Thursday, 2 May 2013

Petition for Mandatory Reporting of child sex abuse in schools

Regular readers of this blog will by now be familiar with a fact which seems unbelievable to most members of the public. There is no statutory requirement for the management of a school or any other institution caring for children to inform the authorities of allegations or even known incidents of child sex abuse that come to their attention.

A head teacher can know that one of his staff has sexually assaulted or even raped one of his pupils on school premises, and he has no legal obligation to report anything to anybody.

I made this point on the Guardian website a while ago, at the height of the Jimmy Savile scandal, I got various disbelieving comments in response. For instance one said.
Utter rubbish, failing to report a serious offence such as rape to the police is in itself a very serious offence, where the hell did you get that from?
Another said essentially the same thing, but rather more politely
Isn't there already a law that says that not reporting knowledge of a crime is aiding and abetting that crime and therefore punishable?
I responded by quoting  from page 3 of the NSPCC factsheet An introduction to child protection legislation in the UK, which states the following.
Whilst local authorities have a mandatory duty to investigate if they are informed a child may be at risk, there are no specific mandatory child abuse reporting laws in the UK that require professionals to report their suspicions to the authorities.
This has to change. Just in the last year or two, there have been trials resulting in convictions for child sex crime of former teachers at St Benedict's School, Downside School, Wellington College, Chetham's School, King's School Rochester and Hillside First School. There are probably others which I've not been made aware of or can't name off the top of my head.

There is a very strong similarity between all the cases I've named. In all the cases, the teacher abused, the knowledge came to the attention of management but was not passed on to the authorities. The teacher went on to abuse again. The police became aware when informed by a route not involving the school. The abuser was subsequently convicted, often many years after the events had occurred.

I wonder how many cases have not yet come to the attention of the police? In order to get a feel for that I did a survey of the child protection policies of 60 randomly chosen secondary schools. The results were horrifying. 24 schools did not publish their policies online. Of the 36 schools which did publish their policies, only 16 made an undertaking to inform the LADO of all allegations of abuse, and only 8 promised to follow up an initial approach with a written confirmation.

If those proportions are in any way representative of school policies across the country, there could be a huge amount of abuse going unreported.

So, we need mandatory reporting. To that effect a petition has been started calling on the Department for Education to implement mandatory reporting in schools. If you care for the safety of your or other people's children, please sign the petition as soon as possible.

Mandatory reporting is needed because all too often voluntary reporting doesn't happen.

1 comment:

  1. Jonathan

    Very well said. The situation is astonishing and clearly intolerable. How can children be protected if there is no mandatory reporting?

    We must assume that many - perhaps most - children are still vulnerable, and often not believed, when they report sexual abuse. This has certainly been the case until very recently.

    The Petition needs much more support. The signatures are still less than 3,000. I will suggest to AVAAZ, or another online lobbying group, that they take it up.