NICE advice to look for ‘soft’ signs of child abuse

Teachers, police officers, nursery staff and other professionals should look for “soft” signs that could indicate that a child is being abused or neglected, new guidelines suggest.

Signs may include excessive clinginess, low self-esteem, recurrent nightmares or over-friendliness towards strangers.

The draft guidance from NICE – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – is open for consultation.

NICE’s deputy chief executive said it was “permission to be curious”

NICE was asked by the Department for Education and the Department of Health to produce information for professionals working with children across a range of settings including social care, schools, early years settings, medical centres or custodial settings.

It says adults working with children should be alert to abuse and neglect if a child displays behaviours that are not normal for the child or for their age.

Professionals should look out for signs like:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Wetting and soiling
  • Recurrent nightmares
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Withdrawing communication
  • Habitual body rocking
  • Indiscriminate contact or affection seeking
  • Over-friendliness towards strangers
  • Excessive clinginess
  • Persistently seeking attention.

However, the guidelines say some signs are a matter of such concern that social services should be contacted straight away.

These include a child regularly attending school unclean or with injuries, overtly sexual behaviours in children who are below the age of puberty, and parents using excessive physical punishment.

Dr Danya Glaser, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and member of the NICE guideline development committee, said professionals should use their instinct and experience to make a judgement.

“It’s probably a mixture of instinct and experience. It’s about [noticing] some change in behaviour if you know the child.”

Dr Glaser said there was “far more under-recognition” of child abuse than over-reporting of cases that then turned out to be untrue.

“We are saying err on the side of curiosity – it might be nothing but it might be something.”

Prof Corinne May-Chahal, chairwoman of the committee developing the guidelines, said the guidance would help professionals spot signs of abuse and focus on what help can be provided.

“The guideline gives examples of soft signs, the behaviours or emotions a child is exhibiting, which could indicate something may be wrong.

“These may not always be proof of abuse or neglect taking place, but they underline when to check on a child’s wellbeing.”

Child abuse figures

  • Figures compiled by the charity the NSPCC show there are more than 57,000 children in the UK who have been identified as needing protection from abuse
  • The charity estimates that for every child identified as needing protection from abuse, another eight are suffering abuse;
  • One in 20 children in the UK has been sexually abused
  • One in 14 has been physically abused

Prof Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE said: “We want all professionals to be aware and recognise when they need to ask questions or follow up with colleagues about a child’s wellbeing.

“Not all cases will cause concern but if we do not ask, we may miss opportunities to protect children in their time of need.

“I guess we can be a bit British and perhaps aren’t curious enough and think we shouldn’t ask the questions, so I guess (the guideline is) permission to be curious.”

A public consultation on the draft guidelines will run until 19 April.

Many teenagers ‘neglected by disinterested parents’

Tens of thousands of teenagers are being neglected by parents who do not check up on them or offer enough support, a charity says.

The Children’s Society says as many as three pupils in every GCSE classroom in England could be experiencing neglect.

It says a lack of parental interest can lead teenagers to act more waywardly, by getting very drunk for example.

Teenagers need as much care as younger children, it says, adding that many parents do not see it that way.

The charity commissioned researchers from the University of York to investigate teenagers’ experience by surveying a representative group of 2,000 12- to 15-year-olds.

‘Rarely caring’

They asked if the teenagers’ parents and carers:

  • showed an interest in what they were doing at school
  • offered support if they had problems
  • took care of them if they were ill
  • monitored what they were doing when they were out of the house

A significant minority, some 15%, said they had experienced some form of neglect as defined by the survey.

And one in 12 said they lacked emotional support, with their parents rarely or never encouraging them or helping with problems over the previous year.

The research suggested that those who were neglected like that were more likely to behave in ways that risked their health or future prospects.

Nearly half (46%) of teenagers who said they had experienced emotional neglect – with parents who rarely acted in a caring or supportive way towards them – said they had got very drunk recently.

They were more than twice as likely as those who did not experience neglect to have played truant from school and three times as likely to have smoked.

Teenagers who had experienced this neglect were also significantly more likely to be dissatisfied with their lives and pessimistic about their futures.


These neglected teenagers also tended to report doubts about their competence, having little faith that anyone cares about them.

These feelings became more severe if more than one of these types of neglect had been experienced over the same period.

Children who reported frequent support from their parents were more likely to have better levels of wellbeing.

However, the research also suggested there was a difficult balance to be struck between showing concern and care and intruding in teenagers’ new-found freedom.

“So maybe it is not surprising that the 14-15-year-olds in our survey said they were less happy when parents were frequently asking about what they were doing away from home,” the report said.

The charity says although bringing up teenagers is seen by most as a challenge, there is little support available for parents who struggle.

Its senior researcher, Phil Raws, said: “There is a tension between the need for parents to supervise and monitor their children and the need of teenagers to have independence.

“It is certainly the case that the desire of young people to have freedom and choice in their lives can conflict with the need for parents to keep their young people safe.

“We plan to explore these issues in more detail in future, but it is certainly the case that, to negotiate these challenges, parents and teenagers have to communicate well and build trust over time.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “All children, whatever their age, must feel safe and supported at home.

“We are strengthening the child protection system to make sure children who are at risk are identified early and get the help they need – this includes support to help parents to better care for their children, where necessary.”

 Lost FSM monies for infants and Primary schools- A solution?

i was engaged in a conversation with the SLT of a Primary school yesterday and invariably the conversation steered towards the costs of our outreach family support service to them. Oh oh i thought here’s the barrier to entry………

Once quoted the head and lead governor spoke of the poor financial state of the school and how they would need to take a look at there finances closely before committing. Then i recalled an article about FSM (see below from the Guardian) and asked the team what there FSM % was- 24% i was told. I pointed out that in an area of such deprivation and poverty that appeared to be low. I asked what theyre neighbouring primary schools FSM was …..within a split second the HT knew it was nearer 50%- a huge differential considering they are in the same community!

The Guardian has been following the progress of a school – St Mary Redcliffe Primary in Bristol – since February last year, as the universal infant free school meal (UIFSM) policy has been rolled out. At this large primary, where some pupils live in one of the 10% most deprived wards in the UK, the January census shows that the number on free school meals (FSM) in reception has gone down by almost 50% in a year.

When the UIFSM policy was announced 18 months ago, heads were quick to point out that giving free meals to infants might well result in parents no longer applying for FSM. And because the pupil premium, worth £1,320 per child every year, is allocated on the basis FSM numbers, the implications for some schools could be serious

With this in mind i came up with a solution for the school that will more than pay for the work we supply and i ask you to consider.

Outreach family support to engage with hard to reach parents leads to barriers to education being removed for their child/children. Often poor mental health or illness or a raft of other social issues are needing to be tackled to help support the whole family.

Quite often poor literacy, apathy or the ‘pride’ factor kicks in where fsm applications are concerned. The though process often being “my child still gets free meals whether i fill the form in or not”- parents sometimes inadvertently nor realising the negative impact of this thought process or action to the school.

This is where once engaged the family support worker can help the family in their own home to get the necessary forms completed and taken to school to process…………..

We start working with this Primary school in September………

Treating the cause and not the symptom……..

