassment and abuse were submitted to the website Everyone’s Invited.

“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,” said Williamson.

“This government is committed to ensuring victims feel supported to refer the most serious allegations to the police via the helpline, safe in the knowledge that everything possible will be done to bring offenders to justice.”

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.

“Schools have a crucial role to play in teaching young people about sexual consent and respect for women and girls. They must also be places where all children feel safe, and where they are able to report any incidents of abuse or harassment and be confident that what they say will be acted upon. We will set out the terms of the review shortly.”

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