Ofsted boss says sex assault claims 'bleed in' from outside school

Ofsted chief inspector says many pupils’ sex assault claims stem from videos and pictures taken outside of school and may not be linked to ‘rape culture’ within institutions

  • Amanda Spielman says wider issues could stem from ‘things outside school’
  • Ofsted will do review of safeguarding policies in state and independent schools 
  • Comes after more than 10,000 reports of sexual assault on Everyone’s Invited
  • Accusations have so far named top public schools including Eton College

Sexual abuse among pupils could be ‘bleeding into’ schools as a result of a culture problem in the wider world, Ofsted’s chief inspector has said.  

Amanda Spielman said testimonials posted anonymously by students on the Everyone’s Invited website have shown a ‘crossover very often between things happening outside of school bleeding into children’s lives within school’.

She says the widespread issues cannot solely be put down to internal culture problems within individual institutions after many were accused of harbouring a ‘rape culture’. 

It comes after The Department for Education (DfE) ordered the watchdog to launch a probe following concerns about widespread sexual abuse after more than 10,000 reports were posted on the Everyone’s Invited website.

Students anonymously sharing their experiences of misogyny, harassment, abuse and assault have so far named top public schools including Eton College.

She told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: ‘It is clear that a lot of what’s reported concerns incidents that happen outside of school, but they then bleed over into the school, for example because images or videos are brought in on mobile phones. 

‘I think we’re seeing a blurring of in and out of school – we can’t see them as separate.’

Amanda Spielman says the widespread issues cannot solely be put down to internal culture problems within individual institutions after many were accused of harbouring a ‘rape culture’

Ofsted will conduct  a review into safeguarding policies and practices at state and independent schools following concerns about widespread sexual abuse. Pictured: James Allen’s Girls School in Dulwich which has been hit by the scandal

She added while speaking to Sky News: ‘I think Everyone’s Invited is showing quite how much is happening in that blurred space – with friends from school, and not friends from school but outside school – it’s the crossover very often between things happening outside of school bleeding into children’s lives within school.

‘I have such a big concern about the fact so many of these young people have felt unable to tell their school what’s been happening to them.

‘Many of these schools think that they have good routes – people that children can trust, who they can talk to – and yet somehow it’s not always adding up, that’s what’s clear, so (we will look at) how we make sure the pieces add up to something that gives young people to report and talk about these things.’

Ofsted will be carrying out its review into safeguarding policies and practices by visiting around 25 to 30 state and independent schools.

The review – which should be completed by the end of May – will establish what current safeguarding guidance is place in schools and colleges and whether it is sufficient to allow them to ‘respond effectively’ to allegations. 

It will also examine whether institutions need extra support in teaching students about sex and relationships, and whether current inspection regimes are ‘robust enough’ around the issue of sexual abuse. 

Ms Spielman said the report will ‘put together a wider picture’ of the problem instead of reporting on individual schools.

The watchdog has said it will talk to headteachers and students on the issue first-hand and it will visit a sample of schools and colleges where cases have been highlighted.

She told Sky News: ‘We’re doing a thematic review that’s going to look at a sample of schools, some of which will be schools which are named on the Everyone’s Invited website, but the point is not to investigate individual cases or schools.

‘It’s to put together this wider picture and say: ‘What are the aspects of the problem which are of greatest concern to young people, and what are the things that existing systems do well, and what more could potentially be done?’

It appears Ofsted’s remit will include private schools even though they are inspected by the The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), not Ofsted. 

Indepdent schools are inspected by their own watchdog while Ofsted inspects state-run schools. The ISI is a Government approved inspectorate and the quality of its service is monitored by Ofsted on behalf of the DfE.

Pupils staged a protest against rape culture at Highgate School in London on March 25. The school, has been named in allegations among others including Eton and Dulwich College

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has condemned the alleged assaults listed on Everyone’s Invited as ‘shocking’ and suggested any schools implicated could face government measures.  

Accusations of sexual assault have so far named top public schools including Eton College, Hampton and Charterhouse, with both girls and boys among the alleged victims. 

More than 11,000 testimonies have now been uploaded to the Everyone’s Invited website

Last week, shocked head teachers of girls’ private schools said they were talking to current and former students over sex allegations at neighbouring schools.

The Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), which represents more than 100 top British girls’ private schools, said that in some cases they are referring incidents to the police.

GSA schools include James Allen’s Girls’ School (JAGS) – attended by some of the girls making accusations about Dulwich College boys.

Last Monday, GSA chief executive Donna Stevens released a statement saying the ‘deeply troubling’ allegations ‘must not be ignored’.