Every day i talk with Head Teachers, Deputies and other members of a school Senior Leadership Team. During conversations i am often told ” i couldn’t do your job” or “i don’t envy you going to visit that family” or similar. My response is often how much how i enjoy the crisis work or how i like the challenge of trying to engage with a family no other professional has been able to or if i’m in a playful frame of mind how much i suit black clothing (anyone who has ever worked in the homes where there are profound social issues and challenges will know what i am referring too!)

A couple of weeks i was talking amongst such educationalists who were pouring over their latest data  on Persistent Absence of pupils. They were discussing the details of the support needed for certain pupils whose attendance was around 80-85%. One thing became very clear from this conversation; it was child focused and not family focused. What was overlooked by a lot of those around the table is that the real issues were at home with a lot of the cases they were discussing one child is a young carer, many it was thought were ‘hoodwinking’ their parents by feigning illness, some self-harmed, bullying and one child had a long history with many illnesses causing absence from school. I asked towards the end of the meeting if i could randomly go to the home of the child who had a long history of absence (65% attendance) and report back. This i did.

It turns out that mum has a debilitating illness of her own and her child is her carer- to the detriment of her education. Having referred others to partner agencies i have used my links to help support both mum and child as she was in her words “always exhausted and had no local friends to talk to”

I took this back and in a written report gave this to the schools attendance team who know nothing of the background to the family.

My point is this. Using a person skilled in providing an outreach role to work with the families whose child presents as educationally disengaged, withdrawn, lashing out at others, tired or simply not attending may provide positive results in terms of attendance, relationship building and ultimately educational attainment.

Poor pupils ‘are still let down’, warns Ofsted boss

BBC 23RD JUNE 2016

Poor pupils are still being let down by the English education system, Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw has warned.

In a speech on Thursday, he will highlight the “appalling injustice” of children from poorer homes continuing to fall behind their wealthier peers.

Sir Michael will call for a tougher stance on “feckless parents” who allow children to break school rules.

He will also defend testing in schools, saying this offers disadvantaged pupils the prospect of a better life.

In a speech at the Festival of Education, taking place at Wellington College, Sir Michael will say the failure to improve the educational chances of the poor “disfigures” England’s school system.

“The needle has barely moved,” he will say.

“In 2005, the attainment gap between free school meal [FSM] and non-FSM pupils in secondary schools was 28 percentage points – it is still 28 percentage points now.”

Sir Michael will warn of the widening gap between poorer pupils in northern England and those in the South, but he will also highlight how disadvantaged pupils in wealthy areas are being let down.

He will say: “The attainment gap between FSM and non-FSM secondary school children in West Berkshire is 31 percentage points. In Kent it’s 34. In Surrey it’s 36.

“In Buckinghamshire it’s 39. And in Reading it’s a whopping 40 percentage points – all far in excess of the national gap of 28. What an appalling injustice.”

The outgoing Ofsted boss will urge schools to reject the idea that structure stifles and to stand up to “endless whines about ‘petty’ uniform rules”, saying many poor pupils do not get much direction and support at home.

He will say: “A rule-based classroom culture helps compensate for a chaotic home life. Take it away and the poorest children rarely swim; they sink.

“Even when home structures are in place, the poor’s expectations and potential are often constrained by limited cultural horizons.

“Through no fault of their own, many simply aren’t aware of what is possible. Why should they be? Few of them have had access to the life-enhancing opportunities a good education brings.

“Middle-class children always have a head start. Their cultural hinterland is usually rich. Their parents are usually well educated.

“They tend to do well in school. And when they don’t, their parents can always hire a tutor.”

Sir Michael will also beat the drum for a strong culture of testing in England’s schools.

He will say: “To those who bleat about the tyranny of testing, let me say this, ‘Testing isn’t a burden; it’s an opportunity.’

“It allows teachers to know where a child stands and what help they need. It gives the poor a passport to the prospect of a better life.”

Sir Michael will say one solution is to expect more of the parents of these pupils.

“We should start by refusing to patronise the poor,” he will say.

“There is nothing wrong in insisting on structure in school. We should be tough on feckless parents who allow their children to break the rules.

“I appreciate that many of them were let down by the education system. But they need to be reminded – through letters, meetings and sanctions – that the way they bring up their children has profound implications for us all.”

Sir Michael’s tenure as chief inspector comes to an end in December.

He is to be replaced by Amanda Spielman, who currently chairs exams regulator Ofqual.

Forgive my bluntness but…………….just what will you do as the cuts bite further? 20/06/2016 LinkedIn

Education has no doubt felt the impact of the ‘austerity’ measures. We see it everyday,  read about it on the news and hear of its impact during our conversations with school staff.

As a consultant / worker delivering a valued and much needed service for schools/academies at a time where the public services are being decimated we ask “What will your approach be as a head teacher to improve future attendance of pupils, and in turn giving a greater chance of educational engagement and attainment?”

In our local area (North East UK) local authorities have to make yet more cuts to their budgets that are already ‘cut back to the bone‘.  One area that has been impacted upon is the role of the Education Welfare Officer, both in numbers and use of personnel who have little or no background or training to fulfil  this valued role. Often i have heard about or seen the ‘barriers to entry’  as soon as the home door is opened by a parent to an EWO. The key to engaging can often be slowly slowly catchy monkey for some, whilst for others a much more direct approach is needed. A skilled job indeed where it can be a lonely and thankless role at times. Very demanding.


It is my belief as an advocate of outreach work that persistent lateness, Absence and other social, emotional and behavioural issues can often be best tackled where engagement with pupils, parents/carers happens in their own environment i.e home. A lot can be gleaned from home conditions and engagement in meetings with often reluctant service users on random home visits. Experience of working on behalf of schools and academies as well as children’s centres shows us that often a visit leads to a lengthy or series of home visits to remove barriers and then partnership work with other agencies to help the family unit. This is where ‘attendance officers’ don’t have the time or skill set to engage and provide services that benefit the child and family and thus give a greater chance of a positive outcome.

As a local head teacher once said to me ” I have staff here whose area of expertise is pedagogy, however we as a school do not have are staff with experience and knowledge of the social & emotional barriers that present themselves daily”

Children’s Services, Social Workers, Family Intervention Teams all tell us they are stretched so much and have waiting lists as long as your arm and its only going to become much worse with those cuts forced upon such professionals.

So what resource will a head teacher call upon to help support those pupils (and their families) who are ‘dragging’ attendance figures down?, or where a child presents as smelly, unkempt and dirty and leads to bullying yet they don’t have a relationship with parent to engage and find out? – a list of social and emotional scenarios could well fill this blog alone……….

Forward thinking

One academy i work with has a cluster of 5 partnership primary schools- some have an employed family support worker but some are of a size and profile where their budget couldn’t support such a worker financially. Within this cluster appropriate partnership working  benefits all those schools. Let me explain further…….. An example that best illustrates is one where i worked with a family whose eldest child had attendance figures of less than 85%…….younger sibling also had poor attendance and went to a small primary school. The Primary school were ‘kept in the loop’ as to the parenting work i delivered to mum and appropriate information given to the school head as to stop any duplication of work. Both children now show a healthy increase in there attendance and mum is now in a far better place herself and more engaged with the schools -in fact she is now pursuing further education herself and harbours some ambition of employ within the care sector.

