Advice for Schools
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of sexual abuse where children (under 18) and their naivety are exploited. The exploitation can often involve young people being tricked or coerced into thinking they’re in loving relationships or made to feel special by being treated as an adult and taken to clubs, bars and parties, given alcohol or drugs to reduce their inhibitions before being coerced or forced into sexual activity with one, or often more, adults.
what has it got to do with schools?
Schools and their staff are in the unique position of seeing children daily to be able to spot changes in appearance, behaviour and attitude; whilst also being able to teach and offer guidance around making good decisions or choices and helping to explore what positive relationships might look like. Parents also often turn to school for guidance on how to respond to situations. So schools can be part of the prevention, protective and support processes for children.
SPOTTING THE SIGNS
Victims of CSE often share some circumstances, behaviours, or vulnerabilities; these make up the indicator list in the Risk Assessment Matrix used by the local authority Safeguarding Children Boards (SCB) which is part of a CSE Toolkit available in the Child Protection Procedures at your local safeguarding children’s board website.
It is worthwhile all staff being aware of these indicators and how they suggest levels of risk, as many of them can be described as normal teenage behaviours, but when combined, raise levels of concern around CSE.
The risk assessment matrix must be used in all cases where CSE is a concern, whether you complete it or the school’s Designated Safeguarding Lead does, it is important other agencies contribute to the assessment to get the fuller picture. There is no harm done if the assessment tool is used whenever school complete any assessment of a child with additional or emerging need. When children display disruptive behaviours, change their attitude towards school or seek to get themselves excluded there is often a reason why, that reason may be CSE and their behaviour a response to the trauma that results. When concerns are identified the local authority procedures are clear about responding to all levels of risk, when concern is to be shared with Social Care and who to consult if you are unsure of risk levels.
If a pupil chooses to disclose that something is happening to them it is important that their disclosure is not met with shock or disgust, that you remain calm and reassuring, confirming they have done the right thing sharing and that you must share with the appropriate people. You should not question them for more detail or start an investigation, but listen and let them tell you what they want to tell, before you share with others and follow the local authority reporting procedures. Don’t forget to make a written record of what you were told.
Remember: Children who have been groomed may not recognise what is happening as abuse or dangerous, they may reject offers of help and see themselves as being in a loving relationship.
HELPING TO PREVENT CSE
Schools, their workforce, volunteers and governors can promote healthy relationships in all they do through role modelling, guidance, setting expectations, displaying posters and materials, as well as direct teaching, including sessions for parents around linked subjects of e-safety, anti-bullying and child protection including CSE. Important messages can be delivered to all ages using age/stage appropriate language and materials to consider issues of personal safety, appropriate touching, risk taking, bullying, e-safety and accessing support when in difficulty.
Secondary schools can develop these messages through PHSE lessons covering a wider array of related issues including healthy relationships, gender difference, domestic and sexual violence, cyber-bullying, risk and consequences, danger and responses; or school may simply call it Sex & Relationship Education (SRE) and facilitate discussions about positive and abusive relationships, consent, peer pressures, sexual health, impact of sexual imagery (pornography), or ‘sexting’.
WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP
Working together to safeguard children has been the title of government guidance for many years now, but the message in the title is as important as ever, particularly around CSE. No school is going to be able to tackle the issue on its own, and no community is going to tackle the issue without the help of schools. Multi-agency working and information sharing is key to understanding what is happening for individuals and for communities.
Remember, safeguarding concern overrides issues of confidentiality and data protection; no one has been in trouble for sharing too much with appropriate agencies in safeguarding situations. It is important you know how to access your local safeguarding children’s boards procedures online to understand your role in the multi-agency approach, and that you have read part one of Keeping Children Safe in Education.
Parents and families are other partners that can contribute to the prevention messages and risk reduction plans. Victims of CSE come from all sections of our communities; a child involved in CSE is not necessarily a reflection of any problem parenting. Families may have the other piece of information that reassures or confirms concern you have. Don’t be afraid to share your concerns with them early, unless sharing may put the child at greater risk.
Police are collating intelligence about all kinds of CSE concerns of those at risk and potential perpetrators. Staff, volunteers and even the public should complete an CEOP Information Report Form and send it through to the police. Even if you are unsure of the facts or have a ‘gut feeling’ you can still send a report but be clear it is your feeling/opinion not fact you are sharing. The Report Form is part of the CSE Toolkit found on your Safeguarding Children Board’s website.
