Damian Hinds has said he will look at whether the government could launch a helpline for parents concerned that cases of pupil-on-pupil sexual abuse have been mishandled by schools.
The education secretary also said he would look at whether schools should be made to collect anonymised data relating to such incidents.
‘Peer-on-peer abuse’ refers to sexual abuse where both the perpetrator and victim are children or young people.
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Mr Hinds was quizzed on the subject by Labour MP Emma Hardy during a session of the Commons Education Select Committee this morning.
As Tes reported last week, Ms Hardy has called for mandatory, anonymised reporting of such incidents, and for Ofsted to introduce a phoneline for parents “with a dedicated and trained team to handle serious safeguarding concerns in a sensitive and timely manner”.
Speaking at the select committee today, Ms Hardy said: “I’ve asked if schools can start collecting anonymised data. Now I know when I was a teacher in school, we used to collect anonymised data around racial incidents and hate crimes which were sent off to the Department for Education.
“Can we look at doing the same around sexual abuse and assault? Not naming individual children, but if we’re going to tackle this problem, then we need to be fully aware of what is happening in our schools."
Moving on to her proposed helpline, she said: “If you’re a parent and your child has been assaulted and you don’t think the school has tackled this very well, there is no way at the moment for that parent to contact Ofsted about it.
She added: “If you phone or try and write in, there’s not a dedicated line to actually speak to, or people trained in this area. So, what I’m asking for is a national helpline for parents who are worried about a particular incident around sexual abuse and sexual assault, so they don’t have to go through the regular switchboard system on Ofsted.”
Mr Hinds said he was “very happy” to meet with Ms Hardy to discuss the proposals.
“I’m not going to give you a live commitment at the committee, because with these things you’ve always got to think about how it works in practice, the workload, but most importantly what the unintended consequences might be.
“But that’s also not a no – I’m saying let’s follow up separately, it’s a very important topic.
“I know it’s something close to your heart and I will be happy to follow up.”