SSS December 23 End of Term Safeguarding Bulletin

Sam Preston 11 December 2023 7 min read

Welcome to your December 2023 SSS Safeguarding Bulletin

It's been a busy start to the first part of the academic year here at SSS Learning, responding to all the new and amended legislation to ensure all our content reflects the latest statutory and advisory standards.

The team have been busy updating our e-Safety course which now reflects the key elements of the Online Safety Act. We are also updating our Prevent Duty courses to reflect all the new requirements which come into force on 31st December 2023. The revised courses will be available on 31st December 2023.

We have also released our latest course which focuses on Adverse Childhood Experiences and how to develop Trauma Informed Practice in your school. You may also like to access our Adverse Childhood Experiences article and podcast for further information.

Speaking of podcasts, we have launched our new Safeguarding Conversations Podcast series, where we explore a variety of safeguarding topics. Topics so far include:

  • Prevent Duty
  • Domestic Abuse
  • The Beyond Ofsted Inquiry
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences & Trauma Informed Practice

We are regularly adding podcast content and if you subscribe to our channel you’ll be automatically alerted when new podcasts are added.

Our Webinar Service, started this year, has been very well received and we have a whole programme planned for the remaining academic year. Our Q & A webinars have been particularly popular, designed as a support session where you can post your safeguarding questions live to our expert panel for their views.

You may have noticed that our website now has a Parental Resource section feature on the Resources tab. Following the positive feedback on the two wellbeing resources we previously released, we are producing some brand new topics designed to support parents which include:

  • How to set parental controls for social media platforms
  • Help to manage sleep difficulties
  • Supporting a child through school anxiety
  • Improving school attendance for reluctant attenders

As with our wellbeing resources, all our new topics focus on practical top tips to help support parents. All four new titles will be available from 1st January 2024. We are happy for you to embed the links to all our parental resources on your website to directly support your parents/carers. If there are any other top-tip parental support topics you’d like us to produce, please do let us know.

Finally, in terms of further course development, we have two new courses currently in production:

  • The Named Person for Looked After Children
  • Emergency procedures: invacuation, evacuation & lockdown

We will of course let you know as soon as they are available.

As the festive season is well underway, may I take this opportunity to wish you and your staff a happy holiday.

Best wishes,


Sam Preston

Safeguarding Director

In the Safeguarding News:

Ofsted post-inspection arrangements and complaints handling changes

Ofsted have announced that they will implement all of the four changes proposed following their recent consultation on post-inspection arrangements and complaints. The changes include:

  • enhanced on-site professional dialogue during inspections to help address any issues;
  • the new opportunity for providers to contact Ofsted the day after the on-site inspection concludes if there are unresolved concerns;
  • new arrangements for finalising reports and considering formal challenges to inspection outcomes;
  • the vehicle for direct escalation to the Independent Complaints Adjudication Service for Ofsted (ICASO) and a periodic review of closed complaints using external representatives.

All the above changes will be phased in, coming into effect in January 2024 and April 2024.

Beyond Ofsted

The findings of the Beyond Ofsted inquiry published this month reflect on the current inspection framework and set out suggested principles for underpinning a new school inspection system with proposals for an alternative approach. The advisory group is chaired by Jim Knight, Rt Hon Lord Knight of Weymouth, and the advisory group includes UCL researchers.

The inquiry states that their findings show that the current Ofsted framework is currently seen as not fit for purpose by those working in the education sector and is having a detrimental impact on schools, which some perceive as toxic. The inquiry acknowledges the need for quality assurance of schools as any institution in receipt of public money should be subject to accountability, but believes there is a compelling and urgent need to build trust back into the system.

We have reviewed the inquiry's findings in detail, particularly the proposed changes to safeguarding, so do access our detailed review, discussed in our podcast.

Safeguarding young people within the Youth Justice system

A new children in custody report published by HMI Prisons has shown that two-thirds of children in custody have previously been in Local Authority care, and raises concerns on how these care leavers are currently supported within the youth justice system.

Whilst the number of young people in secure training centres and young offender institutions has reduced, the report found that progress in improving the treatment of children in custody has 'stalled', with increased levels of violence occurring in these settings. Overall levels of violence and self-harm across settings in England and Wales rose by just over a third in the year to June.

The HMI report also highlights that despite being 'richly resourced', there has been a failure to develop trusting relationships between staff and young people. Nearly a third of young people reported that they 'did not have a single member of staff they trusted to help them if they had a problem', less than 50% said they felt cared for by staff and 28% reported spending less than two hours per day outside their cells.

The report has prompted calls for improving relationships between children and staff in these settings to create a 'stable environment' for young people. Responding to the report findings, Chief Inspector of Prisons, Charlie Taylor stated:

'For many, prison may therefore be the most stable environment they have known, and it should be an opportunity for them to build trusted relationships with staff who can help them to confront and move on from their past choices. It is therefore particularly disappointing to see that relationships with staff have deteriorated over the past year, and not even a third of children could name a single member of staff they believed would help them if they had a problem.'

