Safeguarding update

Updates to inspection practice with regard to child-on-child sexual abuse

ISI introduced a range of measures to further strengthen inspection practice in relation to child-on-child sexual harassment and abuse.

In June 2021, Ofsted published its Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges which found that sexual harassment has become ‘normalised’ for children and young people. ISI also conducted its own internal review, exploring reporting of child-on-child sexual harassment and abuse during its inspections.

The Ofsted review examined ISI’s and Ofsted’s inspections, training and handling of complaints and found that safeguarding is ‘generally well covered on inspection, inspectors are prepared, and complaints are generally dealt with well’. However, the report contained a series of recommendations for government, schools, parents and school inspectorates to reflect the prevalence and severity of the issue.

In response, ISI introduced a range of measures. This included: 

Free RSE-Focused Webinars

ISI partnered with AGBIS to deliver a series of free RSE-focused webinars. These webinars were delivered jointly by Vanessa Ward (Chief Inspector-CEO at ISI) and Richard Harman (CEO at AGBIS).  The three webinars focused on: recommendations for schools from the Ofsted Review; an overview of the new RSE statutory guidance and implications for implementation; and exploring how to promote a positive school culture, listen to pupils, and engage with parents and support staff.

RSE Pilot Visits

Ofsted’s review reported that ‘children and young people were rarely positive about the RSE they had received’. The statutory guidance on RSE must be implemented by all schools and is inspected under paragraph 7 of the Independent School Standards Regulations.

ISI piloted RSE-focused visits amongst a small selection of volunteer schools. These trialled inspection methodology, with a focus on capturing the views of pupils. The pilots implemented recommendations from the Ofsted Review, including inspectors speaking to pupils in single-sex groups, wherever possible. Inspectors also cross-referenced leaders’ and pupils’ views with other evidence (such as record keeping), giving added weight to the views of pupils.

Updated Inspection Practice

From September 2021, ISI specifically requested for schools to provide records and analysis of sexual harassment and abuse on notification of inspection. This information has previously been requested as part of ISI’s inspections, although this specific request is now included in the initial notification call between the reporting inspector and headteacher.

Updated Complaints Policy

Since September 2021, all concerns received are logged and passed to the Department for Education.  Previously only those concerns relating to the Independent School Standards were passed to the DfE. 

Local Safeguarding Partnerships (LSP)

On inspection, inspectors discuss with school leaders how the school engages with the school’s LSP. ISI contacts the relevant Local Authority (as previously done) to identify whether the school has made any referrals either to the local authority designated officer (LADO) or Children’s Services, and, where referrals have been made, for a view on how effectively the school manages relevant safeguarding processes. The relevant statutory guidance on multi-agency working is Working Together to Safeguard Children, and schools’ engagement with this guidance is inspected under paragraph 7 of the Independent School Standards Regulations.

Our Chief Executive/Chief Inspector, Vanessa Ward, delivered a session with Lorraine Parker (Safeguarding Lead for the National Police Vulnerability and Practice Programme) to Association Chief Executives on the topic of multi-agency working.

Joint Working with Ofsted

ISI and Ofsted work together on operational, strategic and corporate levels, and during the collaborative working in autumn 2021 they focussed on producing and jointly delivering further training on inspecting safeguarding in education settings. This included issues of child-on-child sexual harassment and abuse, including online.