Agenda item

Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education Policy and online safety

To provide members of the Sub-Committee with an overview of



Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education Policy and online safety




The Sub-Committee considered a report on the Relationships Education,

Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education Policy, online

safety concerns, the Ofsted review main findings and work being done as a

result of the findings of a recent safeguarding audit sent to schools on peer on

peer abuse.


To help children and young people to learn the skills and knowledge to live healthy, safe and happy lives in modern society, in September 2020, the Department for Education (DfE) made Relationships Education compulsory in all primary schools, Relationships and Sex Education compulsory in all secondary schools and Health Education compulsory in all state-funded schools.


In 2020, a website called Everyone’s Invited was created, aimed at providing a safe place for young people who had experienced sexual violence and sexual harassment in education settings to share their experiences. The anonymous testimonies of thousands of young people uncovered the prevalence of sexual violence, sexual harassment including online sexual abuse, in schools, colleges, universities and society generally. This predominantly impacted on girls and young women but was experienced by young men too.


As a result of the Everyone’s Invited Campaign, Ofsted were asked by the government to carry out a rapid review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges. The review included visits to 32 settings, interviews with over 900 children and young people and conversations with school leaders, teachers, parents, governors and Local Safeguarding Partnerships (LSPs).



The Ofsted review highlighted the prevalence of online sexual abuse that children and young people experienced, especially being sent sexual pictures or videos that they did not want to see.


Following this review, Ofsted made a number of recommendations for schools and college leaders, multi-agency partners, the government, inspectorates and Local Safeguarding Partnerships. The DfE guidance on Keeping Children Safe in Education was updated in 2021 to reflect these issues. This was underpinned by the reviewed 2021 guidance on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment between children in schools and colleges. Subsequently, the Ofsted framework was updated to ensure schools addressed peer on peer abuse, sexual harassment on and off line and sexual violence.


The recommendations made by Ofsted have been shared with schools in North Tyneside through head teacher briefings, Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSL’s) briefings, PSHE lead networks and electronic communications.


The importance of the PSHE education curriculum in preventing sexual violence and sexual harassment in schools has been highlighted and curriculum resources provided to help schools strengthen this provision. PSHE networks have been used to discuss how to address this issue and schools have had the opportunity to share good practice.


The ‘RSE Ready?’ survey highlighted the need for further staff training particularly in secondary schools. Colleagues in both primary and secondary schools reported they would benefit from training and support in dealing with and education about peer on peer abuse, sexual violence and harassment and online safety and relationships. 


Work underway to support the White Ribbon Accreditation in North Tyneside had highlighted a need for more targeted work with boys and young men as part of PSHE education. Teaching resources that promoted positive male role models and challenged old fashioned male stereotypes had been sourced and shared with schools.


Online safety teaching was within the computing curriculum and the teaching and training materials used by the Authority were regularly updated to consider new trends or report finding. Advice and support about any national trends were shared with schools, usually in conjunction with the Safeguarding team as not all schools choose to access the wider computing support.


The Designated Safeguarding Leads DSLs (and Deputy Designated Safeguarding Leads DDSLs) had access to termly Designated Safeguarding Lead briefing and termly newsletters. All aspects of safeguarding in schools were shared with DSLs through these forums.


The DSL briefing in June 2021 gave an update on the reviewed version of DfE Sexual violence and Sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges. This guidance was reviewed in line with the findings from the Ofsted review on Sexual Abuse in Schools. The updates focussed on ensuring schools recognised and addressed the issues and were starting to move towards a culture change. Schools were also guided through the updated ‘Sexting’ guidance which had now been updated to ‘Sharing of Nudes and Semi Nudes’ which was the sending or posting of nude or semi-nude images, videos or live streams by young people under the age of 18 online. This information was reiterated through the publication of the September 2021 DfE Keeping Children Safe in Education and the full content of this was discussed with DSLs at the briefing the same month. Schools were also supported to update their child protection policy at that time.


