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Education

Schools have major role to prevent exploitation

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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.

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Education

Aberystwyth Young People create powerful short film to raise awareness of Youth Homelessness

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October 10, 2020 is World Homeless Day, which is an international day to raise awareness and encourage local communities to help those who are homeless.

In February 2020, young people from Penparcau Youth Club, who form the Aberystwyth Community Ambassadors Group, embarked on a new project in partnership with Arad Goch to create a short film in a bid to educate and raise awareness of youth homelessness. The project was funded by Ceredigion Association of Voluntary Organisations’ (CAVO) Youth Led Grant Scheme.

The group researched the topic, discussed with local organisations, created a script, filmed scenes in and around Aberystwyth and edited and evaluated every stage of the project. The film was produced by young people, for young people under the support and supervision of local Theatre Company, Arad Goch. The project was also supported by drama pupils from Ysgol Gyfun Gymunedol Penweddig who participated and supported the production. The short film follows the poignant journey of a young person who faces family breakdown and subsequently homelessness, before finding support with a local organisation.

Aberystwyth Community Ambassadors said, “We feel that this is an important issue for not only people in Aberystwyth but across wales. We wanted to help tackle the issue of homelessness, but not only homelessness, the stigma that surrounds being homeless. We feel that there is a need to raise awareness of homelessness, where to get support and that it could happen to anyone.”

Carwyn Blayney the director of the film said, “It was a pleasure to work on this project with such a great team of youth workers, very talented young people and based on a true story of a very brave individual; thanks to him for sharing his story and for letting us use it as the basis for this short film. Every one of the young people – the producers and the cast – worked hard on this project back in February, and you can be very pleased with the way you’ve discussed such a sensitive and important issue through this film.”

Catrin Miles, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, Support and Intervention, said: “Huge congratulations to everyone in the team who got together to create this inspiring and contemporary film that highlights a serious problem in our society. Thanks to all the partners who cooperated on this project, one that is pertinent and of interest to everyone, Wales-wide. It particularly shows our children and young that homelessness can arise totally out of the blue but that support is on hand to enable a bright and positive future.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the original launch for the film has been postponed, but a virtual launch will take place in November, where the film will be launched and made available to view.

Ceredigion Youth Service would like to thank Aberystwyth Community Ambassadors, Arad Goch Theatre Company, pupils from Ysgol Gyfun Gymunedol Penweddig, CAVO and Ty Curig, Aberystwyth.

For more information about the work of Ceredigion Youth Service, visit their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page @GICeredigionYS or visit their website at www.giceredigionys.co.uk.

For more information about the work of Arad Goch Theatre Company, visit their website https://aradgoch.cymru/?lang=en.

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Education

Two face masks for each Ceredigion pupil

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EVERY secondary school pupil in Ceredigion will receive two reusable masks.

Welsh Government has funded and provided two reusable masks to secondary school pupils.

The mask should be worn to help protect the pupils and others, alongside other measures such as social distancing and washing hands regularly.

In school, the pupils will be instructed when to wear a mask. This will happen when pupils are outside of their contact group and where it is challenging to maintain social distancing.

Pupils will receive their masks through their school over the next fortnight.

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Education

Newtown: Online threat to ‘use of firearms at a school’ lead to swift police action

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE was made aware this morning, the force said, of “utterly irresponsible and scaremongering posts” on Facebook, suggesting that the authors of the posts were going to use firearms at a school in the Newtown area.

The posts were by individuals local to Newtown, and police acted swiftly to address this, which resulted in the arrest of three local men, aged 20, 21 and 27 on suspicion of malicious communications and public order. As part of the initial response schools were also given advice to be vigilant.

A spokesman said: “Understandably the posts caused serious concern in the area, and unfortunately the subsequent rumours led to misunderstandings. This is turn led to calls to the police alleging there was a man with a firearm seen outside Newtown High School.

“Police had to respond appropriately to these calls based on the threat allegedly posed, and a firearms unit was sent to the school. We can confirm that there was no man at the school, and when we have delved further into the detail of the calls, it has transpired that they were as a result of the rumours circulating, and not based on first-hand accounts.

“Police have also carried out thorough searches as a result of the arrests, and no weapons have been recovered. The local Neighbourhood Policing Team will also be present at the school at home time to reassure and inform parents, pupils and staff.

“We hope this clarification will reassure the community of Newtown that there is no threat to schools in the area, and the matter was dealt with seriously and swiftly. We would also appeal to everyone to stop sharing the posts and any associated rumours, in order to prevent any further unsubstantiated fear and alarm in the area.”

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