Heads ‘fail to tackle child sexual exploitation’

Head teachers are reluctant to tackle the sexual exploitation of children, the deputy children’s commissioner for England has told a committee of MPs. This is from the BBC…

Sue Berelowitz told the Education Committee heads were reluctant to raise the issue because the did not want to damage their schools’ reputation.

Ms Berelowitz claimed some bullying in schools amounted to sexual violence.

But the Association of School and College Leaders said head teachers took child protection “very seriously”.

Ms Berelowitz is mounting a two-year inquiry into the scale and scope of the problem of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

The inquiry is being conducted in the wake of a number of high-profile cases, including nine men who were jailed last year for grooming girls as young as 13 in Rochdale with drink and drugs.

Asked by MPs whether schools were playing down the extent of such exploitation, Ms Berelowitz said: “We’re actually picking that up more this year, so you won’t see that in the interim report, but you will see some of that coming through in the report that we’ll produce at the end of the inquiry.

“Yes, we are encountering a reluctance certainly in some schools to face up to the fact that some of the bullying that takes place within the school environment actually amounts to sexual exploitation, certainly sexual violence.

“And is it very important because we also have examples of good practice in schools, where they’re taking a whole school approach to addressing this issue, whether it’s happening within the school or children who are victims of CSE from people outside of the school.

“And certainly I can think of one head where we did a visit to her school – she’s doing fantastic work with the whole school – she’s tried to get other schools in the area to take the same approach as her.

“The reason they don’t want to is because the heads there are worried that people think there’s a problem in their schools.

“So there is a reluctance certainly by some schools. I can’t comment on how prevalent that is because I simply don’t have that evidence, we haven’t conducted that sort of survey, but I do think it’s an issue that needs to be taken seriously.”

ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman said: “That is a serious accusation and I would be very interested to know what evidence she has to back up such a claim.

“It doesn’t reflect what I see going on in schools every day. The reality is that keeping children safe in school is a top priority.

“The procedures for dealing with safe guarding and child protection issues are clear and heads take them very seriously.”

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