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Ofsted updates guidance for inspectors following safeguarding review

Ofsted has clarified how their inspectors will assess how schools are tackling sexual harassment, abuse and violence among children and young people during their inspections.

The move follows the inspectorate’s review of safeguarding in schools and colleges which concluded that sexual harassment had become normalised in schools.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said: “This review shocked me. It’s alarming that many children and young people, particularly girls, feel they have to accept sexual harassment as part of growing up. Whether it’s happening at school or in their social life, they simply don’t feel it’s worth reporting.”

The report recommended that school and college leaders should develop a culture where all kinds of sexual harassment are recognised and addressed, including with sanctions when appropriate.

There will be an expectation on schools to adopt a whole-school approach to tackling harassment in schools, including sanctions where appropriate. All schools should assume that sexual harassment, online sexual abuse and sexual violence are happening in and around their school, even when there are no specific reports.

Ofsted inspectors will consider how schools and colleges handle allegations and incidents of sexual abuse between children and young people when they do occur. Preventative measures schools and colleges have put in place to guard against sexual harassment and abuse, such as behaviour policies, pastoral support and the relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) curriculum will also be examined during inspections.

The inspectorate will 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.

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

Sean Harford, Ofsted National Education Director said: “The findings from our recent review have revealed just how commonplace sexual harassment has become in schools and colleges. 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.

“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,” he added.

Inspectors will not investigate individual allegations of harmful sexual behaviour, but will ensure that incidents are reported to the appropriate authority, if this has not already happened.

School inspection handbook

Ofsted’s review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges

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