If you’re worried about how a school is handling safeguarding incidents, where do you go?
How do you report a concern?
Whose responsibility is it to hold the school to account?
Those are the stark questions prompted by revelations that schools were praised by Ofsted on safeguarding, even after the inspectorate was alerted to the schools’ failure to protect child rape victims.
In one of the cases brought to Tes’ attention, a six-year old girl was raped multiple times at school, despite staff reportedly being present in the playground during sexual attacks. The school had also allegedly been previously alerted to the fact that the two boys involved were displaying harmful sexual behaviour.
The girl’s mother repeatedly tried to alert Ofsted to the school’s failures during an inspection and eventually spoke to an inspector. But the primary was still judged to have “effective” safeguarding.
In a second case, Ofsted was alerted to an incident in which a secondary school had put a 16-year old girl back into a classroom with a male classmate who had raped her outside of school.
The case was marked for “immediate action” by Ofsted, but the school was not inspected for a further 10 months, and the subsequent report found the school to be effective on safeguarding. To date, a trial has not taken place and the girl is still considering whether or not to press charges.
Rachel Krys, co-director of the charity End Violence Against Women, says she is concerned there is a gap in the system, with no organisation properly overseeing how schools are dealing with safeguarding.
“There’s actually nowhere upstream other than Ofsted for you to go.”
“Structurally that obviously doesn’t work… It would take a lot of resource and a big change in Ofsted’s whole operation model in order to deliver what needs to happen.”
An Ofsted spokesperson said:
“Ofsted takes pupil safety very seriously, but we are not an investigative body. The local authority is the statutory authority with responsibility for investigating safeguarding concerns for children and vulnerable adults.
“We can only report on the evidence we find during inspection and the information provided to us.
“However, when we are made aware of complaints during inspection, we will always check that these have been investigated by the most appropriate authority. Where serious safeguarding concerns are reported to us, we will always inform the relevant authority.”