Gomersal St Mary’s CE Primary School recognises that children are vulnerable to and capable of abusing their peers. We take such abuse as seriously as abuse perpetrated by an adult. This includes verbal as well as physical abuse. Child-on-child abuse will not be tolerated or passed off as part of “banter” or “growing up”. We are committed to a whole school approach to ensure the prevention, early identification, and appropriate management of child-on-child abuse within our school and beyond. In cases where child-on-child abuse is identified, we will follow our child protection procedures, taking a contextual approach to support all children and young people who have been affected by the situation. We recognise that girls are more frequently identified as being abused by their peers and, girls are more likely to experience unwanted sexual touching in schools however all child-on-child abuse is unacceptable regardless of gender and will be taken seriously. We recognise that even if there are no reported cases of child-on-child abuse, such abuse may still be taking place and is simply not being reported.
All children can abuse their peers. This can manifest itself in a whole spectrum of behaviours including:
- physical abuse
- prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying
- bullying including cyberbullying
- youth produced imagery (sexting, sharing nudes and semi-nudes)
- abuse in intimate personal relationships between peers
- criminal and sexual exploitation
- initiation/hazing type violence and rituals
- inappropriate harmful sexualised behaviours
The policy will:
- Set out our strategies for preventing, identifying, and managing child-on-child abuse
- Take a contextual approach to safeguarding all children and young people involved. Acknowledging that children who have allegedly abused their peers or displayed harmful sexual behaviour are themselves vulnerable and may have been abused by peers, parents, or adults in the community.
Responding to Alleged Incidents Responding to reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment:
All reports of child-on-child abuse will be made on a case-by-case basis with the designated safeguarding lead or their deputy taking a leading role using their professional judgement and supported by other agencies such as social care or the police as required.
The immediate response to a report:
- Gomersal St Mary’s CE Primary School will take all reports seriously and will reassure the victim that they will be supported and kept safe.
- All staff will be trained to manage a report.
- Staff will not promise confidentiality as the concern will need to be shared further (for example, with the designated safeguarding lead or social care) staff will however only share the report with those people who are necessary to progress it.
- A written report will be made as soon after the interview as possible recording the facts as presented by the child. These may be used as part of a statutory assessment if the case is escalated later.
- Where the report includes an online element this school/college will follow advice on searching, screening, and confiscation. The staff will not view or forward images unless unavoidable and only if another member of staff (preferably the DSL) is present.
- The DSL will be informed as soon as possible.
When there has been a report of sexual violence, the designated safeguarding lead (or a deputy) will make an immediate risk and needs assessment. Where there has been a report of sexual harassment, the need for a risk assessment should be considered on a case-by-case basis. The risk and needs assessment will consider:
- The victim, especially their protection and support.
- The alleged perpetrator.
For all the other children (and, if appropriate, adult students and staff) at this school, especially any actions that are appropriate to protect them; Risk assessments will be recorded on CPOMS and be kept under review. The designated safeguarding lead (or a deputy) will ensure they are engaging with Children’s Social Care
Action following a report of sexual violence and/or sexual harassment:
Following an incident, we will consider
- The wishes of the victim in terms of how they want to proceed. This is especially important in the context of sexual violence and sexual harassment.
- The nature of the alleged incident(s), including whether a crime may have been committed and consideration of harmful sexual behaviour.
- The ages of the children involved.
- The developmental stages of the children involved.
- Any power imbalance between the children. For example, is the alleged perpetrator significantly older, more mature, or more confident? Does the victim have a disability or learning difficulty?
- If the alleged incident is a one-off or a sustained pattern of abuse.
- Are there ongoing risks to the victim, other children, adult students or school or college staff, and other related issues and wider context?
Children sharing a classroom:
Whilst we establish the facts of the case and start the process of liaising with children’s social care and the police:
- The perpetrator will be removed from any classes they share with the victim.
- We will consider how best to keep the victim and alleged perpetrator a reasonable distance apart on school or college premises and on transport to and from this school/college. These actions are in the best interests of both children and should not be perceived to be a judgment on the guilt of the alleged perpetrator.
Options to manage the report: Manage internally with help from external specialists where appropriate and possible
- In some cases of sexual harassment, for example, one-off incidents, we may decide that the children concerned do not need early help or statutory intervention and that it would be appropriate to handle the incident internally, perhaps through utilising our behaviour and bullying policies and by providing pastoral support. This decision will be made based on the principle that sexual violence and sexual harassment are never acceptable and will not be tolerated. All decisions and discussions around making these decisions will be recorded and stored.
- In line with the above, we may decide that the children involved do not require statutory interventions but may benefit from early support. Early support means providing support as soon as a problem emerges, at any point in a child’s life. Providing early support is more effective in promoting the welfare of children than reacting later. Early support can be particularly useful to address non-violent harmful sexual behaviour and may prevent the escalation of sexual violence.
Reporting to Children’s Social Care (Duty and Advice):
Where a child has been harmed, is at risk of harm, or is in immediate danger, we will make a referral to duty and advice following our school child protection policies and procedures and Kirklees locally agreed protocols which can be viewed via the link below
Where statutory assessments are appropriate, the designated safeguarding lead or a deputy will be working alongside and cooperating with, the relevant lead social worker. Collaborative working will help ensure the best possible package of coordinated support is implemented for the victim and, where appropriate, the alleged perpetrator and any other children that require support.
Reporting alleged criminal behaviour to the police:
Any report to the police will generally be made through duty and advice as above. The designated safeguarding lead (and their deputies) will follow local processes for referrals. When a report of rape, assault by penetration or sexual assault is made, the starting point is the police.
We recognise that all children can be at risk however we acknowledge that some groups are more vulnerable. This can include the experience of abuse within their family, living with domestic abuse young people in care; children who go missing; children with additional needs (SEN and/or disabilities and who identify as LGBT+ and/or have other protected characteristics under the Equalities Act 2010.
Framework and legislation:
This policy is supported by the key principles of the Children’s Act, 1989 that the child’s welfare is paramount, Working Together, 2018, highlighting that every assessment of a child, ‘must be informed by the views of the child’. (Working Together, 2018:21) and Keeping Children Safe in Education, 2022 in relation to part 5 Child on child sexual violence and sexual harassment, through ensuring procedures are in place in this school to hear the voice of the child. Child-on-child abuse is also embedded in our school safeguarding and child protection policy.