It is sad that we even have to discuss this topic in schools and colleges, never mind having revised guidance on it. It is devastating for those who are subject to such harassment at a time when life should be uncomplicated and innocent! A quick search around the internet will leave you in no doubt just how big a problem sexual violence is for children and teenagers, many of whom leave us with harrowing testimonies of their experiences.

The Department for Education (DfE) has published updated advice on sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges in England.

The guidance covers children of all ages, from primary through to secondary stage and into colleges, and online settings. It sets out what sexual violence and sexual harassment is, how to minimise the risk of it occurring and what to do when it occurs or is alleged to have occurred. It highlights best practice and cross-references other advice, statutory guidance and the legal framework. The guidance is for governing bodies, proprietors of independent schools, headteachers, principals, senior leadership teams and designated safeguarding leads.

The updated guidance states that schools and colleges should be aware of and respond appropriately to all reports and concerns, including those outside the school or college and/or online.

It points out that not recognising, acknowledging or understanding the scale of harassment and abuse and/or downplaying some behaviours related to abuse can lead to a culture of unacceptable behaviour, an unsafe environment and in the worst-case scenarios a culture that normalises abuse leading to children accepting it as normal and not coming forward to report it.

The advice comes into force on 1 September 2021 and replaces the 2018 version which should be used until then.

You can download the revised guidance here.

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