Transition work also has benefited by the sharing of an outreach family support worker- an intervention approach by the schools working with an identified cohort whose attendance has been less than required at primary education level and the secondary school staff wish to support the child & family before attendance issues impact. Timely home visits to engage with parent/carer using a proactive approach helps in many ways and serve to allay fears, answer questions and manage expectations leading into secondary education.

If you recognise these issues and strategically are looking for a robust evidence based approach, strengthen home/school ties and help reduce your PA of pupils pupils you can find out more within our website where you will find testimonials and case studies alongside our delivery of age specific programmes for primary and secondary education.

Revenge pornography victims as young as 11, investigation finds

Children as young as 11 are among more than 1,000 alleged victims of revenge porn who reported offences in the first year of the new law coming into effect, it has been revealed.

In April 2015, it became an offence to share private sexual photographs or films without the subject’s consent.

The BBC analysed Freedom of Information requests from 31 forces in England and Wales between April and December.

Online safety charities said victims were left “hugely damaged”.

Revenge porn refers to the act of a partner or ex-partner purposefully distributing images or videos of a sexual nature without the other person’s consent.

Our analysis shows:

  • There were 1,160 reported incidents of revenge pornography from April 2015 to December 2015
  • Three victims were 11 years old with some 30% of offences involving young people under 19
  • The average age of a revenge porn victim was 25
  • Around 11% of reported offences resulted in the alleged perpetrator being charged, 7% in a caution and 5% in a community resolution
  • Some 61% of reported offences resulted in no action being taken against the alleged perpetrator. Among the main reasons cited by police include a lack of evidence or the victim withdrawing support
  • Facebook was used by perpetrators in 68% of cases where social media was mentioned in reports. Then came Instagram (12%) followed by Snapchat (5%)

Explore the full dataset here.

The new law was introduced after campaigners lobbied MPs to make it a criminal offence.

Previously, convictions for this type of offence were sought under existing copyright or harassment laws.

It covers images shared on and offline without the subject’s permission and with the intent to cause harm. Physical distribution of images is also covered.

Laura Higgins, of the Revenge Porn Helpline, said being a victim was a “hugely distressing, damaging and violating experience”.

She said: “The effect on victims is often pervasive and long-lasting.

“Whilst they have been the victim of a crime, often individuals internalise feelings of guilt and shame, which can negatively affect an individual’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

“Victim-blaming attitudes only exacerbate these feelings. Some feel so isolated and overwhelmed they consider suicide.”

Image copyrightThinkstock

Who has been prosecuted?

  • Jason Asagba, 21, of Romford, east London, shared intimate pictures of a woman on Facebook and was handed a six-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months. He first threatened to post the pictures three days after the new laws came into force
  • David Jones, 53, of Wallasey in Merseyside, was jailed for 16 weeks for posting sexually explicit photographs of a woman on social media. The woman said she felt “complete terror” when the photos appeared online
  • Luke King, of Aspley in Nottingham, shared an explicit photo of a woman using the messaging service WhatsApp. He was jailed for 12 weeks for harassment. The woman, from Derbyshire, told police she was “disgusted” and “really upset”

Ms Higgins said the new legislation was flawed because it did not ensure the anonymity of the victim; it did not cover historical cases; and it did not cover images that had been altered via Photoshop.

The English Regions data unit analysed data from police forces in England and Wales. Some 31 responded – Dorset, Hampshire and Lincolnshire denied the request on cost grounds, while responses from Avon and Somerset, Leicestershire, Bedfordshire, Cleveland, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Wiltshire, Dyfed Powys and Gwent Police remain outstanding.

There were wide variations in the charge rate among police forces. Nobody had so far been charged in Lancashire, Devon and Cornwall or Cumbria, for example. In the West Midlands, 25% of reported offences resulted in a charge, while in Staffordshire, the rate dropped to 3%.

Families ‘pushed into child protection system by cuts’

Struggling families are being pushed into the child protection system because early intervention services are not available, MPs have heard.

Professor of social work Ray Jones told the Education Committee family support services were being “decimated” because of council cuts.

He cited predictions of a 71% cut in funding to family support and early intervention services in England.

The government said it was up to councils to set local services.

“Councils are ultimately responsible for deciding what services are needed in their area, and we are giving them almost £200bn to spend on local services by 2020 to support this,” said a spokeswoman.

But Prof Jones said ongoing cuts were putting pressure on the child protection system.

He said early intervention and family support services should be retained rather than cut.

“Children’s centres are closing, funding for voluntary organisations like Home Start is being turned off,” he said.

“The consequence is that we are escalating children and families into the child protection proceduralisation and bureaucracy, because this is the only resource we have for those children.

“It’s threatening for families and children, it’s demoralising for social workers, and we are overheating the child protection system.”

‘Prevention better’

His comments were backed up by councillor Roy Perry, chairman of the children and young people board of the Local Government Association.

He said: “Prevention is clearly better than cure, so putting money into early services is important.

“In my council, and in councils across England, there’s a lot of worry that there’s less resources available for youth work, youth clubs, family support work and children’s centres, and that is an issue.

“The resources need to be targeted and focused more closely.”

He said: “The issue now is that councils are having to protect their investment in child social workers and social work teams, but that does mean that there are frankly less resources available for those other activities.”

Prof Jones was citing figures from the Losing in the Long Run report, jointly published by Action for Children, Children’s Society and National Children’s Bureau earlier this month.

It suggests funding from central government for early intervention projects, such as teenage pregnancy support, respite care for disabled children and family and support services, would see cuts from £1bn to £3.2bn over the next four years.

Although local authorities will gain powers to pay for services through local business taxes, most councillors surveyed for the report feared there would be cuts to these services.

The government spokeswoman said statutory guidance made it clear councils should work closely with other services to identify, as early as possible, children who may be at risk.

“Funding for children’s services, including the early intervention grant, is non-ring-fenced to give local authorities the flexibility to focus on locally determined priorities,” she added.

Improve children’s mental health care, urge head teachers


More young people are suffering from mental health issues but the care on offer outside schools is not keeping pace, say head teachers.

In total, 55% of 338 school leaders surveyed by the Association of School and College Leaders reported a large rise in pupils with anxiety and stress.

Almost 65% said they struggled to get mental health services for pupils.

The government said it was investing £1.4bn on children’s mental health services in England.

The survey, launched at the Association of School and College Leaders’ (ASCL) annual conference in Birmingham, found that over the past five years:

  • 79% of heads saw an increase in self harm or suicidal thoughts among students.
  • 40% reported a big rise in cyber-bullying
  • But 53% of those who had referred a pupil to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) rated them poor or very poor.
  • Overall 80% of respondents wanted to see CAMHS expanded in their area.

According to the report, carried out by ASCL alongside the National Children’s Bureau (NCB), most schools offer on-site support to students, for example counselling and educational psychology sessions.

The problems arise when students needs extra support, says the report.

‘Serious gap’

On Saturday ASCL’s interim general secretary, Malcolm Trobe will tell the conference of “a serious gap in mental health provision beyond the school gates”.

“The fact is that children today face an extraordinary range of pressures.

“They live in a world of enormously high expectations, where new technologies present totally new challenges such as cyber-bullying,” Mr Trobe is expected to say.

“There has seldom been a time when specialist mental health care is so badly needed and yet it often appears to be the poor relation of the health service.

“Its importance cannot be over-emphasised.”

NCB chief executive Anna Feuchtwang said the survey results were “alarming”.

