Safeguarding news round up – July 19, 2023

Posted: 19th July 2023


Report reveals failures in legal representation for children

Children caught in the criminal justice system face a “lottery” in the quality of the lawyer representing them, according a report arguing that children “are being failed” by lawyers who lack the knowledge and skills to act in their best interest. The Youth Justice Legal Centre (YJLC) commissioned the research with Just for Kids Law. Many young people miss out on opportunities to be diverted away from the criminal justice system, are made subject to harsher sentences, and are more likely to reoffend. The youth court historically has been treated as a place for junior lawyers to gain experience. The report recommends a training and accreditation scheme for youth court work and calls on regulatory bodies to provide guidance on the knowledge and skills required to represent children.

The Times  


Rules on access to school toilets are ‘affecting pupils’ health’

Charities have told Newsround that strict rules around the use of school toilets are affecting the health and wellbeing of some children and say the government needs to make changes. Newsround has heard from many pupils, mostly from secondary schools, who say they are only allowed to go the loo during break or lunchtime and that toilets are often locked during class – and sometimes at the end of the school day, too. They told Newsround about long queues at break which sometimes meant there was not enough time for pupils to go. Some of the children affected had medical issues, but many others didn’t, but they still felt the rules in the school were affecting their wellbeing and their confidence. The UK’s only charity focused on children’s bowel and bladder conditions – the Education And Resources For Improving Childhood Continence (Eric) – argues that the situation is getting worse rather than better.

BBC News  


Concerns raised over removal of toilet doors in schools

An open letter has been sent to several secondary schools and colleges in Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield, expressing concerns about the removal of toilet doors. The letter argues that the policy undermines privacy and causes discomfort and unease among students. The Birmingham Young Conservatives, who sent the letter, believe that the removal of toilet doors leads to heightened levels of distress and anxiety, resulting in students avoiding the use of the facilities altogether. The group calls for the policy to be reconsidered.

BBC News  


West Midlands young people taught first aid for stab wounds

A new first aid programme, called St John Ambulance’s Young Responders scheme, is being rolled out in the West Midlands to teach young people how to treat stab wounds and deal with acid attacks. The programme is aimed at at-risk teens in deprived communities who are at risk of dropping out of education or training. The courses, which are free, encourage skills to help them deal with street violence and its effects. The plan is to deliver the programme to as many schools and colleges across the area as possible. St John Ambulance director of youth and education, Paul Evans, said the programme was “about being able to practically do something in those moments when your friend is poorly, hurt, injured and needs help”.

BBC News  


Birmingham schools use VR to teach kids about knife crime

Birmingham schools are using virtual reality (VR) to teach children about the impact of knife crime. The VR experience, called Virtual Decisions: Knives, immerses pupils in a life-like scenario where they make decisions as a situation escalates. Created by educational tech company Round Midnight, the experience aims to challenge perceptions about the impact of knife crime on individuals and communities. The program has been delivered to over 15,000 children aged 11 to 14. As part of the workshop, Adam Ahmed shares his personal experience of his older brother being stabbed, highlighting that many young people who commit offenses are responding to fear. The VR program has been named a finalist for the Innovation Award at The Education Awards 2023.

BBC News  


Actress calls for teaching healthy relationships in schools

Actress Rebecca Humphries is joining Women’s Aid in calling for young people to be taught about healthy relationships in schools. Rebecca, who opened up about the emotional abuse she received from ex Seann Walsh in her book Why Did You Stay?, wants young people to be taught what a healthy relationship looks like, including respect and trust. She has received messages from teachers who want to teach her book in their classes, as it helps to challenge the narrative that victims of domestic abuse are weak. Since September 2020, lessons about sex and relationships have been compulsory in schools, but there are calls for the provision to be improved. Specialist organisations are seen as vital in supporting schools and colleges to tackle these difficult issues effectively.  


School at centre of “cat gender” row avoids urgent re-inspection

The school at the centre of a “cat gender” row, Rye College, will not face an urgent re-inspection, according to Ofsted. The state secondary school in East Sussex was investigated after a teacher was recorded telling a pupil who refused to accept her classmate’s identity as a cat that she was despicable. Pupils were threatened with reporting to a senior school leader for not affirming their classmate’s feline identity. Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch called for a “snap inspection” of the school, but Ofsted found that the scandal had been dealt with effectively. Inspectors stated that the reported concerns about relationships, sex, and health education (RSHE) teaching did not reflect pupils’ normal experiences at the school.

