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 will be leading a session on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) on Wednesday 9th May 2018  9am – 12pm. More information at,86184c37-c02d-c1b9-6c4f-5a7ad5c98e44/view,showevent/





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



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

More info on Safer Internet Day 2018 is available at



Have your say in the consultation on statutory Relationships Education – ensure RSE meets pupils’ needs

I would like you to cast your mind back to the year 2000. The UK fuel protests took place, with refineries blockaded, and supply to the country’s network of petrol stations halted. The new Millennium Bridge and London Eye opened, and the UK was hit by one of the worst snow storms in the last 50 years. At the cinema we were watching Billy Eliot and Erin Brockovich. And we were all jolly chuffed that the millennium bug hadn’t brought the whole world to a standstill. The Daily Mail was reporting that sales of the much-hyped WAP phones, which allow users to access the internet on their handsets, had flopped – after all who would want to access the internet on their phone? Phones are for calling people, and sending little messages, oh yes and playing that game were you chase the snake around the screen.

Then in July 2000 the current guidance for schools on sex and relationships education was published. I’m sorry – did I read that right?  The current guidance for schools to deliver a massively important curriculum area was published 17 years ago?

Hard to believe but true. The guidance that schools have been using to shape policy and practice was published 4 years before Facebook was launched, 5 years before civil partnerships in England became legal, and 7 years before the iphone brought the computational power of the first moon landings into our pockets. How then can this guidance be relevant and appropriate and enable schools to meet the needs of pupils growing up in 2018. The truth is it can’t be, and thankfully this is finally being addressed. In 2019 secondary schools will be required to teach Sex and relationships education, and primary schools – relationships education, and a consultation has been launched to determine what that actually should comprise.

We believe high quality RSE is integral to safeguarding and as such is an entitlement for all. How can you really claim to safeguard children if they don’t understand ‘healthy relationships’, are not able to correctly name their body parts including their genitalia, understand consent, or realise the risks and consequences of sexting or their digital footprint. Children and young people from all communities and parts of the country are faced with sexualised images in the media and in popular culture. They need the understanding and skills to navigate their way through to ensure they enjoy positive and healthy and respectful relationships of all kinds. High quality and relevant RSE is one means of enabling this.

We encourage as many people as possible to take part in this consultation. To access please visit

Just think if we don’t update this one till 2034 what lives will our young people be living then?

The Daily Mail also reported that leading economists were providing fresh evidence that the economy is running out of steam – so somethings never change.


Top tips for growing up in the digital world

Many young people may have taken their first steps into the online world of messaging or social media after receiving a new device for Christmas.  This is an exciting time, but one that can also bring unhappiness, bullying and possible exploitation if the young person is not aware or prepared for the choices they may have to make.

What we have to make sure is that all young people understand that real life lessons apply.  What is not right in the school playground or in the street, is still not right in the digital world.  Young people need to remember to not give out personal information or send images.  Both these sorts of behaviours can aid others in bullying or grooming the people identified.

What is now available to young people through the internet and connectivity is an eye on the world that will show all its beauty and wonder as well as its darker sides.    Young people need to be confident they can cope with what’s available.   They need to have the resilience to resist temptation, and the understanding about making good choices.  The need to conform to expectations is very powerful, but just because it is on line it is not always true or what is actually happening in that person’s real life.

It is not just Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Yellow to name a few that pose opportunities and dangers, it is also online gaming that opens up a world outside of the child’s house.

Top tips

Try to:

  • Talk to your child about their digital use
  • Be aware of the types of things they do online and who they are ‘talking to’ online
  • Limit screen time and encourage or make them be online in a family shared space
  • Make sure parental controls are enabled and that where possible children are using the children’s version of the app, to try and help protect them from unsuitable content
  • Be aware of age limits for content, games, social media and other digital content
  • Talk about healthy relationships, positive body image, bullying as well as online shopping.


Niall Crawford is an education adviser with Services for Education specialising in safeguarding, e-safety and CSE.

Ciaran O’Donnell, Head of Service for Music at Services for Education is overjoyed with new research but worried about the future.

First the good news…..

Let’s start the year with a spring in our step, a song in our heart – and with something that is music to my ears.

Research shows that more children in the UK are now learning to play a musical instrument for the first time – and today’s secondary school children are more likely to learn an instrument than their parents or grandparents at the same age.

As someone who believes that the benefits of learning to play music go well beyond the ability to play an instrument itself, I am really heartened by two studies that have recently come out of Birmingham.

First, research by Birmingham’s Town Hall Symphony Hall shows that two thirds of 11 – 16 year olds have learnt or are learning an instrument – compared with 61% of the generations before them.

There’s good news for the West Midlands as well. Outside London, the region is the UK’s “most musical group” where 3% of children can play the Cello and where you are most likely to find a Bassoonist, Oboist or Organist.

Hot on the heels of that research, Birmingham City University conducted a nationwide online survey and interviews with music education leaders discovering that almost 460,000 schoolchildren learnt how to play a musical instrument for the first time in the 2015/16 academic year. The majority of musical learning takes place in Key Stage 2 of primary school and Key Stage 3 of secondary school.

Clearly, we are doing something right.

There is no doubt that Music Services and Music Education Hubs have been hugely successful at increasing access and participation.

Here in Birmingham, Services For Education, a charity that does so much for young people, has been quite literally playing its part. Since we became a stand-alone charity in 2012, we have helped more than 60,000 children to pick up an instrument and learn to play over that 5 year period.

But before I get carried away, there has to be a touch of reality. We now regularly teach 18,000 intermediate to advanced instrumentalists…so what has happened to the rest?

Starting to learn to play is one thing but we must also ensure that we have progression to enable our young musicians to fulfil all their potential. The evidence seems to point to a pyramid where the base of early learners is increasingly wide but the top is increasingly thin as fewer and fewer children progress.

I have still got the spring in my step but ensuring that more children can learn to play music for longer is not going to be a sprint – but a marathon. It’s up to all of us who have benefited from music education to make sure that we do more in the future.