NAHT CYMRU has welcomed the publication of key messages for education professionals from the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse
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.
Poison arrow frogs at New Scientist Live
ABERYSTYWTH UNIVERISTY scientist Dr Karen Siu-Ting discussed poison arrow frogs at New Scientist Live last Thursday (Sept 28).
Dr Siu-Ting is an IRC ELEVATE-MSCA Co-fund Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University.
Her research into poison arrow frogs featured as part of ‘Ask a Biologist’, hosted by The Royal Society of Biology.
An evolutionary biologist from Peru, Dr Siu-Ting specialises in amphibians and combines field work in the Amazon rainforest with laboratory and computational analyses to address biological questions.
She is currently working on a project on poison arrow frogs between Aberystwyth University and Dublin City University.
Apply for six-month traineeship scheme
IF YOU’D like to earn as you learn hands-on skills to prepare you for a career in practical conservation or estate management, apply now for Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Skills in Action traineeship scheme.
The project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Skills for the Future scheme, will provide two six-month salaried apprenticeships with the National Park Authority’s Ranger and Warden Teams.
Skills in Action Project Coordinator for Pembrokeshire Coast Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, Tom Iggleden said: “The successful candidates will be learning the skills and experience that are essential to be successful in obtaining employment within a highly competitive sector.
“The main duties of the placement will include practical hands-on work-based experience in conservation and estate management.”
The six month traineeship will see the successful applicants learn a wide variety of skills including traditional hedgelaying and modern conservation methods that are essential to the work of the National Park Authority.
This is an extension to the original three-year project which has helped many of the 15 previous trainees gain employment.
The closing date for applications is October 24 with interviews to be held on November 6.
Application packs are available from the National Park Authority’s website atwww.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/jobs or by contacting contact Joanne Morgan by calling 01646 624856 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Committee concerned at £12.7m error
A £12.7M alteration to the cost of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill has been described as concerning by a National Assembly for Wales committee.
In the original figures submitted alongside the Bill the Welsh Government identified savings of £4.8m over a period of four years if the Bill was passed.
But the estimates were challenged by children’s charity SNAP Cymru which claimed the Welsh Government had misinterpreted figures it had provided concerning disputes and resolution services. The Welsh Government admitted the error and revised the figures from the original saving to a cost of £7.9m – a difference of £12.7m.
The Finance Committee asked the Welsh Government to delay the financial resolution on the Bill, the mechanism by which government gains support to spend the money enacting the law and the government agreed.
“A £12.7m swing from a saving to a cost is very concerning, as it shows a government which doesn’t fully understand the figures it quotes,” said Simon Thomas AM, Chair of the Finance Committee.
“It also throws into doubt any future costs connected to Bills which come before this committee as we are left wondering whether the government has done its sums right.
“We are grateful to SNAP Cymru for highlighting the inaccuracies and acknowledge the steps taken by the Minister subsequently, but we will need further reassurance that such errors will not happen again.”
The Bill’s aim is to improve the quality of support available to children with additional learning needs through a person-centred approach which would identify needs early on and make sure the right support, monitoring and evaluation was put in place to help them.
The Finance Committee welcomed the actions taken by the Welsh Government to address the situation. But Members were concerned and surprised that inaccuracies as significant as this were raised and that SNAP Cymru was not consulted on the final figures before they were published.
The Committee acknowledges that revisions have since been made and the Minister’s assurances that the revised figures are robust, however, it is concerned at the need to have made this level of changes to the original costings.
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