Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week

Sexual violence is a global, international, national and local issue.

Those of us working with children and young people have an absolute responsibility through our safeguarding duty to be aware of the risks to young people and the harm perpetrated to them and by them. (KCSiE 2016)

There is a growing realisation of the extent to which young people, particularly girls, are having to manage sexual harassment, unwanted sexual touching, degrading and humiliating comments, violation of personal space and physical privacy and generally hostile environments – in schools, which we would hope to believe are safe spaces.

Although 6% of boys report sexual harassment compared to 37% of girls, and this may be partly because boys feel less able to talk about it, we have to look at this as a gendered issue.  Female students are more likely to describe multiple incidents and more severe cases. (IER 2017)

So we need to ask the question, are staff in schools equipped to address sexism, harassment and abuse? Evidence in the 2017 report “It’s just everywhere” would indicate that the answer is – no. Comments from contributors to the report included:

“I wasn’t aware that these incidents could be reported, no students have ever been told it is wrong to act in this way, it’s not discouraged or punished…”

“…the cover teacher was just laughing…”

“It’s just something that happens, no matter how much we don’t like it.”

 

So what does your school do?  What more could be done?

A robust, open, inclusive Relationships and Sex Education programme within the context of a comprehensive PSHE programme, with staff who are trained, confident and competent; staff who are able to have difficult conversations; staff who believe this is a key part of the education of young people, is the only way to address this.

The DfE paper ‘Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges’ December 2017, is a starting point but schools have to truly buy into this to make a difference.

We can also broaden this to include the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls strategy and the vision for 2020.

“..that there is a significant reduction in the number of VAWG victims, achieved by challenging the deeply-rooted social norms, attitudes and behaviours that discriminate against and limit women and girls, and by educating, informing and challenging young people about healthy relationships, abuse and consent..”

(Ending Violence against Women and Girls  Strategy 2016 – 2020)

How do we educate our pupils about CSE, Domestic Abuse, FGM, Forced Marriage, so called ‘Honour’ Based Violence?  How do we give our children the skills to question and challenge others, and protect themselves?

Please let me, Liz Bates, know if you want support and guidance to do this

liz.bates@servicesforeducation.co.uk

 

Liz will be leading a session on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) on Wednesday 9th May 2018  9am – 12pm. More information at

https://servicesforeducation.co.uk/index.php/component/com_advancedopenportal/id,86184c37-c02d-c1b9-6c4f-5a7ad5c98e44/view,showevent/

 

 

 

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Child Mental Health Week- why this is so important.

With Mental Health being acknowledged as a critical factor in the development and wellbeing of us all, Child Mental Health Week is a time to focus on what we can do to support all children and put into place approaches that may help the most vulnerable.

All children need to feel safe in order to learn.  Every element of their school day, from what they had for breakfast and where they sit in the classroom, to getting an answer wrong and whether mum will be at home tonight, will contribute to that sense.  The safer they feel the more likely their thinking brain will be in control.  Anxiety, fear, shame and sadness can all interrupt this process, whether it appears as ‘my tummy hurts’ , ‘what if…what if….what if…’ or ‘I hate you’.  For successful problem solving, planning, organising – all those higher level thinking skills fundamental to success – we need to be removing anxiety or at the very least helping children to understand and manage their feelings.

Helping children to develop the capacity to cope with some difficult feelings; providing experiences that can enhance their understanding of their own behaviour and the behaviour of others; introducing children to the reasons behind their stress responses and giving them the resources to learn how to self-calm, can only enrich and improve their capacity to manage their life in school.  If we can provide an environment, a secure base, where children feel safe to make mistakes, get things wrong, not know, ask questions, then we are going some way to countering those risk factors which may lead to Mental Health issues, disorders and illness.

I am delighted that I am being approached by more and more schools to give staff an understanding of how we can support children, and help schools to develop those protective factors within an emotionally safe classroom.

Resources such as ‘Ruby Rafa and Riz. Feel Think and Do’ and ‘Something Has Happened’ are now supplemented by a new book and pack of activities and strategies, ‘Myg and Me’, which introduces children to their survival brain – the amygdala – and helps them learn self-calming techniques to manage anxiety.

If you are attending the Connecting Globally, Acting Locally, Leading Compassionately Conference on Friday 9th February 2017 at Birmingham City Football Club I will see you there and tell you more.

For more information or for support on emotional and mental health in schools please contact Liz on liz.bates@servicesforeducation.co.uk

 

 

Safer Internet Day – a great opportunity to talk to young people about their internet use

Safer Internet Day on the 6th of February is a good opportunity to audit your understanding of what young people are doing online, what apps are trending with young people, how do they allow them to contact each other, what do they allow the user to access.  What dangers may they pose if not used with thought, care and consideration?

In a previous blog I mentioned about a platform called Yellow, but in the ever changing world of the internet and probably as a result of some poor publicity it is now called Yubo.  It has two versions on for 13+ and one for 18+. As a teacher, parent or guardian how would you know?

The apps themselves do not cause the issues, as it is the users who are in control of their behaviours online.  The need to constantly reinforce positive behaviours and boundaries are a key part of E-Safety.  If you don’t upload a picture, you will not lose control of how that picture is used and who sees it.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, and apps like Yubo and Monkey enabling young people to connect, flirt and exchange images all in the name of young love, Safer Internet Day if used wisely, could go a long way to stopping some young people making mistakes or being exploited, with consequences that may last a lifetime.

For more information and support on e-safety please contact niall.crawford@servicesforeducation.co.uk

More info on Safer Internet Day 2018 is available at https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/safer-internet-day/2018