“For these young people, and many others like them, their psychological states are almost too distressing to bear.

“This research confirms that better provision of child mental health services, both in and outside school, is still sorely needed.”

The government said it was investing £1.4bn to transform mental health support for children and young people in England, with a £3m, pilot scheme to trial “single points of contact for schools to ensure support is joined up and quickly available when needed”.

“Schools have an important role to play in tackling children’s mental health issues, but teachers are not mental health professionals and they should have the support of specialist services,” said a spokeswoman.

‘Demography of destiny’

Later on Saturday England’s Education Secretary Nicky Morgan will urge school leaders to work with her to give every child the education they deserve.

Mrs Morgan is expected to announce a renewed focus on entrenched areas of underperformance in coastal towns and rural areas.

“Simply hoping for improvement is not enough because these areas are not only underperforming, but they also lack the capacity and support that they need to improve,” she will tell the conference.

“This scandalous demography of destiny,” has no place in 21st Century Britain, she will add.

Primary school warns over parents ‘using cannabis’ BBC News 16/2/16

Some parents have been seen “using cannabis” while dropping off and collecting their children from a primary school, it has been revealed.

St John’s CofE Primary School in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, issued a letter after parents reported the class B drug “being used” around the site.

The letter said it had been “noticed” by some older children, adding it is a “serious safeguarding concern”.

Police have been made aware of concerns and will be working with the school.

Deborah Binns, deputy head teacher, said: “We have had concerning reports that parents have been using cannabis around the school premises as they drop off and collect their children.

“This has been reported by parents and has been noticed by some of the older children.”

“Please respect our school as a place of learning and make sure you set an appropriate example within the community,” she added.

The letter about the school in Johnson Street was sent to parents on Friday and was earlier published by the Bolton News.

A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said: “The policing team will be working closely with the school and anyone found to be engaging in such activity will be dealt with accordingly by the police. ”

The school’s governors, the Diocese of Manchester and Bury Council have been contacted for a comment.

Four in 10 teachers ‘attacked by pupils’ – BBC News, 29/1/16

Four out of 10 teachers have experienced violence from pupils in the past year, a survey suggests.

Of the 1,250 staff surveyed by the ATL teachers union, 77% said they had been pushed or shoved and around half were kicked or had an object thrown at them.

Nine out of 10 staff had dealt with challenging behaviour, such as swearing or shouting, in the past year.

The government said teachers now had greater powers to search pupils and the use of force had been clarified.

However, 45% of the panel of teachers surveyed across England, Wales and Northern Ireland said they felt pupil behaviour had got worse in the past two years. Teachers in Scotland were not included in the survey.

Mental health

One special needs worker at a Bedfordshire primary school said she had been stabbed in the head with a pencil, while a teacher at a Suffolk secondary academy said she had been “sprayed in the face with deodorant”.

In a third case, a support worker at a secondary school in Cheshire said a chair had been thrown that hit her leg.

A teaching assistant at a Rochdale primary school claimed: “Staff are regularly verbally abused with very little consequences. Occasionally pupils physically attack members of staff, but this rarely leads to a day’s exclusion.”

Teachers in the survey put the cause of violence down to a number of things.

A lack of boundaries at home was singled out as the top reason for challenging, disruptive or violent behaviour.

Some 78% pointed to emotional and behavioural problems as the cause, while nearly half said it was down to pupils’ mental health issues.

‘Plug the gaps’

And nearly two-thirds of teachers felt pupils were under more stress than two years ago.

General secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Dr Mary Bousted, said having to cope with challenging or disruptive behaviour is unfortunately par for the course for education staff.

“It is shocking that more than four in 10 (43%) education professionals have had to deal with physical violence from a pupil in the last year,” she said.

“No member of staff should be subjected to aggressive behaviour, in any form, while doing their job.

“A lack of funds for social services and child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) means pupils are at risk and, all too often, school staff are being left to plug the gaps in social care as best they can.

“Many schools do excellent work day in, day out to help pupils stay on track and to keep schools a safe place for pupils and staff.

“But schools need support from social and health services and parents to deal with the complex issues many pupils face due to chaotic home lives or mental health issues.”


There have been numerous warnings about the pressures on schools resulting from a lack of mental health services in some areas.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Teachers and school staff have a right to feel safe while doing their jobs and violence towards them is completely unacceptable.

“We have taken decisive action to put teachers back in charge of the classroom by giving them the powers they need to tackle poor behaviour and discipline.

“We have scrapped ‘no touch’ rules that stopped teachers removing disruptive pupils from classrooms and ensured schools’ decisions on exclusions can no longer be overruled.”

 View from Step by Step- The Solution to Persistent Pupil absence?

I was trawling through the performance tables for schools today, or to be more specific the  figures of persistent non-attendance of secondary aged pupils.

The variation (from 2%-14%) led me to a conversation with a head teacher who i have worked with for years now.  The conclusion we came to is that some academies and schools are better in reaching out to their families and helping to support them at a grass roots level………from our work we know yields results and strengthens home/school links.

Having spoken at length with John Dunford- The national pupil premium lead we agreed that schools often forget a that a happy parent often makes for a happy child….

Often when i first contact a school about our work, or during a meeting i am met with-

“but we have access to a pastoral or welfare person to handle social emotional and behavioural difficulties” Upon further gentle probing it turns out that they are either office based or have little idea of engaging reluctant parent/carers who  have  a perceived poor experience of education themselves….

Those academies or schools with ‘community’ within their title often fall short of that status from a parental perspective…..and that dare i say is the area some schools could do more to work on to not only improve their attendance figures but also improve home/school links, aspirations of their pupils and reduce conflict between staff/home whilst letting teachers get on with the job they are skilled at…pedagogy

New domestic abuse law comes into force- BBC 29/12/15

The abuse covered by the new offence could include a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation, the CPS said

Domestic abusers who control victims via social media or spy on them online could face up to five years in prison under a new law which is now in force.

The legislation will target those who subject spouses, partners and family members to psychological and emotional torment but stop short of violence.

It paves the way for charges in cases where there is evidence of repeated “controlling or coercive behaviour”.

The Women’s Aid charity said it was a “landmark moment” in tackling abuse.

The new law, brought into force in England and Wales, follows a Home Office consultation in which 85% of participants said the existing law did not provide sufficient protection.

It comes as Citizens Advice published figures showing a 24% rise in those seeking advice for domestic abuse.

‘Limit human rights’

The Crown Prosecution Service said the type of abuse covered by the new offence could include a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation.

It could also involve stopping someone from socialising, controlling their social media accounts, surveillance through apps and dictating what they wear.

Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, said: “Controlling or coercive behaviour can limit victims’ basic human rights, such as their freedom of movement and their independence.

“This behaviour can be incredibly harmful in an abusive relationship where one person holds more power than the other, even if on the face of it this behaviour might seem playful, innocuous or loving.

“Victims can be frightened of the repercussions of not abiding by someone else’s rules. Often they fear that violence will be used against them, or suffer from extreme psychological and emotional abuse.

“These new powers mean this behaviour, which is particularly relevant to cases of domestic abuse, can now be prosecuted in its own right.”



Where do the normal power dynamics of a relationship end and “coercive or controlling” behaviour begin?

The new offence criminalises patterns of such behaviour against an intimate partner or family member.

