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Education

Schools have major role to prevent exploitation

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The ‘Key messages from research on child sexual exploitation: Professionals in school settings’ paper aims to increase school professionals’ confidence to take appropriate action based on the best current research evidence. The paper looks at understanding child sexual abuse and offers best practice in supporting young people affected.

The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse is also embarking on a long-term project to look at the scale and nature of child sexual exploitation in England and Wales. It has produced an initial scoping document that assesses the current knowledge of CSE and outlines the breadth of the work it hopes to undertake.

The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse is funded by the Home Office, led by Barnardo’s, and works closely with key partners from academic institutions, local authorities, health, education, police, and the voluntary sector. It works on identifying, generating and sharing high-quality evidence of what works to prevent and tackle Child Sexual Abuse (including Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), and to inform both policy and practice .

WHAT IS CSE?

‘ Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator ‘ . (New England definition 2017).

There is no one way that CSE is perpetrated. Grooming is common in some forms of CSE, but it is not always present. Online and offline exploitation can overlap. That children and young people may appear to co-operate cannot be taken as consent: they are legally minors and subject to many forms of coercion and control. These abuses of power are similar to those which are recognised in domestic violence and they may lead to children and young people being unable to recognise what is happening to them as abuse.

Whilst all of the research evidence to date shows that girls and young women are the majority of victims, boys and young men are also exploited. The average age at which concerns are first identified is at 12 to 15 years, although recent studies show increasing rates of referrals for 8 to 11 – year – olds, particularly in relation to online exploitation. Less is known about the exploitation of those from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT ) communities.

There is no ‘typical’ victim. That said, some young people may be more vulnerable than others, and a range of indicators have been highlighted to which professionals should be alert.

These include: prior abuse in the family; deprivation; homelessness; misuse of substances; disability; being in care; running away/going missing; gang-association. It is not known whether these also apply to young people where exploitation begins or wholly occurs online, although some factors appear to be involved in both contexts. It is important to remember that indicators are not evidence that sexual exploitation has taken place. All they suggest is that practitioners need to use their professional curiosity and judgement to explore what is going on with each young person.

Child sexual exploitation can happen to young people from all backgrounds. Whilst young women are the majority of victims, boys and young men are also exploited.

A ‘ WHOLE SCHOOL ’ APPROACH

Creating an educational environment in which there is a ‘whole-school’ approach to addressing gender inequality, sexual consent, and relationships built on respect is crucial in responding to violence and abuse, including CSE. The curriculum, school policies, pastoral support and school ethos all contribute to environments that enable or challenge exploitative practices and the attitudes that condone them.

PREVENTING CSE THROUGH THE CURRICULUM

Work to prevent CSE should be taking place in independent and maintained schools, as well as state-funded schools, free schools and academies (where appropriate) and alternative educational settings, including Pupil Referral Units, Short Stay Schools, colleges and post- 16 training, including from independent providers.

Schools are ideally placed to deliver information to students about CSE and a number of resources exist for them to use in doing so. It is important that this work also challenges attitudes and helps students to develop emotional and social skills. Opportunities to learn about sexual exploitation should be available in age appropriate forms in both primary and secondary schools. Open conversations inside and outside the classroom can help children recognise potentially abusive behaviours, identify trusted adults who they can talk to and offer information about support services.

Some young people may be more vulnerable – those who have experienced prior abuse, are homeless, are misusing alcohol and drugs, have a disability, are in care, are out of education, have run away/ gone missing from home or care, or are gang-associated.

All schools (including alternative educational settings such as Pupil Referral Units and Short Stay Schools, colleges and post-16 training) should assume that CSE is an issue that needs to be addressed.

An educational environment where there is a ‘whole-school’ approach to addressing gender inequality, sexual consent, and relationships built on respect should be developed.

All schools are ideally placed to deliver information to students about CSE through preventative education that delivers knowledge and challenges attitudes.

Staff within the school community should be trained to spot potential ‘warning signs’ of CSE and to feel confident to begin conversations based on their concerns.

