Education staff worried about reporting child abuse & FGM – ATL Survey

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Press release
11 April 2017 by Stevie Cooke - Admin
More than a quarter of education staff (28.8%) are worried they could be perceived as prejudiced or racist if they report concerns about honour-based abuse and child abuse linked to faith and belief, according to an Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) survey.

Our poll also found 31% of staff are concerned about reporting female genital mutilation (FGM), honour-based abuse or child abuse linked to faith or belief, because they lack confidence in their own judgement. 

And almost a fifth (19.4%) feared that reporting FGM, honour-based abuse and child abuse linked to faith or belief could damage their relationship with the child or young person, while 14% worried about harming their relationship with the child’s family.

Just over 16% cited uncertainty regarding reporting procedures as a cause of concern.

A support staff worker said: “Many of the signs are so subtle or could easily be something else, and I’d hate to get it wrong and make a child or family feel like the subject of prejudice…but the issues are so serious I hope it wouldn’t stop me from reporting concerns.”

Almost all staff (97%) said they were confident, however, that they understood their responsibilities as a professional regarding the safeguarding of pupils and students.

The survey also found that 29% of staff have not been given information or training to identify and report FGM, while more than half have not been given training to identify and report forced marriage. Over 60% have not been given information or training to identify and report honour-based abuse or child abuse linked to faith or belief. 

Less than half (49.4%) believe their safeguarding and child protection training has fully equipped them to deal with emerging problems, liaise with the designated safeguarding lead, and work with other professionals to support early identification and assessment. 

A primary school teacher said: “More and more demands are being placed on the average practitioner. I fear I’ll miss the signs of a critical situation.”

Staff are most aware of these signs of abuse in children: withdrawal or isolation, irregular school attendance, reluctance to get changed in front of others, removal from school with no alternative place, deterioration in school performance or reports from the child that they have been accused of being ‘evil’ or the cause of bad family circumstances.

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said: “While it’s positive that 71% of members we surveyed have had training in how to identify to identify and report FGM, it is vital that the 29% who haven’t are given the information and training they need to feel confident about reporting concerns. 

“Most staff need more information, guidance and training about honour-based and child abuse linked to faith, the time to implement policies relating to child protection, and access to health, social care and police resources and support to help them protect children and young people who are vulnerable to abuse.”

The survey also covered personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) and sex education and relationships education (SRE). The Government made an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill on 1 March to make relationships education (RE) compulsory in primary schools, SRE in secondary schools and PSHE in all schools from September 2019.

Over half feel SRE could be improved. 

Asked about what pupils should be taught in PSHE and SRE, and at what age, the following was revealed: 

Over 85% of all staff polled thought children aged 6-11 (key stage 1-2) should be taught about relationships, followed by 85% for cyber bullying.

Nearly 86% of staff felt children aged 12-14 (key stage 3) should be taught about inappropriate messaging of a sexual nature (sexting), followed by contraception (82%), same sex relationships (82%), cyber bullying (81%), sexually transmitted infections (STIs) 81%, consent (80%), and HIV awareness (80%).

Over 83% of respondents regarded the dangers of date rape as the most important issue for young people aged 15-16 years  (key stage 4-5) to know about, followed by HIV (79%), transgender issues (79%) and STIs (79%).

A teacher in Hampshire said: “The conversation around these topics is woefully inadequate. It is not only vitally important in the development of caring, responsible and confident young people, but it is also of relevance in their lives. We need much more time dedicated to these sensitive issues, much more curriculum time.”

“Less emphasis on mechanics, more on its place within relationships,” is needed, said a head of department at a Cambridgeshire school. 

A London-based teacher said: “We need more support to teach pupils with SEN to understand sex and relationships.” 

Dr Bousted said: “With more than half of the members we surveyed saying SRE could be improved, the Government’s move to address sex and relationships education in our schools is timely.” 

An NSPCC spokesman said: “We know from calls to our helplines that faith-based abuse and FGM are issues that affect hundreds of young people in the UK. It is vital that all teachers are able to spot the signs of this abuse and feel confident to report it.