Commenting on the report, SSS Learning Safeguarding Director Sam Preston said:

'If young people are to break the cycle of reoffending, they must feel safe and learn to develop secure trusting relationships with those professionals charged with supporting them.'

We know from Care Experience, Ethnicity and Youth Justice Involvement, using data compiled by the Ministry of Justice and Department for Education, that 33% of care-experienced children received a youth justice caution or conviction, compared with 4% of those without care experience.

Environments where isolation and violence are common will have a huge impact on mental health and emotional well-being. Clearly, change is needed to provide opportunities for stability, where young people can learn to develop much-needed trusting relationships, crucial for facilitating positive change.''

A Generation of Children Exposed to Violence

The children, violence and vulnerability from the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) second annual report on children, violence and vulnerability from the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) states that almost half of teenagers in their survey sample, 7,574 teenagers aged 13 to 17 across England and Wales, have been victims or have witnessed violence in the last year.

The report revealed worryingly high rates of children’s exposure to violence where respondents revealed that:

  • 47% had been a victim or witness to violence in the past year;
  • 60% had seen real-world acts of violence online through social media platforms;
  • 20% had truanted from school in the past 12 months because they felt unsafe;
  • 47% reported that the fear of violence impacted their day-to-day life;
  • 48% of those who committed violence were also victims;
  • 62% thought that drugs and gangs were a major driving factor in violence.

The report also reveals other worrying societal trends. Factors include:

  • statistical postcode differentials- 25% of children in London said they’d been a victim of violence compared with 12% in the South East;
  • a third of teenagers who have a social worker have experienced violence;
  • 31% of children who said their families use foodbanks report being victims of crime.

Positively, the report reveals that children typically did feel safe when in areas with high adult supervision. For schools, this raises the importance of developing trauma-informed practice, where staff are trained to understand the impact of adverse childhood experiences and protect children against violence. The Home Office and Youth Endowment Fund are jointly investing £5.8m to assess how trauma-informed practice can protect children against violence.

A Generation of Children Exposed to Violence

Data published by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) shows that AI-generated child sexual abuse imagery (CSAM) is realistic enough to be treated as real imagery under UK Law, stating that it threatens to ‘overwhelm’ the internet.

IWF statistics revealed that in a single month, the organisation investigated over 11,000 AI images which had been shared on a dark web child abuse forum, 564 of which depicted the most serious kind of imagery including rape, sexual torture and bestiality.

The report states that AI CSAM is now so realistic it is visually ‘indistinguishable from real CSAM even for trained IWF analysts’.

AI-generated CSAM also presents the potential for the re-victimisation of known child sexual abuse victims. The IWF reports having found such AI-generated images featuring these victims, famous children and de-aged celebrities.

Whilst the Online Safety Act holds social media platforms responsible for the content published on their platforms this does not currently extend to AI companies, whose models are being altered and used to generate abusive imagery. Currently the creation and distribution of guides to AI-generated CSAM is not an offence.

At the October AI Safety Summit, tech giants Tiktok, Snapchat and Stability AI signed a pledge committing to tackle the rise of AI-generated CSAM. However, as the National Police Chiefs' Council Lead, Ian Critchley, observed:

'It is clear that this is no longer an emerging this threat is here and now. We are seeing children groomed, we are seeing perpetrators make their own imagery to their own specifications, we are seeing the production of AI imagery for commercial gain - all of which normalises the rape and abuse of real children.

Chris Farrimond, Director of Threat Leadership at the National Crime Agency (NCA), commented:

We are starting to see realistic images and videos of child sexual abuse created using Artificial Intelligence, and an exponential growth in offenders discussing how to use it to generate images of real children.

We know that as AI technologies mature and become more widely applied, they will create opportunities for offenders. But there will also be new opportunities for law enforcement and technology platforms to take action that protects children and aids identification of their abusers.''

The National Crime Agency (NCA) estimate that there are 680,000 to 830,000 adults in the UK that pose some degree of sexual risk to children. Tackling child sexual abuse is an NCA and policing priority, which includes the investigation and prosecution of individuals who create, share, possess, access or view AI-generated child sexual abuse material.

Landmark UK Conviction for Assisting FGM

Amina Noor has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of assisting to help a non-UK person to carry out the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) of a three-year-old British girl during a trip to Kenya.

Born in Somalia, Noor came to the UK aged 16 and has British citizenship. She travelled from her northwest London home, with the child to a private house in Kenya where the girl was subjected to FGM.

During the trial, Noor stated that the practice was 'sunnah', translated as a tradition in Arabic, and that she feared being 'disowned and cursed' by community members if she did not take part. According to UN figures, 94% of females of Somali origin living in Kenya undergo FGM.

The crime, committed in 2006, was reported years later when the girl at age 16 confided in her English teacher at school.

The conviction is the first of its kind and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.

Sam Preston

SSS Learning Safeguarding Director

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