Parentkind agrees with the recommendations to government that Ofsted has published today aimed at tackling sexual abuse in schools. Most especially, the charity concurs that in developing responses to incidents of sexual abuse, schools must inform and work with parents, and that when it comes to the teaching of RSHE, the role of parents is vital. The government recently brought in legislation that requires schools to consult with parents when developing its RSHE policy, and now is the time to enforce it.
Ofsted's review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges makes for alarming and deeply concerning reading. It follows in the wake of the urgent reaction to 'Everyone's Invited', the website that shared anonymous stories from victims and brought the all-too-widespread culture of sexual abuse in schools to wider public attention. Parentkind's CEO John Jolly sat on Ofsted's reference group and contributed a parent perspective on how to respond to the findings.
The need for robust RHSE developed in consultation with parents has never been more urgent. Parentkind research in 2018 found that many parents simply don't know, or disagree, when asked if pupils are getting the information they need from school to thrive and stay safe in the modern world. Most did not encounter issues such as sexting, upskirting and the pressure to share intimate photographs when they navigated their way through adolescence a few decades ago, and they need further support now to help their children through that very minefield. Ofsted's report finds that children are rarely positive about the RSHE they have received, feeling it is too little, too late.
RSHE must be fit for purpose in the modern day and understood by teachers and parents as well as pupils. Parentkind joins Ofsted in calling for the government to tackle a culture of sexual abuse in schools through its Online Safety Bill. It also calls on policymakers and schools to adopt its Blueprint for Parent-Friendly Schools which will be a valuable tool in shaping RSHE policy using parental input. It is an effective and peer-reviewed parental participation framework that can be easily adapted by any school to improve their existing strategies and successfully reach out to all sections of their parent community. Two-way communication is one of the key drivers to ensuring an effective partnership with parents can thrive, where homes reinforce the messages and values taught by schools.
John Jolly, the CEO of Parentkind, said, "Clearly, action needs to be taken immediately to stop in its tracks a culture where sexual harassment and online sexual abuse in schools, and among pupils, is seen as the norm. It was evident from offering a parent perspective to Ofsted's reference group and listening to the testimony and feedback from other stakeholders that the scale of the problem in our schools cannot simply be ignored. We agree with the inspectorate that now is the time for urgent and effective action, where bringing parents into the conversation is vital. Our research shows that parents want more of a say in their child's education, and making RSHE fit for purpose will clearly benefit both pupils and parents and allay concerns about its effectiveness on all sides. The only way to get this right is for schools and parents to work together in a partnership built on trust, for the safety and wellbeing of all children. Parentkind is happy to work with the DfE, the Children’s Commissioner and others to advise on best practice for engaging parents in this crucial national discussion."