Multi-agency links mean that schools can be part of developing a protective community network which holds perpetrators to account.

A SAFE AND SECURE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

A prevention curriculum should be combined with a safe and secure school environment which promotes positive and respectful relationships between peers, between students and staff, and includes wider parent/carer engagement.

Whilst the school environment can represent a positive space for young people, it may also be a context within which they experience sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation can also involve peers in complex ways, as facilitators, abusers or bystanders. Grooming and sexual exploitation may take place during the school day, including by gang-associated peers. Some students may introduce other young people to exploiters. Social media may facilitate the spreading of gossip and images around peer groups so that the impact of CSE taking place outside of school may ‘migrate’ back into it.

Every school community should assume that CSE is an issue. In addition to educating young people about CSE, schools need to identify and support young people who are affected. Links should be made with relevant school policies, including those on bullying, sexual violence and harassment and equalities. Young people may not think of themselves as victims and may believe that they are in love. A proactive approach should therefore be taken to identifying victims, distinguishing between disruptive behaviour and early warning signs of exploitation.

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Education

Examination crisis: teacher’s predicted grades to be given to students

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THE Welsh Government has announced today (Mon, Aug 17) that AS, A level, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate and Welsh Baccalaureate grades in Wales will now be awarded on the basis of Centre Assessment Grades.

This occurred after the outrage of students, causing protests outside the Senedd after hearing that a total of 42% of A-level grades predicted by their teachers had been lowered when the Welsh results were published last week. This was due to the decision to process these grades through an algorithm.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said she took the decision to maintain confidence in the system.

Speaking on the decision, Kirsty Williams said: “Working with Qualifications Wales and WJEC we have sought an approach which provides fairness and balances out differences in the standards applied to judgments in schools.

“Given decisions elsewhere, the balance of fairness now lies with awarding Centre Assessment grades to students, despite the strengths of the system in Wales.

“I am taking this decision now ahead of results being released this week, so that there is time for the necessary work to take place.

“For grades issued last week, I have decided that all awards in Wales, will also be made on the basis of teacher assessment.

“For those young people, for whom our system produced higher grades than those predicted by teachers, the higher grades will stand.

“Maintaining standards is not new for 2020, it is a feature of awarding qualifications every year in Wales, and across the UK.

“However, it is clear that maintaining confidence in our qualifications whilst being fair to students requires this difficult decision.

“These have been exceptional circumstances, and in due course I will be making a further statement on an independent review of events following the cancellation of this year’s exams.

“Other Awarding Bodies across the UK are involved in determining the approach to vocational qualifications. This continues to be the case but it is important that I give assurance to GCSE, AS and A level student at the earliest opportunity.”

This was a decision welcomed by Suzy Davies, Shadow Education Minister.

Commenting on the Decision, Suzy Davies said: “This has been an exceptional time, and this news will come as a very welcome relief for the thousands of A-Level students who last week were looking at grades lower than they were predicted to receive. It will also be a relief to pupils expecting results this week as well as an acknowledgement of quite how much effort teachers put into this.

“It is reassuring that the Minister has listened to the Welsh Conservatives and other parties in the Welsh Parliament, but especially pleasing that she heard the voices of young people up and down the country.

“These students – at A, AS, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate, and Welsh Baccalaureate level – will now have the confidence to plan their future education or career aspirations, and reach their potential.”

The Education Minister also promised an independent review of the events “following the cancellation of this year’s exams”.

Students who received higher grades than those predicted by teachers will keep them.

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Education

Swansea University appoints new governing body Chair

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Swansea University is pleased to announce that Bleddyn Phillips has been appointed as its new Chair of Council.
Mr Phillips, who joined the University’s governing body in May 2017, has been appointed Chair for a four-year term replacing Sir Roger Jones, whose term of office came to an end in September 2019.

Mr Phillips said: “It is a great honour to be appointed Swansea University’s Chair of Council. As a Welsh-speaker, with strong roots in Llanelli and Gower, and with both parents having studied at Swansea, I have long felt an affinity with the University and have been delighted to serve on the Council.