Critical to the offence is the repeated or continuous nature of the conduct and the ability of a reasonable person to appreciate that the behaviour will have a serious effect on its victim.

A defence is also included to provide a further safeguard against inappropriate use of the new offence.

It will apply where the defendant can show that they believed they were acting in the victim’s best interests and that their behaviour was objectively reasonable.

An example might be someone caring for a mentally ill spouse, who has to keep them in the home and make them take medication for their own protection or in their own best interests.

Here, the spouse’s behaviour might be considered controlling, but would be reasonable in the circumstances.

Cases will be heard in magistrates’ or crown courts and evidence could potentially include emails and bank records.

In order for the offence to apply, the pattern of behaviour alleged must have a “serious effect” on the victim, Home Office guidance says.

This means they must have either feared violence will be used against them on at least two occasions or they have been caused serious alarm or distress which has a “substantial adverse effect” on their usual day-to-day activities.

David Tucker, from the College of Policing, said the new offence of coercive control presented “challenges” but provided an opportunity to make victims and potential victims of serious assaults safer.

‘Stranger stalking’ targeted in new protection plans – BBC 5/12/15

‘Stranger stalking’ targeted in new protection plans people target victims they have never met or barely know.

Cases include people becoming fixated on a doctor, a workmate or someone contacted briefly online.

One in five women and one in 10 men are victims of stalking, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

An eight-week consultation on the stalking protection order comes as part of wider proposals to help victims of domestic abuse.

Controlling behaviour

A major part of government plans will be the launch of a new coercive or controlling behaviour offence, which comes into force on 29 December.

The legislation will target perpetrators of coercive and controlling behaviour that stops short of serious physical violence, but amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse.

The offence will carry a maximum of five years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both.

Other measures include:

  • Funding of £3.85m to develop a new phase of the This Is Abuse campaign aimed at preventing abuse within teenage relationships
  • A new Violence against Women and Girls government strategy, to be announced next year
  • The appointment of International Development Minister Baroness Verma as the new ministerial champion for tackling violence against women and girls overseas

The Home Office says the new stalking protection order would address the problem earlier by deterring perpetrators before their fixation with a victim becomes entrenched, or by preventing them from moving on to other victims.

Officials said it would also mean victims could be kept safe while police gather evidence ahead of any potential prosecution.

Minister for preventing abuse and exploitation Karen Bradley says early intervention could mean that stalking does not become violent and physically damaging.

“So what we’re looking at is whether we can introduce a civil order, which we could use at an earlier stage, including having positive interventions for the perpetrator,” she said.

Those subject to the order might be required to undergo a mental health assessment or anger management programme, as well as being banned from contacting the victim. Breaching the order would result in prosecution.

Jane Clough, 26, from Lancashire, was stabbed to death by her ex-partner Jonathan Vass in July 2010. He was on bail accused of raping her.

Ms Clough’s family have campaigned for a change in the law since her murder.

Her father John says people need to be aware of the level of fear that stalking victims face.

“It’s romanticised. It’s joked about in the workplace. But there’s certainly no romance involved in stalking. There is no joking matter for it. It is psychological terrorism against the individual,” he told the BBC.

The Home Office consultation document also discusses the rise in what it terms as “stranger stalking”.

The report says: “One reason for this could be that a growing usage of social networking and online communities may increase the opportunity for people to ‘meet’ and interact in some way.

“We are therefore concerned that a gap may exist in measures available to protect victims of ‘stranger stalking’ in particular and to intervene early with these perpetrators and prevent these deeply entrenched obsessions from developing.”

‘Not understood’

Since the introduction of stalking legislation in 2012 there were more than 1,100 prosecutions in 2014-15 – nearly a 50% rise on the previous year.

There is no strict legal definition of stalking, but it is considered to be actions that “curtail a victim’s freedom, leaving them feeling that they constantly have to be careful”, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Rachel Horman, chairwoman of the charity Paladin, which helps victims of stalking in England and Wales, said the measures were “massively welcome” but more work was still needed.

She said: “Stalking is being dealt with in the same way as domestic violence was about 30 years ago – it’s not understood. Stalking does lead to rape, murder and domestic violence.

“The average victim will be stalked 100 times before they even bother to report it [but] we recently published a study that shows that only 1% of stalking crimes reported to the police resulted in any charges at all.”

 PSHE- A Curriculum for life!

New calls from pupils and parents for statutory PSHE education are included in a report launched today by the PSHE Association which outlines the case for the subject to be a mandatory part of the curriculum.

According to new YouGov polling, 90% of parents agree that PSHE education should be taught in all schools.  This is the first time parental support for statutory PSHE has reached 90% – a major milestone.

At the same time, young people have again expressed a need for lessons to help them negotiate life’s challenges and opportunities. 967,000 young people voted in this year’s UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) campaign to choose UKYP’s priorities for the year ahead. The results were released on Friday, with a ‘curriculum for life’ and ‘compulsory mental health education’ voted as two of the three most important topics amongst young people.

This latest support further strengthens the case for statutory PSHE, as outlined in the PSHE Associations new report, ‘A curriculum for life: the case for statutory PSHE education’. This report brings together compelling evidence that high-quality PSHE education helps to keep children and young people safe, mentally and physically healthy and prepare them for life and work. The report also highlights support for statutory status from expert bodies, pupils, parents, teachers, business leaders and parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, with data from the Dods public affairs agency suggesting that 73% of members of Parliament support statutory PSHE and only 14% are against.

While the ‘A Curriculum for life’ report is focused on national policymakers, it – and our summary of evidence – will also be helpful for PSHE professionals when making the case for the subject in their schools and local areas. The report will provide many ideas on how to do this but if you are a member of the Association please do contact us if you would like further support with doing so.

Joe Hayman, PSHE Association Chief Executive said:

“We should have high expectations of every element of our children’s education, and yet for years we have tolerated standards of provision in PSHE which are simply not good enough. When taught effectively, PSHE education can meet the calls from pupils and parents for ‘a curriculum for life’, but only statutory status will bring the rigour we need. We’ve reached a tipping point that Ministers can no longer ignore. It is time to listen to parents and pupils and make the subject compulsory.”

Referencing the finding that 90% of parents support statutory PSHE, Emma Williams, Executive Director, PTA UK said:

“PTA UK welcomes these findings, which complement our recent survey which told us that 90% of parents polled feel that a good education goes beyond exam results. As the leading parent teacher association body, we support the campaign to ensure all our children are given the chance to develop these important life skills as a statutory part of the curriculum. We particularly welcome this chance to enhance our children’s wellbeing through a partnership between schools and parents.” 

Julia Peters, Girlguiding Young Advocate said:

“PSHE is the one subject that prepares children for the rest of their lives yet it’s often cut from the timetable to make space for other subjects. This is why it’s so important to have statutory PSHE which covers so many areas, from bullying to healthy relationships.

Right now children are getting their image of a ‘perfect relationship’ from the internet, music videos, films and their friends’ experience. This is often not age appropriate or an accurate representation of real life. This is just one example but there are many more arguments why PSHE is so important. Having time in school set aside to inform children and young people about issues and situations which they may encounter in their future is something that the government should be actively seeking to put into place.”

