ofsted

Inspectors will review sexual abuse records and consider how colleges handle related incidents when Ofsted returns to routine inspections in September, the watchdog has confirmed.

Ofsted has today updated its FE and skills handbook to reflect the changes it promised to introduce following a recent review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges.

The review found that sexual harassment has become “normalised” for children and young people.

A new section entitled ‘sexual harassment and violence and online sexual abuse between learners who are children or young people’ has been added.

It makes clear that where colleges do have not “adequate” sexual abuse processes in place, it is likely that safeguarding will be considered ineffective.

This can impact on the ‘leadership and management’ judgement and the overall grade is likely to be ‘inadequate’.

As part of the inspection of safeguarding arrangements, inspectors will meet with learners and this will “normally involve meeting with specific groups of learners, in particular single-sex groups, where the provider is a college with children and young people”.

Inspection activity will also include reviewing records about safeguarding, including those relating to sexual harassment and violence and online sexual abuse.

Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national education director said: “The findings from our recent review have revealed just how commonplace sexual harassment has become in schools and colleges. So, even when there are no specific reports, schools and colleges must assume that it is taking place and plan to address it accordingly. Our updated handbooks are clear about how we will assess the approach schools and colleges have taken to tackle these issues head-on.

“We will expect schools and colleges to have created a culture where sexual abuse and harassment is not acceptable and never tolerated. And where pupils are supported to report any concerns about harmful sexual behaviour and can feel confident they will be taken seriously.”

Ofsted said that inspectors will not investigate individual allegations of harmful sexual behaviour, but will ensure that they are reported to the appropriate authority, if this has not already happened.

Ofsted has also updated and clarified how it will report on careers guidance, a promise that was made last week following mounting pressure on the watchdog to take stronger action in cases on non-compliance with the Baker Clause.

A spokesperson for the inspectorate said: “It is important that schools understand and meet the requirements of the ‘Baker clause’, which came into force in January 2018.

“If a school is not meeting the requirements of the clause, inspectors will state this in the inspection report. They will consider what impact this has on the quality of careers information, education, advice and guidance and the subsequent judgement for personal development.”