The Daily Telegraph  The Guardian The Times  


Teacher banned for using “unreasonable force” against pupil

A teacher at Newlands Junior School in Nottinghamshire has been banned for at least two years for using “unreasonable force” against a pupil. Susan Grady, a teacher and special educational needs co-ordinator, held the child by the wrist during a lesson in November 2020. The teacher admitted holding the pupil’s wrist but denied dragging or pushing him. The Teaching Regulation Agency panel found that the force used by Grady was not reasonable in the circumstances. Grady is banned from teaching at any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation, or children’s home in England until at least 2025.

BBC News 


Retired teacher jailed for sexually assaulting boys

A retired teacher, Piers Le Cheminant, has been sentenced to nine years in prison for sexually assaulting boys at Salisbury Cathedral School and another boarding school. Le Cheminant targeted boys at Oakwood boarding school in Chichester and continued his offending when he took up a position at the Wiltshire school. The defendant was convicted of 10 indecent assaults against nine boys over a 21-year period. Judge Timothy Mousley KC noted the lack of remorse shown by Le Cheminant and the severe harm caused to the vulnerable victims. In addition to the prison sentence, Le Cheminant was given a lifelong sexual harm prevention order.

BBC News  


Suffolk teacher admits string of child sex offences

A teacher has admitted a string of child sex offences including possession of thousands of child abuse images and sexually assaulting a pupil. Mark Langford, 55, was investigated after the National Crime Agency (NCA) received a report of a user having child abuse material. The agency then found he had groomed and sexually assaulted a teenage pupil almost 20 years ago. Langford will be sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court on 25 September. Langford was dismissed by his employer in January last year, the NCA said.

BBC News  



AI threatens to exacerbate child sexual abuse epidemic

Artificial intelligence (AI) is predicted to worsen the epidemic of child sexual abuse, with the National Crime Agency (NCA) estimating that one in every 50 men poses a risk to children. The NCA warns that online abuse images have a “radicalising” effect, normalising such behaviour. The rapid rise of AI technology will only increase the threat to young people, as fake images flood the internet. Experts have already identified instruction manuals on exploiting AI technology circulating online. The NCA’s annual threat assessment reveals that between 680,000 and 830,000 adults in the UK pose some degree of sexual risk to children, a figure 10 times the prison population. The use of AI for child sexual abuse makes it harder to identify real children in need of protection and further normalises abuse. The Internet Watch Foundation has found AI-generated images of children suffering sexual abuse, and urges the prime minister to prioritise this issue at the global AI safety summit. The Ada Lovelace Institute calls for stronger regulation of AI in the UK, including the introduction of an “AI ombudsman” and new legislation for better protections. The forthcoming online safety bill aims to remove CSA material from online platforms. The NCA’s threat assessment report also highlights the increasing use of drugs in Britain, with a 25% rise in cocaine use in 2022.

Sky News STV BBC News The Times London Evening StandardThe Guardian


Peers demand algorithm regulation in Online Safety Bill

Peers have inflicted a defeat on the Government, demanding ministers ensure the algorithms governing social media sites do not cause harm. The House of Lords voted in favour of introducing changes to the Online Safety Bill to prevent platforms from pushing harmful content. Baroness Kidron led the calls, highlighting the example of influencer Andrew Tate and the dangers of algorithms leading children to harmful content. The Bill’s objectives include protecting users from harm, but the Government argued that harm only comes from content. However, peers stressed the need to consider non-content harms and the responsibility of tech companies. The amendments send a message to the industry to take responsibility for their products and prioritise the safety of children.

BBC News The Daily Telegraph London Evening Standard  The Independent UK  



Surge of child sex abuse claims expected to hit Scouts

A surge of child sex abuse claims is expected to hit the Scouts as more stories emerge on a victims’ website called Yours in Scouting. The new online reporting site, supported by non-profit legal firm Good Law Project, currently has 60 allegations posted where victims share their stories anonymously. A lawyer who has led civil claims against the Scouts for 12 years said her firm had registered up to 40 new complaints in the last month. Abbie Hickson, an associate at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said: “The sheer number contacting us shows there are lots of people who still haven’t disclosed what’s happened to them.”  



Tory MPs push for ban on transgender identification in schools

Tory MPs have lobbied the government to introduce a ban on children identifying as transgender in schools. The Department for Education is set to release draft guidance on gender identity, allowing children to socially transition with parental consent. Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch assures that the guidance will strike the right balance. However, MPs Miriam Cates and Nick Fletcher are preparing to lead a backlash against the guidance, arguing that it will legitimise the “gender ideology” movement in schools. The MPs warned that allowing pupils to choose their own gender could spread harmful gender ideology. The draft guidance is expected to prohibit transgender pupils from joining sports teams of the opposite birth sex. A public consultation will be conducted to ensure a balanced response.

