The Metropolitan Police Service (the Met) has launched a comprehensive Guidance for Schools and Colleges document which deals with the complex issues of safeguarding children from sexual violence, child sexual exploitation and harmful practice.
The guide outlines what schools and colleges should consider and the action they should take when concerns are raised relating to sexual violence, sexting, child sexual exploitation and harmful practices.
It was created by Inspector Allen Davis, who has spent many years supporting schools and colleges to identify and respond effectively to complex safeguarding issues, in partnership with Barnardo’s National FGM Centre, London Harmful Practices Working Group and the Department of Education.
Inspector Davis said: ‘Enhancing information sharing between partners working to safeguard children is our aim.
We hope this guidance will assist those working in schools and colleges to have a better understanding of how police work within the relevant legislative and safeguarding frameworks to safeguard the vulnerable.
‘We wanted to develop a practical document that frontline practitioners will find useful when dealing with complex matters. These are sometimes hidden in plain sight or missed, as we may not know the warning signs or how others will respond to the risk and vulnerability identified.
‘Ultimately this guidance is about protecting children and young people from a wide range of potentially life-changing harms.’
The document was launched today (February 6) which coincides with ‘International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation’ (FGM) and sits within Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week – #ITSNOTOK.
School systems minister Lord Agnew, said: ‘Female genital mutilation is abuse and we will not tolerate it. It is vitally important that young people are protected from this practice and teachers play a key role in that.
‘That is why we have worked in partnership with the Metropolitan Police Service, Barnardo’s National FGM Centre and London Harmful Practices Working Group to produce this guidance that will support schools and colleges to spot the signs of any forms of child abuse and take action to tackle it.
‘All children will also be taught that FGM is a criminal offence and about the emotional and physical damage it causes from September this year, as part of the new Relationships and Sex Education curriculum.’
A Met spokesman said establishing an accurate picture of levels of victimisation allows police to signpost the victim to the appropriate care and support them, if appropriate, through the criminal justice system. It will also assist and help prevent the future victimisation of others.
Many serious offences against young people are under-reported due to lack of confidence in the police or the criminal justice system As well as a lack of consistent understanding by professionals as to whether and at what point police should be informed of safeguarding matters.
While abusive behaviours are being increasingly ‘normalised’ by adults and young people, so much so that they don’t realise that they are the victim of an offence.
Leethen Bartholomew, head of the National FGM Centre, said: ‘While there are still children being subjected to FGM, we are failing as practitioners, professionals and as a society to protect vulnerable women and girls.
‘The launch of this guidance is a much-needed step to tackle abuse including FGM, breast-ironing and other child abuse linked to faith and belief.
‘But guidance is no good if it’s not implemented. In order to end FGM by 2030, we need a multi-agency response and we must work together to bring an end to this hidden crime.’
A Met spokesman said the guidance is not intended to replace existing policies or procedures, which are the statutory safeguarding guidance to which all schools and colleges in England must have regard.
It has been written following consultation to address a gap that exists in relation to schools and colleges’ awareness of police support available for specific safeguarding matters and how best to deal with them.