Education and Early Years Settings

Education and Early Years Settings

Early years, school and college staff are particularly important in safeguarding children as they are in a position to identify concerns early, provide help for children, and prevent concerns from escalating. All have a responsibility to provide a safe environment in which children can learn and all staff should be prepared to identify children who may benefit from early help. This means providing support as soon as a problem emerges at any point in a child’s life, from the foundation years through to the teenage years.

Concern about a child’s welfare should follow the Statutory guidance published by the government in the document ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’. This states that education and school staff should expect to support social workers and other agencies following any referral.

Please find below a set of documents developed locally to assist schools, colleges and early years with their work to safeguard children.


Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment between children

The Department for Education defined these as:

Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment between children

  • Sexual violence is rape, assault by penetration or sexual assault.
  • Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature.
  • Harmful sexual behaviour is problematic, abusive and violent behaviour that is developmentally inappropriate and may cause developmental damage.

(DfE: Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges)

Sometimes young people or their friends report sexual violence or harassment. At other times staff may observe something of concern and intervene. Often young people do not disclose their experiences. Staff should be aware of the possible signs and consider with their safeguarding lead how to open up a conversation. Young people may be feeling angry, upset, stressed, worried, scared and confused, and having:

  • flashbacks
  • difficulty sleeping and night terrors
  • anxiety
  • difficulty concentrating
  • blocking out the memory and/or avoiding remembering what happened
  • being unable to remember exactly what happened
  • difficulty in trusting people
  • thinking that no one else understands them
  • reliving the experience of sexual abuse

(NSPCC, Is this sexual abuse? 2018)

Some young people may not perceive they are being abused or harassed and need work through sex and relationships education to understand their experiences.

Schools are central to framing a safe ethos and creating safe spaces for young people to explore healthy relationships, and there is a duty on schools to ensure they take action to keep young people safe.

The Department for Education has provided advice for schools and colleges that provides advice and guidance on:

  • definitions;
  • legal responsibilities;
  • how to take a whole school/college approach to prevention; and
  • how to respond to reports

Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service

The Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service, run by SWGfL in partnership with the Marie Collins Foundation, is now available to safeguarding professionals across England and provides the tools to equip and empower practitioners to address the alarming normalisation of harmful sexual behaviour in children and young people.

The telephone and email support, which is funded by the Home Office and developed in collaboration with the Department for Education, is available Monday – Friday, 8am to 8pm.

Call: 0344 255 0623                  Email: [email protected]

How will it support you?

The Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service is for education and safeguarding professionals and will provide:

  1. Advice on individual cases or incidents of harmful sexual behaviour, to ensure an appropriate response both for children displaying this behaviour and others affected by it
  2. Guidance on policy development on tackling harmful sexual behaviour
  3. Relevant resources, best practice and contacts around harmful sexual behaviour, both locally and nationally

Find out more about the service

Why act now?
The service has been established in response to the 2021 Ofsted review, which revealed a prevalence of child-on-child sexual harassment and abuse so widespread that, for some children, incidents are ‘so commonplace that they see no point in reporting them’ and ‘consider them normal’.   

What is Harmful Sexual Behaviour?
Developmentally inappropriate sexual behaviour which is displayed by children and young people (under the age of 18) and which may be harmful or abusive. It can be displayed towards younger children, peers, older children or adults. It can be harmful to the children and young people who display it, as well as those it is directed towards.  

Get in touch today

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