Safeguarding news round-up – July 27, 2023

Posted: 27th July 2023

A weekly media round-up of news, views and comment
Wednesday, 26th July 2023

Keegan admits transgender guidance for schools delayed

Gillian Keegan has admitted that transgender guidance for schools will take a “little bit longer” following reports the Attorney General and Government lawyers said plans to strengthen guidance would be unlawful. The education secretary made clear they favour issuing guidance rather than a law change because “guidance is quicker than legislation”. She also said guidance will state that children should not change gender ID without schools having a conversation with parents. “Yes, we think parental consent is really very important in this,” she said. However, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, has said the lack of guidance is “frustrating” as teachers are having to navigate the “complex and sensitive subject” of gender identity on their own. Mr Barton said: “We’ve been telling the Government that schools and colleges need clear guidance on provision for transgender and gender-questioning pupils for the past five years, so it is frustrating that it has now got to the point of producing something but appears to be locked in an internal political squabble which is causing a further delay.” He added: “Clear, practical guidance on this matter is important as long as it is genuinely supportive to schools and pupils and does not add to the existing and onerous expectations on schools.”

The Daily Telegraph The Times London Evening Standard  The Guardian  The Independent UK  


Government rejects claims of new legislation banning gender change in schools

The Government has denied reports of plans to introduce new legislation banning children from changing gender in schools. Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch dismissed the claims as a “silly season story” and “legally incoherent.” She added: “I know there’s much interest in this area but pls wait for facts. If it isn’t coming directly from me, its probably not accurate!” It comes ahead of plans by the Government to consult on draft guidance to schools in England regarding children changing their gender. Last week, Badenoch also dismissed concerns that reporting children to their parents would “out” them as trans, stating that parents have the right to know what is happening with their children at school.

The Independent UK  


Government urged to make transgender guidance legally binding

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Lottie Moore, Head of Biology Matters at Policy Exchange, says schools are in desperate need for delayed transgender guidance. Moore says that every time a child expresses the wish to change their gender at school, teachers are placed in an impossible position either acting as unlicensed medical practitioners by affirming the child’s new identity, or risking losing their jobs for refusing to do so and being labelled as transphobic. Moore also warns that research suggests that many schools do not view the issue of gender distress as a safeguarding issue, with 72% of schools not informing parents when their child discloses gender distress at school. Moore says that the Government must go further and update the statutory and legally-binding documents – and the underlying law – in order to fully protect children from gender ideology at school Moore’s comments come as the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, Lee Anderson, calls on Rishi Sunak to purge gender ideology from schools altogether, describing it as “harmful” and a threat to women’s rights and children’s safety.

The Daily Telegraph 


Church of England criticised for primary schools teaching gender identity beliefs

The Church of England has been accused of failing to intervene in primary schools that are teaching children about gender identity beliefs. The Church’s chief education officer, Rev Canon Nigel Genders, was urged to take action after a parent reported that children as young as seven at Swanton Morley VC Primary School in Dereham were being taught about contested gender identities. The parent also claimed that children were being taught about being “pangender” or “cisgender”. The materials used for relationships, sex, and health education were produced by Educator Solutions, a trading arm of Norfolk county council. Responding to the parent’s concerns, Mr Genders told him to “continue to be in discussion” with the school. However, the parent criticised the Church for not taking immediate action to prevent ideological indoctrination and explicit sexual content in primary schools and questioned whether these schools should be considered Church of England schools if they promote such content.

The Daily Telegraph  


All state schools now equipped with life-saving defibrillators

The Government has announced that all state schools in England now have access to a potentially life-saving defibrillator. Figures show that over 20,000 defibrillators have been delivered to state schools since January. It comes after a campaign by Mark King whose 12-year-old son Oliver suffered a cardiac arrest at school during a swimming lesson in 2011. Large schools have been provided with two or more defibrillators so they can be placed in areas where a cardiac arrest is more likely, such as sports halls. The DfE added that secondary school pupils are also being taught life-saving methods, such as CPR and the purpose of defibrillators. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “Having access to defibrillators in schools drastically increases the chance of pupils, teachers and visitors surviving a cardiac arrest. Teachers and pupils across the country can now be reassured that they will have access to one on school grounds should tragedy strike.”  The Daily Telegraph 


Pilot scheme to support at-risk children

Treasury minister Victoria Atkins and children’s minister Claire Coutinho have announced a £7.8m pilot scheme that will see seven local authorities in England provide direct financial assistance to support families with children at risk of being taken into care for financial reasons. Support for each family will be tailored to their circumstances, and could include wage subsidies or funding for home adaptations, transport or food. The ministers said that while in the worst cases, “it might be necessary to move a child away from their family and into care, to give them a chance of a better, safer life … we think that – sometimes – there can be another way. From this summer, we will support families in pilot areas in this position by providing them with direct assistance.”

