Question from: County Councillor James Gibson-Watt Subject: Safeguarding in Powys schools
Given that several Powys schools are listed on the Everyone’s Invited website today as schools whose pupils have provided testimonials about suffering from sexual harassment and abuse, could the Portfolio Holder outline the safeguarding support that Powys County Council is providing to its schools to help combat this serious and very concerning problem.
Response by the Portfolio Holder:
The safety, health and well-being of all children and young people are and always will be a priority for the council and for schools. This includes any issues related to harmful sexual behaviour, child sexual exploitation, child sexual abuse, domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Abuse in any form is completely unacceptable and any degree of discrimination, harm, assault or abuse within any environment should not and cannot be tolerated.
To that end, maltreatment and abuse of any person, whether child or adult, is unacceptable, no matter where it takes place. Nobody should have to feel that maltreatment or abuse is a normal part of their lives, especially children who have a greater need to be protected by adults, organisations and society in general. While the problems of abuse and maltreatment of others are not confined to schools and educational settings – indeed, society has been and is still on a journey of progressive improvement in respect of the treatment of all citizens, particularly those with an individual or group vulnerability – what the testimonies gathered by Everyone’s Invited show, however, is that schools and educational settings are not oases of respite from such harm.
We take the issue of sexual violence and harm very seriously and will work with all appropriate bodies – Welsh Government, the Regional Safeguarding Board, the police, Powys Teaching Health Board, third-sector organisations and others – and with school leaders to tackle this harmful and unacceptable behaviour.
Schools have two main, distinct roles in respect of this work, both of which require them to work collaboratively with others; children, their families and other agencies and bodies. They have a reactive role, to deal swiftly and robustly with issues of actual harm that are brought to their attention. They must make sure that appropriate protective measures are put in place to support victims. Where appropriate, this will inevitably include sanctions against individuals. They must also ensure that appropriate interventions are undertaken with those who have displayed harmful sexual behaviour or committed acts of abusive sexual behaviour.
Schools also have an important proactive role, educating learners: on what appropriate behaviour is; on how to interact appropriately with others; on how to keep yourself safe and report any concerns. This is also work that they cannot carry out in isolation: those messages need to be supported and repeated by all others in society, including families. And families, parents and carers may themselves need support and education so that they have the knowledge, understanding and tools to support schools in this work and, more importantly, directly support their children themselves.
Schools are already undertaking these reactive and proactive roles well. But this work cannot stand still and does not have an endpoint. Risks and needs change and evolve, whether for an individual or for a society in general: twenty years ago, online exploitation was not the issue it is today. Therefore, we are committed to ensuring that we are doing everything we can, in the ... view the full minutes text for item 1.