BBC News  Daily Express  The Independent 


Controversial racial ideology taught in schools, warns report

Students are being exposed to a “radical script” in the teaching of critical race theory, according to a report by pressure group Don’t Divide Us. It claims that third-party providers are breaking impartiality laws by teaching contested political beliefs as fact. It also suggests that the curriculum is being “re-racialised” and that a relationship is being formed between schools and ideologically motivated businesses. The report calls for an independent review to examine groups that provide contested assertions about race and for impartiality to be prioritised in Ofsted’s guidance for inspectors. Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, the director of Don’t Divide Us, warns that schools are indoctrinating students rather than teaching them to think for themselves. The report found that 48 out of 49 third-party providers surveyed promoted contested political beliefs from critical race theory as verified knowledge. The organisations formed a “self-legitimising network”, Don’t Divide Us said, with individual groups endorsing and referencing each other’s classroom materials.

The Times  


Children taught sword and crossbow skills

The Sun claims that children are being taught sword and crossbow skills by former members of a far-right group at a suspected illegal school called HOPE Sussex. The school, located near Battle in East Sussex, is under investigation by Ofsted for encouraging parents to remove their children from mainstream education. According to the paper, concerns have been raised about the school teaching conspiracy theories and engaging in activities such as archery, swordplay, and boxing. The founders of HOPE Sussex, Sadie Single and Matthew Single, were expelled from the British National Party and are known for their Covid-denial activism. The school denies being a school and describes itself as a community centre. The organisation has been endorsed by anti-lockdown campaigner Mike Fairclough and is mentioned in the annual report by campaign group Hope Not Hate. Ofsted is concerned that HOPE Sussex is operating as an illegal school.

The Sun



Councils want ban on single-use vapes next year

Local authorities in England and Wales have called for a ban on disposable vapes by 2024, following the lead of other European countries. The LGA says that single-use e-cigarettes are hazardous for waste collectors and difficult to recycle. It also expressed concern about the impact of vaping on children and young people. However, public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) opposes a full ban, fearing it would increase the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to children. Ash supports an excise tax on disposable vapes to make them less affordable while giving more power to those controlling their import, distribution and sale. The Government has already launched a call for evidence to examine both the environmental and health impact of vapes, and identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing them.

Daily Mail  The Daily Telegraph  The Guardian  The Independent UK  


Figures show scale of vape usage in schools

An investigation has revealed that children as young as five have been caught with vapes or e-cigarettes in primary schools in Scotland. At least 109 smoking devices were seized from pupils under 11 in the last academic year, indicating a concerning rise in vape use among children. The number of confiscated vapes in primary schools increased from zero before 2021 to 80 in the 2021-22 school year. Across primary and secondary schools in Scotland, more than 600 vapes were confiscated in total. Hospital admissions of under-18s for vaping-related illnesses, including lung injuries or damage caused by electronic cigarettes, have also increased, with three admissions in the last academic year compared to one in 2021-22.

The Times  


Record-level child obesity rates put UK’s future at risk, says report

Record-level child obesity rates are putting the future of the UK at risk, according to a new report. The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) says “political inertia” is the biggest challenge to replacing cheaper, processed foods with healthy, cost-effective choices. The Fit For The Future: A Fair Deal On Food For A Healthier Britain report calls for reforms to include around 800,000 children who are living in poverty but are not able to get free lunches. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver wrote in the report that poor diet is a risk factor for some horrendous conditions, including 13 types of cancer. “Free school meals for children is the fourth emergency service. If we give the 800,000 children who need one a free school meal, it will boost the economy by £8.9bn over 20 years because well-fed children thrive at school,” the report states.

London Evening Standard  The Independent UK  


ADHD diagnoses on the rise in the UK, study finds

The number of ADHD diagnoses and prescriptions for medication to treat ADHD symptoms has risen in the UK over the past 20 years, according to a study by experts from University College London. The study, which analysed data from seven million Brits aged three to 99 between 2000 and 2018, found a significant increase in ADHD cases, particularly among children. The study also revealed a rise in ADHD diagnoses and prescriptions among adults, with a 20-fold increase in diagnoses and nearly 50-fold increase in prescriptions in men aged 18 to 29. Lead author Dr Doug McKechnie emphasized the need for specialist services to handle the growing number of ADHD cases. The study also found that ADHD diagnoses were more prevalent in deprived areas compared to less deprived areas.  

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