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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Safeguarding children from sexual abuse in residential schools


The research comprised of two main data collection strands:

  • qualitative interviews and focus groups with residential school staff, children, parents and local authority representatives; and
  • an online proforma which schools completed to capture information about concerns with a sexual element that had been recorded in safeguarding logs.

Across England and Wales, 15 case study schools were purposively sampled for range and diversity across key characteristics including school type, sex, age and region. Schools included in the Inquiry’s investigations were not eligible to take part.

  Qualitative interviews and focus groups Proforma
Schools Carried out at 13 of the 15 schools Completed by 15 schools
Data collection

Data were collected from:

  • 100 members of staff
  • 43 children
  • 17 parents
  • 7 local authorities.
Data were collected from schools’ safeguarding logs about the number of concerns with a sexual element recorded in one academic year (up to 10 concerns per school).
Aim To explore understanding of safeguarding issues and schools’ safeguarding practice in relation to different types of child sexual abuse and for different groups of children, and to collect views on improvements that could be made. To explore the types of concerns that schools recorded and how these were responded to.


The study had some limitations. The research findings are unlikely to cover the full spectrum of all schools’ practice. Schools included in the Inquiry’s investigations (previous or ongoing) were not eligible to participate, which may bias data collection towards schools with a stronger safeguarding culture. The qualitative data also suggest that schools participating in this research were those that felt more confident in their safeguarding practice. The proforma data do not provide a comprehensive view of all incidents that happened in school but offer a starting point for better understanding and context, providing insight into schools’ record-keeping and response processes.

The research was approved by the Inquiry’s and NatCen’s Research Ethics Committees, and a detailed disclosure protocol was designed to ensure that any disclosure of harm was responded to appropriately.

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