The latest version of the statutory guidance for schools, Keeping Children Safe in Education, is now available after being updated by the Department for Education.

The new guidance includes extra advice on tackling violence and sexual harassment in our schools.

Until 3 September this year, schools and colleges will be using the current statutory guidance, it’s dated September 2016, while the new publication will not take effect until after that time.

The guidance lays out a school’s legal duties that they must follow in promoting and safeguarding the welfare of young people and children under the age of 18 in colleges and schools.

The joint general secretary of the National Education Union, Kevin Courtney, welcomed the new advice, particularly on how schools can respond and prevent sexual harassment and violence.

‘Guidance is crucial for giving schools clarity’

He told one news outlet: “Guidance is crucial for giving schools clarity about how to tackle sexism.

“The National Education Union urged the DfE to issue advice in our report on sex and sexism in schools, It’s Just Everywhere, in December.”

He added that the union welcomes the updating of the guidance to include a broad range of issues including the nature and scale of sexual violence and harassment in schools today.

Mr Courtney added: “School staff need to be empowered to make real progress and think about the school environment and how sexism includes attitudes, language and behaviour.

“This requires education professionals to have access to professional development and training which teachers, our research shows, do not have.”

He said that sexism is being normalised in schools, as it is in other parts of life, and tackling harassment needs to begin with understanding the link between sexual harassment and sexist ideas.

‘We must challenge sexist ideas’

Mr Courtney said: “We must challenge sexist ideas about boys and girls in every form from blue and pink toys through to ideas about female and male teachers. Treating boys and girls differently must stop.”

The union particularly wants to address sexist language and stereotypes which, he believes, harms young people and children.

Mr Courtney also expressed issues over ‘the exam factory culture’ that squeezes opportunities for learning about what a respectful relationship is.

He said: “If the government is truly committed to rubbing out this behaviour then schools will need the capacity and time to focus on social development as well as test scores. There needs to be real investment in training and for high quality sex and relationship education.”

More information

The updated guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education, is available from the Department for Education website.

The National Education Union’s report, It’s Just Everywhere, is available to download from their website.