A helpline to report child abuse and harassment in education settings has received 353 contacts since launching on April 1.
The Report Abuse in Education helpline was set up after thousands of testimonies about peer-on-peer sexual abuse and harassment in schools were posted on the Everyone’s Invited website.
It was commissioned by the Department for Education and is being run independently by the NSPCC. The helpline’s staff are trained in safeguarding and come from a range of professional social care backgrounds.
The charity is urging those who have suffered harm in an educational setting recently or in the past, or anyone with concerns that someone else has, to contact the helpline.
Sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment by peers is the most common issue reported to the helpline so far, ranging from incidents such as pupils looking up classmates’ skirts to sharing indecent images and rape.
Helpline staff have also responded to contacts from parents who were concerned that safeguarding incidents are not being appropriately handled in schools.
From the total contacts received (up to May 16), NSPCC practitioners have made 65 referrals to an external agency such as police or social services. For the other contacts, trained helpline staff provided advice and guidance to victims and those with concerns.
Where the information about the caller was known, more than half were adult or child victims and most were female. The majority of victims in a referral were secondary school age children or young adults.
One parent of a 14-year-old girl told the helpline: “We received a visit from a police officer who told us they were investigating an incident of up-skirting by a male pupil at my daughter’s school.
“We were told that a teacher had been searching this boy’s phone for something unrelated and discovered several pictures of up-skirting of different girls and the only girl that could be identified was my daughter.
“As you can imagine, this came as a huge shock to us. We have no idea who the boy is or if the images have been shared anywhere.”
Kam Thandi, NSPCC Helpline Head, said: “It is absolutely vital that people feel comfortable to raise concerns about child abuse and harassment, including children themselves, and we thank everyone so far who has found the courage to contact the helpline. “Through these calls we have been able to provide much needed support, advice and, where necessary, to refer the information onto police and local authorities for further action.
“We have also heard about the devastating impact this abuse can have later in life if it’s not addressed and have been able to share our experience and expertise to help with the recovery process.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I want all victims of abuse to be supported and feel confident to report any allegations.
“That is exactly why we set up this additional specialist NSPCC helpline – so there is a dedicated route for raising concerns or reporting an incident which may require appropriate action from authorities.
“Ofsted is also undertaking a review into safeguarding measures in schools and colleges which will be published shortly.”
Trained professionals at the helpline use their expertise to risk assess any allegations and can refer incidents to external agencies such as police, Operation Hydrant, children’s services and LADOs. To get in contact with the Report Abuse in Education helpline call 0800 136 663, or email email@example.com