The Sun 


Children in County Durham and Tees Valley suffer from poverty and illness, report reveals

A new report by the Durham Community Foundation and Health Equity North reveals the devastating impact of poverty on children in County Durham and the Tees Valley. The report highlights higher rates of child poverty, increased hospital admissions, and a quarter of County Durham residents living with chronic illnesses. Poverty is identified as the main driver of health inequalities in the region. The report recommends measures such as distributing funding from dormant assets, increasing benefits in line with inflation, and removing the two-child cap on benefits. The Bishop of Durham and other figures have called for urgent action to address the divide. Dr Michelle Cooper, CEO of the Durham Community Foundation, emphasizes the need for long-term strategic support for grassroots charities. The report serves as a wake-up call for policymakers to reduce inequalities and improve the lives of those in the area.




New plans to protect consumers and children online

New plans have been announced to protect consumers and children online, following a review into paid-for online advertising. The proposed laws will clamp down on illegal and age-restricted adverts, fake celebrity scams, and the promotion of inappropriate products. Social media platforms and websites will be required to take stricter action to prevent children from seeing age-restricted adverts. The regulations will also cover social media influencers who receive payment or free products for promotional posts. The move comes in response to the rise of “deepfake” adverts, which use AI technology to replicate a celebrity’s face and voice. The government aims to shut down scammers and prevent damaging products from being targeted at children. The proposals are part of the Online Advertising Programme and will work alongside the Online Safety Bill to crack down on illegal and harmful content online. A new taskforce will be set up to gather insight into illegal advertising and consult with industry leaders.

Financial Times  London Evening Standard


UN calls for phone ban in schools

A major UN report has recommended that smartphones should be banned from schools to tackle classroom disruption, improve learning and help protect children from cyberbullying. Unesco, the UN’s education, science and culture agency, said the ban would send a clear message that digital technology as a whole – including artificial intelligence – should always be subservient to a “human-centred vision” of education and never supplant face-to-face interaction with teachers. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, said: “The majority of schools will already have robust policies about mobile phones In most cases pupils will either be prohibited entirely from using them during the school day or restricted to only using them in certain circumstances.” He added: “Banning mobile phones entirely from school premises would raise some practical concerns, for example for parents wanting to contact their children while travelling between school and home. Some pupils will also use phones as payment methods on public transport.”

The Daily Telegraph The Guardian 



Man guilty of 88 child sex offences

A man named David Harmes, 27, has pleaded guilty to 88 sex offences against children as young as six. Harmes, who posed online as a scout for child models, had recently been released from prison for grooming children online when he began offending again. His latest offences involved 39 victims in the UK and six in the US. Harmes targeted young people aged between six and 15, using various identities to lure his victims. He will be sentenced on 5 September. Cheshire police described his actions as “deceit and manipulation to fuel his twisted obsession.” Harmes had previously been sentenced to eight years in prison for child sex offences and was released early on licence. He was recalled to prison for breaching his licence after detectives discovered he had started offending again. The investigation team dedicated to targeting those who sexually abuse children online has successfully convicted Harmes. DS Simon Draco stated, “This will bring justice for the victims of his offending.”

The Guardian


Teacher jailed for sex offences banned from teaching for life

A teacher named Dean Davidson, who was jailed for 17 years in July 2021 for tricking teenage boys into performing sex acts on camera, has been banned from teaching for life. The Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) described Davidson as “calculating” and stated that he breached his trust as a teacher. The TRA also mentioned that Davidson possessed 1,000 indecent images of children, including some in the most serious category. The decision maker on behalf of the secretary of state for education agreed with the TRA’s recommendation for a lifetime teaching ban, stating that Davidson’s conduct was far beyond what could be tolerated. The ban applies to any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation, or children’s home in England.

BBC News 



MPs call for restrictions on disposable vapes

MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee have urged the Government to introduce restrictions on the packaging and marketing of disposable vapes to tackle the “alarming trend” of children using the products. Committee chair Steve Brine said the vaping industry “has not gone far enough to ensure that its products don’t appeal to children”, and that when “you have brightly coloured and branded vapes with flavours that name unicorns, sweets and popular fizzy drinks displayed in locations ranging from newsagents to chicken shops, it’s disingenuous for the industry to claim otherwise”. MPs called for a review of Trading Standards enforcement powers to prevent vapes being sold to children, and for an assessment of the impact of a proposed excise tax on disposable vapes, which would help to stop imports of illegal products.

The Guardian 


Drinking one daily drink raises child obesity risk by 14%

Drinking just one drink a day can raise the risk of a child developing obesity by 14%, according to researchers. Almost 40% of children in the UK are classified as overweight or obese. Experts from the Japanese National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health emphasize the importance of reducing fizzy drink consumption to tackle the problem. The study shows that fizzy drinks are driving up childhood obesity rates in the UK and globally. Professor Jason Halford warns that pandemic habits have had a lasting effect on children’s activity levels, contributing to the rise in childhood obesity rates. Urgent actions should be taken to curb the consumption of sugary drinks, says Dr Huan Hu. Childhood complications from obesity include breathing, bones and joints, and liver problems. Professor Graham MacGregor criticizes the government’s lack of action in tackling childhood obesity, highlighting the success of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy as a practical approach to benefit society and save the NHS billions of pounds each year.

Categories: News