She said: ‘Our schools are taking this issue seriously and talking with current and former students as well as parents to bring about positive change.’

A sign reading ‘Educate Your Sons’ is attached to a gate outside James Allen’s School. The school was protesting rape culture at nearby Dulwich College Boys School 

The Department for Education had last week ordered the watchdog to launch the probe to understand ‘the extent and the severity of the issue’. Pictured: Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

Her words came as a former pupil at JAGS revealed herself to be the co-author of a letter making allegations against Dulwich College pupils.

But some schools have been accused of trivialising sexual violence by boys, with official figures showing the number of pupils suspended for it has almost halved in a decade.

There were 1,866 suspensions for sexual misconduct last year – a 44 per cent decrease on the 3,350 of ten years ago. Exclusions also fell.

Jane Lunnon, the new head of the £20,000-a-year Alleyn’s School in Dulwich, south-east London, suggested the solution should see young men become ‘part of the conversation’.

‘A gender war helps no one, and pitting girls against boys or ‘othering’ the opposite gender is no solution,’ she told The Times.

‘Our young people must learn how to tackle these things head on; how to listen to each other generously and with respect, and how to ex-press their concerns and their hopes openly together.’

An investigation by the Mail also found that boys at some private schools embroiled in the sex abuse scandal were having to change out of uniform to avoid street attacks and verbal abuse.

A woman and child walk past placards saying ‘it’s sexual harassment’, ‘she is someone’ and ‘educate your sons’ attached to the fence outside James Allen’s Girls’ School last week

Ofsted (file image) will look at safeguarding policies in state and independent schools and will ensure there are appropriate systems in place to allow pupils to report their concerns

Some of the male pupils also fear including their school name on CVs in case they are turned away by potential employers because of the negative associations.

Others – aged as young as 13 – have faced abuse from members of the public and have been branded rapists in the street, prompting some to change out of uniform for journeys to and from school.

One boy at a London independent school told The Mail on Sunday: ‘A lot of us are worried our association with the school is going to damage our job prospects. People will just look at us and see a rapist.’ 

A 46-year-old mother of boys aged 12 and 17 told The Daily Telegraph: ‘This is scaring me. What if it’s a case of two different perspectives of an event? What if the accusations are false, or exaggerated? How does a young man get his reputation back?

‘I know of boys being ‘cancelled’ by friends they’ve had since primary school because nobody wants to associate with them in the wake of allegations. They are being branded as rapists without any opportunity to share their perspective – it’s frankly terrifying.’

‘It’s really worrying,’ another mother added. ‘Very little is said about false allegations and protecting the alleged perpetrator.’

A teenager who on arrival at sixth-form college allegedly had girls screaming at him after a story had circulated has not returned since. None of his friends have been in contact with him, fearing they will be ‘cancelled’ if they break ranks. 

Union bosses say female STAFF are also victims of schools sex abuse scandal

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of NASUWT

Female teachers worry about walking corridors alone, union leaders warned as the schools sex scandal widened last night.

The NASUWT, which has 314,000 members in both private and state schools, said many women staff have reported sex assaults and harassment by male pupils.

Female teachers have also been victims of unwanted advances and behaviour, including ‘upskirting’ and ‘down-blousing’ – where pupils secretly film under their clothes and circulate footage online.

Last week, Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of NASUWT, said female teachers are suffering from the same ‘sexist and misogynist behaviour’ as girls have complained of and even have to constantly ‘think about how they are dressed’ to ward off attacks.

One teacher told the union her face was superimposed onto porn and then shared online widely.

Others have been inappropriately touched or been the subject of sexist name-calling and ‘derogatory language’ in class as well as online, Dr Roach said.

He told the union’s annual conference yesterday: ‘Misogyny and sexism are all too real, all too apparent – whether it’s on the streets… or in our schools.

‘And [the question is] whether female teachers and female students can feel that they are safe to walk along the corridors without having to think about how they’re dressed or whether they’re walking alone and how they’re going to be treated by pupils.

‘No teacher should feel that, no student should feel that. And yet we do hear that teachers and students do.’

He said the problem was related to the Everyone’s Invited testimonies, with the abuse that female pupils suffer ‘impacting’ on teachers, and ‘vice versa’.

He said: ‘We are seeing… so-called banter, sexist name-calling, the use of derogatory terms – both in class and online – to talk about teachers, the posting of sexist comments on social media, the belittling of teachers because of their sex.’

He said the most ‘extreme’ behaviour included ‘cases of upskirting, down-blousing, inappropriate touching’, and it probably represented ‘the tip of the iceberg’. 

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