Nspcc  report 10/09/2015

Always there when I need you,- a reported published by the NSPCC today also revealed that in 2014/15 there were 35,244 counselling sessions about low self-esteem/unhappiness with young people who rang the charity’s ChildLine. The five most commons specific concerns were anxiety (25%), self-esteem issues (12%), lack of self-confidence (11%), social withdrawal (7%), body image (6%).

Hoping that teachers will embrace the initiative, Natasha Devon told The Sunday Times: “It is a little bit of extra training for them. We can boost youngsters’ self-esteem but it needs to be reinforced by parents and teachers.”

Children’s mental-health funding boost from government  BBC 26/03/2015

Groups offering mental-health support to children and young people are to receive a multi-million-pound funding boost from April, the government says.

The organisations will gain some £4.8m in top-up grants in 2015-16.

This is the first time they have been eligible for a share of the government’s £25m voluntary and community sector grants.

Young Minds chief executive Sarah Brennan said the windfall would help it provide “a vital lifeline” to families.

The charity had been awarded £300,000 to support its helpline for parents“struggling to support their children’s mental health”, Ms Brennan said.

Young Minds says demand for the helpline, which depends on donations, is the highest it has ever been.


The grants are designed to support the work of organisations that make a difference to children and their families.

Mental-health projects were included for the first time, with ministers favouring projects designed to improve:

  • identification and prevention of mental health issues in children
  • commissioning of support
  • collaboration between agencies and services

Successful bids include:

  • £400,000 for the charity Mind to provide information and support to schoolchildren worried about their mental health
  • £564,000 to the Royal College of Paediatrics to help parents understand children’s mental health issues
  • £440,000 for intervention in schools to tackle problems before they escalate.

The government says the move is part of a new action plan on mental health in schools.

With one in 10 children having a diagnosable mental-health disorder, about three in every classroom, the government says it is time for a “step change” in support.

It also wants more emphasis on helping all children to develop a better understanding of mental-health problems to help tackle the stigma.

Measures include:

  • advice to head teachers on how to deliver counselling services to pupils
  • guidance on age-appropriate teaching on mental-health problems such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and self-harm

‘More pressure’

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “As a mum myself, I know growing up today is no easy task.

“Young people are under more pressure than ever before, in ways that are unimaginable to my generation.

“This is driven home to me every week when I visit schools across the country and talk to pupils about the issues affecting them, mental health comes up time and time again.

“There must be no trade-off between learning about mental health and academic success.

“By improving teaching on this subject, we will help young people make sense of mental-health issues and teach them how to keep themselves and others healthy.”

Overall some 94 organisations will receive grants for projects, including:

  • adoption (£1.7m)
  • children in care (£1.4m)
  • early education and childcare (£5.3m)
  • family advice and support (£1.8m)
  • safeguarding (£3.3m)
  • special educational needs and disabilities (£5.9m)

The grants would supplement existing government funding, the Department for Education said.


Jail terms proposed for those who ‘neglect’ sex abuse victims  BBC News 03rd March 2015

Teachers, councillors and social workers in England and Wales who fail to protect children could face up to five years in jail under new proposals.

The new measures, being unveiled by the prime minister, would see the crime of “wilful neglect” extended to cover children’s social care and education.

There would also be unlimited fines for individuals and organisations shown to have let children down.

Meanwhile a retired officer said police failed victims of an Oxford abuse gang.

We owe it to our children, and to the children who survive horrific sexual abuse, to do better”

Prime Minister David Cameron

The government’s proposals – also to include a national helpline being set up to enable professionals to report bad practice – are a response to child abuse scandals in Rotherham, Oxford and elsewhere.

Police are being ordered to prioritise the issue as a national threat, as with serious and organised crime, with police forces, chief constables and police and crime commissioners having a duty to collaborate in order to protect children.

The proposals are being unveiled at a summit in Downing Street – attended by victims, survivors groups, ministers, police chiefs, council leaders, child protection experts, and health and social care providers.

Labour has criticised the summit as a “missed opportunity”, saying the government is not going far enough.

‘Catastrophic failure’David Cameron will say that in Rotherham and elsewhere, children had been “ignored, sometimes blamed” with the issue of exploitation “swept under the carpet”.

He will also say: “That culture of denial which let them down so badly must be eradicated.

“Today I am sending an unequivocal message that professionals who fail to protect children will be held properly accountable, and council bosses who preside over such catastrophic failure will not see rewards for that failure.

“It is not just about introducing new policies. It is about making sure that the professionals we charge with protecting our children – the council staff, police officers and social workers – do the jobs they are paid to do.

“We owe it to our children, and to the children who survive horrific sexual abuse, to do better and ensure the mistakes of the past are never repeated again.”

Anne Longfield, England’s children’s commissioner: “What we’ve seen is a culture of denial”

The plans involve making it a criminal offence to wilfully neglect those at risk of, and victims of, child sexual abuse.

Social workers, education practitioners and local councillors would be covered by the sanction, which would be introduced as an extension of the crime of wilful neglect of patients by care workers in this year’s Criminal Justice and Courts Act. The plans are going out to consultation.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has called on the government to create a new offence of child exploitation.

She said: “We need a radical overhaul of our child protection system, but I fear this is a missed opportunity to get all the reforms we need.”

‘Systematically ignored’Anne Longfield, the new Children’s Commissioner for England, said there were “worrying levels” of abuse taking place across the country.

She told BBC Breakfast: “I think this is a very clear and symbolic signal that things need to change.

“We can’t have this situation where children suffering one of the most horrendous crimes you can think of, as young as 11 or 12, are being systematically ignored if they present to you.

“The firm message here is that professionals must respond.”

Britain has been rocked by a series of child sex abuse cases including those in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford.

An independent report found that at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham by gangs of men who were predominantly of Pakistani origin between 1997 and 2013.

Anonymous child on steps

The report author Professor Alexis Jay said that girls as young as 11 were raped by “large numbers of male perpetrators”.

The Department of Health has also published new guidance on the role of school nursing services in preventing child sexual exploitation.

A serious case review into the Oxford abuse is due to be published on Tuesday, with police and social services expected to be severely criticised.

The Guardian has reported the review will say there were more than 300 victims, and lead investigator Det Ch Insp Simon Morton told BBC Newsnight police “completely let the girls down”.

“There is no hiding, there is no explanation for the victims. And the review has identified many areas that the authorities were weak in,” he said.



Children’s social problems ‘cost £17bn a year’

Dealing with acute social problems affecting children and young people in England and Wales costs £17bn a year of public money, suggests research.

Some of the cash would be better spent on addressing the root causes of problems, argues the report by the charity Early Intervention Foundation.

Prevention would not only save money but could “transform children’s lives”, say the authors.

The government said it had taken action to improve all children’s chances

The researchers analysed official statistics on the costs of addressing social problems including mental health issues, going into care, unemployment and youth crime.

‘Blighted’ livesOf the £17bn total, some £5bn is spent each year on children in care, £4bn on benefits for 18- to 24-year-olds not in education, employment or training and another £900m on helping young people with mental health issues or drug and alcohol problems, say the authors.

Local authorities bear the largest share of these costs at £6.5bn while welfare spending is £3.7bn.

The NHS, schools, police and the criminal justice system also share the bill.

The authors say making children and their families wait for help until their problems are acute is both expensive and ineffective. Late intervention “rarely turns lives around”, they warn

“What these figures represent is merely the immediate impact on the taxpayer of thousands of lives blighted by thwarted potential and missed opportunities.”

