London, Mar 31 (PTI) The UK government on Wednesday launched a new helpline to support potential victims of sexual harassment and abuse in schools and all education settings across England after a surge in anonymous reports online recently.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced the move alongside a review by independent schools watchdog Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) into safeguarding policies in place in schools.
The new dedicated helpline 0800136663, run by children’s charity National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), will go live from Thursday to provide both children and adults who are victims of sexual abuse in schools with the appropriate support and advice, including how to contact the police and report crimes if they wish.
The helpline will also provide support to parents and professionals.
'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,' said Gavin Williamson.
'No child or young person should have to experience abuse. But if something isn’t right, they should speak to someone they trust to raise concerns, whether that’s family, a friend, teacher or social worker, helpline or the police,' he said.
Both the helpline and review come after numerous anonymous testimonials of sexual harassment and abuse were submitted to the website Everyone’s Invited.
Concerns over a culture of sexual abuse at schools has escalated in recent weeks after a website set up for victims to anonymously post their experiences gained more than 11,000 posts, some from children as young as nine.
'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,' said Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman.
'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,' she said.
Ofsted will work with representatives from social care, police, victim support groups, school and college leaders and the Independent Schools Council. The review will conclude by the end of May and will seek to establish where safeguarding arrangements and processes are good and have worked well and where improvements are needed.
The Department for Education (DfE) said that Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate will inspect any schools where there are concerns and ensure they either improve their practices or are forced to close.
All schools are also now required to provide relationships and sex and education to all secondary pupils and relationships education to all primary age pupils. Important issues such as personal privacy, respect and consent to ensure that more young people have a better understanding of how to behave towards their peers, are part of the government guidance to ensure more young people have a better understanding of how to behave towards their peers, including online.
'Many schools do a great job day in and day out of working within a complex modern society but the new Relationship, Sex and Health Education curriculum will help them navigate some of the more difficult issues,' the DfE said. PTI AK ZH ZH