“I want to acknowledge the contribution made to the University by Sir Roger Jones over almost 14 years and I very much look forward to working with, and serving, the University as it celebrates its centenary in 2020 and beyond.”

Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said “It will be a privilege to work with Bleddyn as we develop our new strategic plan and look forward to beginning our second century in 2020.”

Mr Phillips is a lawyer by profession, a former commercial director at oil companies BP and Total, and later Global Head of the Oil and Gas practice at the international law firm, Clifford Chance LLP. He is Director of Llanelli Scarlets RFC and was a trustee of the Wales Millennium Centre from 2012-2018.

The Council is the University’s governing body, which approves the mission and strategic vision of the University, long-term academic and business plans, key performance indicators and overall standards. The Council assures that the University discharges its duties in accordance with the Welsh Quality Assessment Framework.

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Education

Experts attack Welsh Government’s proposed smacking ban plan

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PROMINENT academics have criticised the Welsh Government’s bill to criminalise parental smacking during a public debate at Swansea University.

Tonight, experts from the fields of sociology and criminology and parenting studies poured scorn on the plan during an Academy of Ideas debate on state intervention in the family.

A panel of three academics discussed the merits or otherwise of the smacking legislation, which is due to be debated by AMs for a third time in January next year.

Dr Stuart Waiton, a senior lecturer in sociology and criminology at Abertay University and outspoken critic of the Scottish smacking Bill, said: “No longer treated like citizens, as adults who have an opinion and a basic level of autonomy to raise our children, we have culture change imposed from on high – we are made ‘aware’ by the new authoritarians holding the stick above us.

“The smacking act is a disgrace. It is a form of brutality that undermines parents, weakens the meaning of freedom, and will go on to destroy many loving families who dare to think and act differently to the modern elitists.”

Dr Waiton added: “The brutality of the smacking act will mean that a light smack on the hand or bottom of a child will be a criminal offence. Hard smacking is already illegal, but to the middle-class anti-smacking zealots that was not enough. Children, they argue, need equal protection from assault. The very language they use is alien to the millions of parents who occasionally smack rather than assault their children.

“Parents know that smacking a child is a form of discipline often done out of love and concern rather than something that is abusive and criminal.”

Criticising the way politicians at the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have engaged with parents on the smacking legislation, he said: “The new elite think a lot about consultation and inclusion. The reality is a process run by a small section of society, politicians and professionals, who exist in their own bubble and are distant and disconnected from ordinary people.”

Ellie Lee, Professor of Parenting Research at the University of Kent also spoke out on the Welsh Government’s plans.

“Within the context of an authoritative child rearing relationship, aversive discipline including smacking is well accepted by the young child, effective in managing short-term misbehaviour and has no documented harmful long-term effects.”

She added: “It should be the concern of professionals who work with parents to respectfully offer them alternative disciplinary strategies rather than to condemn parents for using methods consonant with their own, but not the counsellors beliefs and values.”

The Professor accused the Welsh Government of using the “full force of the criminal law to attack people who disagree on the comparative merits of using smacking rather than something like timeout”, saying it is a “bureaucratic imposition on parents”.

Only one academic – Dr Gideon Calder, Associate Professor in Sociology and Social Policy at Swansea University – spoke in favour of Government interventions like the smacking ban.

Dr Calder argued that intervention is justifiable in some instances and said something like the smacking ban is not necessarily authoritarian. He said: “the point of the legislation is to safeguard children from potentially harmful interactions.”

Commenting on the debate, Jamie Gillies, spokesman for the Be Reasonable Wales campaign, said:

“The criticism levelled at the Government’s smacking plans tonight by experts in the fields of sociology, criminology and parenting studies should be a wakeup call to Ministers.

“Experts are not convinced that the plan to outlaw parental smacking is viable, needful or helpful in terms of improving child protection.

“I hope AMs hear the concerns of these academics as well as their constituents and scrap the smacking ban bill when it’s voted on in January.”

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