The focus should shift “from picking up the pieces to giving everyone the best start in life”, they argue.

‘Different journey’“Many of these children and young people might have had a different journey if they or their family had received the right help at an earlier time.”

The report challenges the next government to redirect resources into prevention, with late intervention spending reduced by 10% or £1.7bn.

It says agencies should must co-ordinate services better, “to put those most in need at the centre”, avoiding duplication and waste.

Early Intervention Foundation chief executive Carey Oppenheim said: “Our research lays bare how much the government spends each year tackling the social problems that early intervention is designed to prevent.

“Yet our public services remain increasingly geared towards picking up the pieces from the harmful and costly consequences of failure.”

Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, called the report an “impressive economic analysis”.

“It serves as a stark reminder of the great human cost of social problems that are all too often preventable if we act earlier.”

Funding reformLocal authorities said they recognised the benefits of early intervention but struggled to deliver it under the current funding system.

“All too often the savings from investment by one agency are recouped by another, resulting in disincentives to invest in early intervention,” said councillor David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board.

Mr Simmonds said it was essential money was “available flexibly to local communities where it can be most effectively put to use”.

“We urgently need to reform how funding is allocated across local services to encourage joint working and savings to encourage investment in early intervention that shifts the balance from crisis spend towards prevention.”

The government said its plan to give every child the best start in life was working

The government said it had increased early intervention funding, introduced free early education for disadvantaged two-year-olds, placed a fresh focus on improving young people’s mental health, and driven up school standards.

“Our plan is working. The number of young people not in education or training is now at its lowest level since records began, youth unemployment has been falling dramatically, fewer young people are entering the criminal justice system, children in care are doing better at school and absences have decreased, foster children can now stay at home until 21, and this year a record number of children found places in stable, loving homes through adoption.

“We give councils the freedom to use their funding to meet the needs of young people in their area.

“We know the best councils take advantage of this to look for innovative ways to intervene and avoid problems later on.

“The earlier we can tackle issues the better, but this must be based on clear evidence. This is precisely why we set up the Early Intervention Foundation to advise on how best to respond to this challenge.”


Revenge porn is being made a specific criminal offence

So-called revenge porn will become a specific criminal offence on Thursday 12/02/2015 in England and Wales.

People caught sharing intimate photos or videos of a former partner without their permission could face up to two years in jail.

It covers images shared on and offline without that person’s permission with the intent to cause harm.

Some legal groups are worried the law could lead to the criminalisation of thousands of young people.

“I think it will show the people who are thinking about doing it that if they do it and they get caught, they’re going to get done. That wasn’t there before so they were just going to do it anyway,” says Hazel Higgleton.

The 25-year-old body piercer from Chelmsford has first-hand experience of the issue. Last year her ex-boyfriend posted a sex tape of them on various pornographic sites.

Being filmed during sex was something she resisted at first.

“When I did do it, though, I was a bit apprehensive about it and I did feel a bit pressured but I still did it,” says Hazel.

“I didn’t believe he’d do what he did because we were in love and he said that he loved me and I said that I loved him.”

Not everyone is convinced this change in the law is the way forward. Neil Smith, a lawyer and head of dispute resolution at Lexis Nexis, is worried about the “sheer numbers” of people who share images.

He says: “On the practical side of things there is the number of complaints made to the police and whether they are properly resourced to deal with that.”

Images shared on apps like Instagram and Snapchat are also covered by the new law, as well as those that are shared by texts.

The change in the law is being made via an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which includes a number of measures to toughen up sentencing on a number of crimes.

People can already be prosecuted for some similar revenge porn offences under the Malicious Communications Act, while there are also specific laws for images shared of under-18s.

Spyware and smartphones: how abusive men track their partners- The Guardian Sun, 25th Jan, 2015


Out for dinner on an overseas business trip thousands of miles from the UK, Isobel answered the call on her mobile expecting to speak to her children. Instead, she heard the voice of her estranged husband, whom she was in the process of divorcing after years of violence in which she had been punched, kicked, strangled, pulled around by her hair and thrown down the stairs.

“Before the children came on the line, he told me exactly where I was – which city, in which country, and which restaurant I was sitting in,” she says. “I was absolutely beside myself. I was just so overwhelmed with fear, wondering how the hell he could pinpoint me like this. I asked how he knew and he said: ‘I can find you on your iPhone.’”

Mark had bought the phone for Isobel, who is in her 40s, and set it up before she left him. It seems likely he was using the geolocation services built into all smartphones; if you know, or can guess, the password to someone’s cloud account, you can follow their movements constantly via the software designed to find lost or stolen phones that comes installed on many devices.

That isn’t all a smartphone offers if you want to monitor someone’s activity. Spyware allows you to listen in to and record calls, read texts, see photos and even watch your subject via their phone’s camera. Last week, Catharine Higginson, a 45-year-old teacher from Surrey, revealed how her husband James had been tracking her texts and conversations via an app on her phone. She was initially shocked, she said, but didn’t see it as spying – instead interpreting James’s actions as a mark of his concern for her wellbeing.

Higginson may be happy with her lot, but there are growing numbers of women, like Isobel, for whom the opportunities offered by smartphones for tracking and surveillance are nothing short of terrifying. Abusers are increasingly using this technology, say domestic violence charities. “For women experiencing domestic violence, these technologies can be used to further terrorise and intimidate them,” says Sandra Horley, the chief executive of Refuge. “Online tools and mobile technologies can provide yet another way for perpetrators to exert power and control over women.” A Women’s Aid survey found that 41% of respondents’ partners or ex-partners used their online activities to track them.


Refuges, whose locations are kept closely guarded for the safety of their users, now often warn women fleeing abuse to check their phones for apps that might be spyware, and to switch off location services before they arrive. Tracey Noble, refuge manager for The Dash (Domestic Abuse Stops Here) Charity in east Berkshire and south Buckinghamshire, has seen at least three women in the past year who came from other refuges because they had been found there by their abusers via their phones. They have helped a woman who had been traced at three previous refuges.

New technology is being developed so quickly, and social media pervades so many aspects of our lives, that it is hard to stay ahead, says Jennifer Perry, the chief executive of the Digital Trust, which supports victims of digital abuse. In fact, spyware, she reckons, is “yesterday’s technology” for tracking victims: “The easiest thing is to access the woman in the cloud. A man might buy a phone and set it up for his partner to be ‘helpful’. He knows the username and password. You have women who don’t even realise they have a cloud account in their smartphone.

“There is also an app you can buy that mirrors the phone on to a PC. The man can just sit at his computer and watch everything that happens on the phone.”

The technology is cheap and accessible, she says. And evading it is often not as simple as just turning the phone off. Perry usually advises women to take their sim card out, leave the phone with a friend until it can be cleaned, and use a cheap pay-as-you-go device in the meantime. But if her ex-partner owns the phone, it will never be safe.

Cloud storage is particularly problematic because it is linked to laptops and PCs, which, unlike phones, can have spyware installed on them remotely via email. “You often find that a woman had spyware put on to her computer remotely, so even if she changes the username and password for the cloud on her phone, the abuser can see that on the computer and get back in,” Perry says.

