Children 'have a right' to learn about domestic violence 'taboo'

5th November 2010 at 00:00
Report demands the subject be included on the curriculum for pupils' 'own safety'

Primary and secondary pupils must be taught about the causes of domestic violence in schools, a new Government-commissioned report demands.

Educational programmes should be run in schools to prevent violence between parents, it adds. Under the authors' recommendations, children would learn about the "causes of intimate partner violence" as part of the national curriculum.

The study - by researchers Harriet Ward, Rebecca Brown, David Westlake and Emily R Munro - looked at infants who are likely to suffer or are suffering significant harm.

They also concluded that children who come from abusive families suffered from aggression, frustration and delayed speech, and this was causing "significant problems" at school.

Campaigners have welcomed the recommendations, pointing to the fact that proposals to make the teaching of issues around domestic violence were dropped when parliament dissolved before the general election earlier this year.

It had been included in the PSHE section of the Children, Schools and Families Bill but this was lost - alongside proposals to reduce the mandatory age for sex education - in the parliamentary process known as "wash-up".

"Programmes designed to prevent intimate partner violence should also be made more widely available," the report says.

"These might both include preventive programmes in schools aimed at encouraging young people to understand the causes of intimate partner violence, and more specific programmes designed to enable perpetrators to overcome their adverse behaviour patterns."

Campaign groups are delighted that the research has brought the issues back to light, and have called for the "taboo" subject of domestic violence to be openly debated in schools among teachers and pupils.

Deborah McIlveen, policy and services manager for the Women's Aid Federation of England, said it was essential that the subject is taught and that teachers should feel comfortable with it.

"This is a basic," she said. "If you look at children's rights, they have a right to know about their own safety.

"One would think that this would be core to this. But this is still a taboo subject for many people, including professionals.

"This will be something that is a very common experience among pupils in schools. One in nine women experience domestic violence every year. Teachers may be worried that if they get involved with this, they will open the floodgates. Most professionals do not understand it and how to deal with it."

Sarah Smart, chief executive of the PSHE Association, said she backed the call for issues about domestic violence to be taught in the classroom.

"We would absolutely endorse the idea of domestic violence featuring in work around relationship education," she said.

"This is a very sensitive issue but this is the case with many teachers. There is a chance that this might be teaching around it, but it is a might.

"We would need an awareness exercise for teachers because often they feel bombarded."

View the official report online at: http:tinyurl.com25ltp2h


- One in four women experiences domestic abuse in their lifetime.

- A third of domestic abuse starts or intensifies during pregnancy.

- On average, two women are killed every week by their current or former male partner.

- 54 per cent of rapes in the UK are committed by a woman's current or former partner.

- Although only a minority of incidents of domestic violence are reported, the police still receive one call about domestic violence for every minute in the UK - an estimated 1,300 calls a day, or over 570,000 each year.

- At least 750,000 children a year witness domestic abuse.

- Nearly three-quarters of children on local "at risk" registers live in households where domestic abuse occurs.

- Nine times out of ten, the child is in the same or the next room when violence occurs.

- 70 per cent of children living in UK refuges have been abused by their father.


- Unexplained absences or lateness.

- Children attending school when they are ill, rather than staying at home.

- Pupils not completing their homework, or making constant excuses.

- Children who are constantly tired, on edge and unable to concentrate.

- Pupils displaying difficulties in their cognitive and school performance.

- Dramatic changes in behaviour and personality.

- Pupils who become quiet and withdrawn, and have difficulty developing positive peer relationships.

- Children displaying disruptive behaviour or acting out violent thoughts with little empathy for their victims.

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