”If teachers have uncertainty around their concerns they can talk to a trained counsellor at the NSPCC Helpline who will help them to understand whether a child is in danger and how best to protect them.”

ENDS

Note to editors:

  • The Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ Annual Conference will be held at ACC in Liverpool from Monday 10 until Wednesday 12 April 2017.
  • ATL is an independent, registered trade union and professional association, representing approximately 170,000 teachers, headteachers, lecturers and support staff in maintained and independent nurseries, schools, sixth form, tertiary and further education colleges in the United Kingdom.
  • ATL exists to help members, as their careers develop, through first rate research, advice, information and legal advice, and to work with government and employers to defend its members’ pay, conditions and career development.
  • ATL is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and Education International (EI). ATL is not affiliated to any political party and seeks to work constructively with all the main political parties.
  • Please see here for our FGM factsheet and further infO
  • The NSPCC Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7 service and can be reached on 0808 800 5000.

Further notes: 

Responses were collected from 361 ATL members working in state/maintained schools, independent schools, sixth-form colleges and FE colleges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The survey was carried out in March 2017.

Do you feel that sex and relationships education could be improved to better meet the needs of young people? And if so how?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Yes 56.5% 204
No 11.6% 42
Don't know 31.9% 115
  • Answered question: 361
  • Skipped question: 0

What are your fears/concerns in reporting honour based abuse, FGM, child abuse linked to faith or belief? Mark any/all that apply

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Lack of certainty regarding the procedures 16.1% 58
Lack of confidence in own judgement 31.3% 113
Risk of damage to relationship with the child/young person 19.4% 70
Risk of damage to relationship with the family 14.4% 52
Risk of damage to your/school's relationship with the community 10.0% 36
That the judgement could be perceived as based on prejudiced/racist assumptions 28.8% 104
I don't have any fears/concerns about reporting incidents 47.4% 171
Not applicable 3.0% 11
Other (please specify) - 12
  • Answered question: 361
  • Skipped question: 0

Are you confident that you understand your responsibilities, as a professional, regarding the safeguarding of pupils and students?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Yes 96.7% 349
No 2.2% 8
Don't know 1.1% 4
Other (please specify) - 1
  • Answered question: 361
  • Skipped question: 0

Do you believe that the safeguarding and child protection training, you've received has equipped you to identify emerging problems, liaise with the designated safeguarding lead, work with other professionals to support early identification and assessment?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Yes, fully 49.9% 180
Yes, to some extent 44.6% 161
No, I've had no recent training or updates 2.8% 10
No, the training was insufficient 2.5% 9
Don't know 0.3% 1
Other (Please specify) - 6
  • Answered question: 361
  • Skipped question: 0

Have you been given information and/or training which would equip you to identify and report the following? Please mark any/all for which you can answer yes.

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Honour based abuse 37.7% 136
Breast ironing 13.0% 47
Forced marriage 48.2% 174
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) 70.9% 256
Child abuse linked to faith or belief including abuse to drive 'demons' out, to blame child for misfortune 36.3% 131
None of the above 23.3% 84
Other (Please specify)     - 84
  • Answered question: 361
  • Skipped question: 0

What do you think should be covered in PSHE/SRE lessons at KS1-2, KS3, KS4-5

Answer Options KS1-2 KS3 KS4-5 Total responses including blanks
Pornography 12.4% 70.9% 76.6% 354
Date rape 2.5% 55.9% 83.1% 354
Contraception 18.1% 82.2% 75.4% 354
Consent 42.4% 80.2% 76.3% 354
Relationships 85.3% 77.7% 74.9% 354
Abusive relationships 48.9% 76.6% 78.0% 354
Misogyny 29.7% 64.4% 75.1% 354
Cyber bullying 84.7% 81.1% 76.8% 354
Inappropriate messaging of a sexual nature (i.e. sexting) 50.8% 85.6% 76.6% 354
Same sex relationships (inc gay/lesbian/bisexual) 57.3% 81.6% 76.8% 354
Transgender issues 37.0% 77.7% 79.1% 354
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) / Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) 9.9% 80.5% 78.8% 354
HIV awareness 13.3% 79.9% 79.4% 354

 

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FGM