Almost one in five teachers has no understanding at all of the new duty to report pupils at risk of female genital mutilation, a new report shows.
This is caused by a lack of training: half say that they have not been given enough information about the new duty, according to a survey carried out by children’s charity Barnardo’s.
The charity surveyed 147 teachers, questioning them about their understanding of their new legal responsibilities to report cases of female genital mutilation (FGM).
Changes to the Serious Crime Act, which come into force this month, will require teachers to report known cases – either revealed by the girl herself or visually confirmed by the teacher – to the police.
But 48 per cent of teachers surveyed by Barnardo's said that they needed more information about this new duty. And 17 per cent – almost one in five – said that they did not understand it at all.
Even those teachers who believed that they understood the duty very well were often unaware of its requirements. For example, 80 per cent thought that they were legally obliged to report to the police any girls whom they believed to be at risk of FGM.
In fact, they are only required to report known cases of FGM.
Meanwhile, 40 per cent of all those surveyed said they did not know what organisations would be able to support girls affected by FGM, or where to refer girls for advice.
Celia Jeffreys, head of the National FGM Centre, pointed out that most teachers have not had the training or the support to be able to assist pupils effectively.
“Every teacher who works with children needs to know about FGM, so girls can be protected from this very harmful practice,” she said. “But there is still a lot of confusion.”
The survey was conducted in advance of the first conference on mandatory reporting of FGM, to be held next Tuesday. Run by Barnardo’s, it will go through the duty in detail. There will also be talks by anti-FGM campaigners. Tickets can be booked here.