Following discussions regarding all the above issues, meetings were initiated with the North Tyneside Safeguarding Children Partnership (NTSCP) to begin to formulate a local response that would support schools but also be underpinned by a multi-agency approach to peer on peer abuse. For the partnership to understand the issues schools were facing, a survey was sent out to schools and the following was received:


-       Schools fed back that children needed to be well prepared and supported so they had a clear understanding of how to stay safe online. 

-       Issues for younger children tended to be facilitated through phones, messaging groups, gaming platforms aimed at younger children or popular platforms e.g TikTok.

-       As children progressed through primary school, social media became a factor.

-       Primary children used derogatory language which they heard online or at home and brought into school to ‘test’ out.

-       Some schools also reported homophobic or racist incidents.

-       Sexualised name calling began to emerge at Primary school level with one school reporting they have had an incident of a pupil sending a semi-nude image.

-       As pupils move to secondary age, issues were around sexual inappropriateness, online harassment, inappropriate sexual name calling/sexualised language, unwanted touching, sharing nude and semi-nudes sometimes with malicious intent.

-       Issues for older pupils happened during unstructured times of the day or out of school especially online and on school transport.

-       In terms of support, most schools outlined that they would benefit from support with training, shared resources, support from external organisations, support with policies, involvement of multi-agency partners, training and support on mental health, trauma and counselling.

-       Schools would like support on how to better work with parents. They also felt they would benefit from a proven working model with evidence of success to ensure consistency, mechanisms to develop staff confidence and have a common language around these issues to be able to shift the culture in school.


A number of issues were raised at the Head Teacher briefing:


-       Children discussed their experiences as seemingly thinking they were safe online but when adults dig deeper, they were unaware of the wider risks.

-       Anonymity caused many issues as do ‘pop ups’ with links to other sites. 

-       Children seemed to be more comfortable reporting to school staff rather than parents.

-       The pandemic had not helped as it was difficult to teach PSHE through online lessons and children had spent more time online.

-       Schools felt online platform reporting systems and safety regulations needed to be reviewed.

-       Parents needed to be more on board as it was difficult to get them to understand the issues and the scale of the problem. They reported that their children had more skills and knowledge then they did. Parents appeared to feel their children were safe as they were at home but they were often shocked at their child’s online activity when an issue came to light.

-       Support organisations and other safeguarding partners such as the police could not  always offer proposed interventions due to capacity. Schools felt the government should recognise this better at a national level and provide more support and funding.


The findings locally showed that North Tyneside schools, teachers and pupils were saying the same issues existed for them as those evident in the Ofsted review.


In order to address this complex issue, joint working between partners, schools and school improvement should ensure the issue was seen as widespread therefore all should know how to address it and a full system approach is implemented.


Joint training should be offered for a consistent approach which should involve schools and Local Authority staff working together. A standardised assessment format should be used across the Authority so schools can share practice and multi-agency partners understand the process that has been implemented in school before cases are escalated to a higher level of support.


This should be underpinned by a whole school approach including an effective curriculum, a well embedded culture of online safety for all stakeholders and meaningful and well-understood policies and procedures. This should be overseen, supported and endorsed by the North Tyneside Safeguarding Children Partnership (NTSCP).  


The Sub-Committee discussed the issues and in the course of discussion raised the following points:


-       A Member asked if the issues outlined in the report were getting worse and it was noted that there was a huge challenge for schools and the demographic was shifting to younger children and the issues affecting primary school children.


-       The importance of schools setting the ethos, recognising and addressing the issues and leading on what was acceptable and challenging what was not acceptable was discussed.


-        In reply to a question asking if the police were involved when posting of a nude image by a young person under the age of 18 occurred online, it was confirmed that schools would need to make a referral/call to the Safeguarding advice line. 


It was agreed to note the contents of the report.


The Chair thanked the Interim Assistant Director SEND and the Senor Advisor Health and Wellbeing Primary Schools Support for the informative report and for attendance at the meeting. 



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