Hundreds of calls have already been made to the independent helpline set up to support child and adult victims of abuse in schools to make disclosures of current or non-recent disclosures of abuse.
The helpline, run by the NSPCC, was commissioned by the Department for Education after the Everyone’s Invited website set up for victims to anonymously post their experiences of sexual abuse gained more than 11,000 posts, some from children as young as nine.
At the same time as the helpline was commissioned, Ofsted was asked to carry out a review of safeguarding policies in schools to 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.
Kam Thandi, NSPCC Helpline Head, said: “It is absolutely vital that people feel comfortable to raise concerns about child abuse and harassment, including children themselves, and we thank everyone so far who has found the courage to contact the helpline.
“Through these calls we have been able to provide much needed support, advice and, where necessary, to refer the information onto police and local authorities for further action.
“We have also heard about the devastating impact this abuse can have later in life if it’s not addressed and have been able to share our experience and expertise to help with the recovery process,” she added.
There have already been 353 calls made to the helpline since it became operational in April. From those calls, helpline staff have made 65 referrals to external agencies like the police or social services.
Of those calls where information about the caller was known - more than half were adults or children who had experienced child sexual abuse or harassment and most were female. The majority of cases where referrals were made involved secondary school aged children or young adults.
Around one third of all child sexual abuse is carried out by their peers, according to estimates. Young people can be left feeling angry, upset and confused following sexual assault by classmates. Many children experience shame and guilt, often blaming themselves and the impact can last into adulthood.
Sexual abuse and exploitation is the most common issue reported to the NSPCC’s helpline. Incidents range from pupils looking up their classmates’ skirts to sharing images of sex and rape. Parents have also contacted the helpline with concerns that safeguarding incidents have not been appropriately handled in schools.
The helpline is for children and young people who have experienced abuse at school, and for worried adults and professionals that need support and guidance, whether the abuse is happening now or it happened in the past.
One parent of a 14-year-old girl told the helpline: “Just this week we received a visit from a police officer who told us they were investigating an incident of up-skirting by a male pupil at my daughter’s school.
“We were told that a teacher had been searching this boy’s phone for something unrelated and discovered several pictures of up-skirting of different girls and the only girl that could be identified was my daughter.
“As you can imagine, this came as a huge shock to us. We have no idea who the boy is or if the images have been shared anywhere,” the parent added.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I want all victims of abuse to be supported and feel confident to report any allegations. That is exactly why we set up this additional specialist NSPCC helpline - so there is a dedicated route for raising concerns or reporting an incident which may require appropriate action from authorities.
“Ofsted is also undertaking a review into safeguarding measures in schools and colleges which will be published shortly,” he concluded.
Report Abuse on 0800 136 663 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.