If you believe a child is at immediate risk and in need of protection – dial 999 immediately.
If you have less urgent concerns consult the safeguarding procedures on the websites above.
PLEASE DO NOT KEEP YOUR WORRIES TO YOURSELF
If you would like further support, guidance, advice or training on anything mentioned above, please complete the form below and one of the team will get back to you to discuss your requirements in more detail.
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CHILDREN MISSING EDUCATION: NEW STATUTORY GUIDANCE FOR SCHOOLS
At the beginning of the new academic year schools had new guidance from the Department for Education to adhere to regarding young people missing education. These are not the children who are truanting, but those of school age who are not registered as pupils at a school or receiving their education elsewhere. It gives guidance to other professionals, health professionals, Police and youth offending teams as well as school senior management teams and governors.
The guidance is to facilitate local authorities in their duty to identify this group of young people by ensuring schools provide ‘regular and accurate’ details about young people being removed from or added to their admissions register.
There have been concerns and identified links between CSE and young people who are not in education. The concern being that young people and possibly parents are being groomed to remove the young people from schools or stop attending, or young people are encouraged to engineer their exclusion through their behaviour; in order that they are more readily available to be exploited during the day, not just outside school hours, or so their exploitation late into the night is not readily recognised within schools. The guidance itself refers to the risks to these pupils of harm, exploitation and radicalisation, as well as the impact on their education and potential for NEET status.
These changes have come about following Ofsted raised safeguarding concerns following targeted inspections where they found a significant number of pupils had been removed from school registers without the local authority being notified and with no knowledge of where they were intending to be schooled. As a result of these concerns the government conducted a consultation on the issue to inform the new guidance.
Schools have always had a safeguarding duty towards all of their pupils and as such should ensure they investigate unexplained absences and recognise any patterns of truancy or absence, this guidance deals with those investigations that find pupils are not returning to the school. Similarly local authorities have a duty under The Education Act 1996 (sect 435) to ‘make arrangements to enable them to establish the identities of children in the area who are not receiving a suitable education; the Act also gives the requirement of monitoring those not receiving an education, including those new to the area or country. The new guidance gives suggested tools for them to ensure they have the data to fulfil these requirements.
Local authorities should now have policies and procedures in place to ensure they gather the right data, have a named person with whom schools should share the information, follow up and track young people into new education placements and investigate when they are not in education.
This guidance highlights and reiterates the need for secure and robust information sharing across the range of partner agencies not just schools; Health, housing, youth services (where they still exist) and voluntary sector agencies may all hold important details about young people, even young people the local authority is not yet aware is residing in their area and are not in any form of education. These agencies should also be consulted as part of investigations the authority makes about young people missing education and their circumstances. Accordingly, there is a need for the authority to ensure all partners understand the information reporting processes, where they sit in safeguarding procedures and be clear who needs to know what and when.
Even when we know who these young people are that are missing education we need to understand the circumstances that have created the situation, use professional curiosity to look behind the reasons given, be clear who has made the decision and ensure that any decisions were made by free choice and not a result of a grooming process, coercion or threats of violence, emotional or financial harm or as a condition of other support they perceive being offered, and that they are not being used to keep the young person out of education to facilitate their exploitation.
This new guidance arrived at the same time as other updated guidance in Keeping Children Safe in Education which highlights and strengthens understanding around safeguarding issues. Here changes include that it does not need to be the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) who makes a report of concerns of an immediate nature, highlighting that all teachers have a duty to report if they think Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been performed on a pupil, an emphasis on understanding the complexity of abuse and the interlinking of abuse, neglect and other safeguarding issues, and specifically highlights peer on peer abuse including bullying and cyber-bullying, sexual violence and sexting. Part two also states that schools should have online safety taught in appropriate lessons, have sexting included in it’s policies, recognise the increased vulnerability of young people with Special education Needs (SEN), and have a named teacher to oversee the education of looked after children (LAC)
With the two sets of guidance all schools, maintained schools, academies and independent schools, and college providers will have to make some adjustments but more importantly should now have a renewed and targeted understanding of the safeguarding risks their students face and the responsibilities as education providers they have in the multi-agency framework to protect and support them from these threats.