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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The residential schools investigation report


J.5: Training and awareness-raising


26. Keeping Learners Safe contains detailed guidance about training for school staff and governors. Safeguarding training is mandatory for the designated safeguarding person (DSP) and for school staff.[1] While there is a clear expectation in the guidance that governors should have safeguarding training, this is not mandatory.[2] Headteachers are not required to have specific safeguarding training beyond that which is required as a member of staff, despite the fact that the guidance mandates a specific role for the headteacher in dealing with allegations of abuse against staff.

27. Local authorities are required to maintain a record of all DSPs and designated governors for safeguarding within schools in their area, as well as the training they have undertaken and the dates on which training was undertaken.[3]

28. Proprietors and governing bodies of independent schools should ensure that the DSP, the designated governor and the chair of governors undertake training in inter-agency working that is provided by or to standards agreed by the Safeguarding Children’s Board, as well as refresher training to keep their knowledge and skills up to date, in addition to basic safeguarding training.[4]

29. Representatives from both Estyn and the Care Inspectorate Wales, as well as Professor Holland, endorsed mandatory training for governors in both maintained and independent schools.[5] These institutions also considered that the content of the training should be specified and subject to quality control.

30. A May 2018 Care Inspectorate Wales report was critical of safeguarding at Ruthin School, identifying 15 recommendations to improve the service, including that:

The Principal and members of the council of management, must undergo safeguarding training which demonstrates they have the skills, knowledge and expertise to fulfil their roles and responsibilities”.[6]

Care Inspectorate Wales said that the school was not receptive to its concerns. As a result of “quite a lot of pushback” from the school, it included a greater level of detail about its concerns in its published inspection report because it was not confident that its verbal feedback was being taken on board by the school, and it wanted to make sure that its concerns were recorded.[7]

31. All members of the COM at Ruthin School did subsequently undertake NSPCC level 1 training. Ms Oldbury, Mr Belfield and another member of the COM undertook level 3 safeguarding training.[8]

Awareness-raising with pupils

32. Schools in Wales are expected to plan and deliver sex and relationships education (SRE) within the personal and social education (PSE) framework, in accordance with 2010 Welsh Government guidance.[9] In 2017, Estyn identified that there was a wide variation in the quality and quantity of sex and relationships education in schools, with insufficient time or importance allocated to it.[10]

33. Professor Holland found that when she visited children in schools, they told her that their current sex education was poor and ill-informed, and focussed primarily on the physical and health elements rather than wider considerations around consent, healthy relationships, issues such as coercive control, and topics such as sexuality and gender.[11] She felt that relationships and sexuality education (RSE) had been failing children and young people, and emphasised that it:

is a crucial step in safeguarding young people from sexual abuse and abusive relationships. Young people do not always know how to protect themselves and how to recognise and report abuse unless they are given this information in school”.[12]

34. A report of a 2018 expert panel, The Future of the Sex and Relationships Curriculum in Wales, set out that there were significant training needs across the education profession to enable teachers to deliver effective education in this area.[13]

35. Draft guidance was published for consultation in February 2019. The Welsh Government received feedback suggesting that the statutory guidance needed to be more detailed given the sensitive and specialist nature of the subject area.[14] Professor Holland commented that the draft guidance was inadequate in terms of providing guidance for children with additional learning needs. She said that the draft guidance only had five sentences describing how to adapt a whole-school approach to RSE for children and young people with additional learning needs, which was “nowhere near enough to equip professionals with sufficient guidance to ensure all children and young people have contextually and developmentally appropriate education”.[15]

36. The Welsh Government is developing a new curriculum in Wales, due to be introduced from 2022. RSE will be a statutory element of the new curriculum for learners aged 3 to 16 years old, and the Welsh Government intends (with the support of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales) to discontinue the right of parents to withdraw children from RSE.[16]


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