Perpetrators don’t just use this technology to find out where an escaping partner has gone; it is another tool for abuse when they’re together, too. “They will use the information to belittle or threaten the woman,” says Clare Laxton, public policy manager at Women’s Aid. “They’ll say: ‘Why were you at this restaurant? You’re cheating on me, I’m going to kill myself.’ It closes down that woman’s space, so she won’t want to go out and socialise, because she knows the abuse she’ll get when she gets home isn’t worth it. It’s all part of controlling her as much as possible.”

Laxton believes the new offence of coercive and controlling behaviour being introduced by the home secretary, Theresa May, will be important for policing such patterns of abuse. “These sorts of behaviours are exactly what it is aiming to capture,” she says.

Fiona, 37, says her ex-husband somehow managed to get all her emails to appear on his phone during their relationship. When she asked him to leave after eight years of abuse, he followed her with a video camera, repeatedly broke into her house when she was out and confronted her with “evidence” when she started seeing someone else.

A friend advised her to check her phone, and her ex admitted he had been tracking her using location services. “He could see where I was to within a metre,” she says. “I didn’t even realise that was possible. It’s a really horrible feeling to think that someone who has been violent towards you, who absolutely hates you, knows exactly where you are.

“My ex-husband was a local businessman whose image was important to him; he was not going to do something overt. This technology gives people like him such a huge toolbox to intimidate their victims.”

The police investigated the violence Isobel suffered, but the CPS decided not to prosecute, saying the fact that she had started divorce proceedings meant securing a conviction would be hard. The prosecutor’s fear, the police explained to her, was that the case would look like a “messy divorce”.

When she and her children had moved to a new address that was kept secret from her ex-husband, he left an iPod for them at their school. It was linked to his computer and all the location services were enabled. Isobel opened it at the school, but was devastated to think he could have found out where they were.

Mark still sends devices such as tablets to his children, and the tracking is always on. “I get them all wiped,” says Isobel, who has been supported by Refuge. “It’s sad for the kids, because sometimes there are things on there that he’s paid for that they want, but it’s too much of a risk.”

But knowing how to deal with the practical side of the technology doesn’t lessen the psychological impact. “I feel like I’m some sort of crazy woman who is totally paranoid, and that’s not how I normally conduct my life,” Isobel says. “I’m a rational, sane person, but that is taken away from me, along with my freedom to be myself, and be the parent I want to be. I feel trapped.”

• Names in this article have been changed.



Is poverty or parental achievement to blame for low attainment?

The British Educational Research Association (BERA) has published a report showing that schools aren’t to blame for educational attainment gaps linked to poverty.

The report suggests ‘that factors outside of the institutions’ control, rather than any school-related policy or classroom practice, lie behind it.’

School’s data expert, Professor Steve Strand, writes that the criticism of schools that they are failing if they don’t reduce the attainment gap is unfair. He has found that the attainment gap between children receiving free school meals (FSM) and those not remains almost the same across schools; whether rated as outstanding, good or inadequate.

The paper says: “Schools do not appear to be the major cause of the FSM gap since there appears to be an FSM gap in nearly all schools.

“Factors outside the school gates (in the home, wider community or peer groups) are likely to be more influential.

“For example, children who grow up in poverty may do less well  in education because they have parents who are more stressed, less able to afford educational activities and resources and less well-placed to help them with their school work.

Communicating with Parents

Research from Ofsted has shown that parental engagement can be a powerful way to raise achievement in schools.

Pupils respond well to their parents being involved in their activities at school. Ofsted recommends that schools tailor their communications with parents to suit individual circumstances. Schools have also been encouraged to make the shift from merely involving parents enabling them to directly engage with their child’s learning. It is thus essential to provide parents with frequent updates in order to ensure that they are aware of the educational and extra-curricular activities in their child’s life. It is sometimes difficult to connect with ‘hard-to-reach’ parents who have chosen not to, or find it difficult to, be involved in their child’s education.In recent years, electronic communication is becoming an increasingly popular way for school to connect with parents, especially since it offers the advantage of immediacy. Schools need to select the best way via which frequent updates can be provided to parents about their child’s progress and assessments so that they can play a large role in their child’s education.-see our community engagement page on how we tackle this area.


BBC News 7/5/14

Call for action to tackle child poverty attainment gap


More needs to be done to help children from the poorest families do well at school, according to a new report.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said the attainment gap remained “persistent and significant”.

Its report, produced by Strathclyde University, argued the gap began before children started school and widened as they got older.

It said five-year-olds from poorer families were about a year behind in problem solving and vocabulary.

Jim McCormick from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “Scottish education serves many children well, but too many poor children risk becoming poor adults unless we close the attainment gap.

“This limits their life chances and prospects, which not only has a knock-on effect for them through unfulfilled potential, but for Scotland’s economic performance.”

Home background

Co-author of the report, Sue Ellis, from Strathclyde University, added: “Inequality between pupils from poorer and better off families does not need to continue.

“Schools need to pay greater attention to closing the attainment gap but they need help in the form of clear, evidence-informed and helpful advice from government, national agencies, local authorities and universities.

“Every teacher wants to do their best for all their children and it doesn’t need to cost a lot of extra money. This report shows how this can be achieved – everyone has a responsibility to address the poverty experienced by children throughout their school life.”

The report argued that despite an overall increase in school standards, children from low income backgrounds were still being left behind and achieving less than their better-off peers.

Children from poorer families were also more likely to leave school early and without a qualification.

It said: “Children who grow up in poverty tend to do less well in education because of factors in their home background, for example having parents who are more stressed, less able to afford educational activities and resources and less well-placed to help them with their school work.”

The study found that in early secondary school, only 28% of children from poorer families were performing well in numeracy, compared with 56% of those from advantaged backgrounds.

Children from poorer families were also more likely to leave school early and without a qualification.

The foundation said that after leaving school, poorer children were three times as likely to be unemployed, twice as likely to work only part-time hours and if they did find work, they would earn only about half as much as children from richer backgrounds.

The report made a number of specific recommendations which included:

  • The Scottish government should raise awareness of, and provide clear guidance on, how schools can close the gap
  • Education Scotland and local councils need to ensure that every school has the data to tell them what their attainment gap is and what impact their actions are having for different groups of children
  • Every head teacher and teacher needs to use the data and take action by designing a curriculum that meets the needs of the community the schools serves.

The Scottish government has said the reasons fore the attainment gap are complex, including factors in a child’s home background.

Education Secretary Michael Russell told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme that progress was being made in closing the gap, with “substantial sums” being invested to ensure that continued.

He added: “I’m very happy to welcome the report because it helps us understand how persistent this problem is, how many things need to be done, things like investing in the early years which we are doing very, very considerably,”

Mr Russell said other measures already in place included:

  • Working with “schools and data”
  • Making sure that there is “ambition” in the system
  • Ensuring that the inspection system works

He said: “All of these things are happening, but we can always do more and I entirely agree that we should be doing it in a cross-party way.

“That is the way we will solve a problem that is actually persistent in almost every country now”.

“I just wish they would spend more time on closing the education gap,because that is something we would all sign up to cross-party rather than simply having an obsession about the constitution because then we might have just made more progress.”


Latest News

£4m prize pot announced for schools which improve disadvantaged pupils’ exam results

Schools are being offered a £4 million “carrot” to improve the exam and test performance of their most disadvantaged pupils

The Government is to offer huge rewards from next year to the schools who make best use of its “pupil premium” – the extra cash given to them for every pupil entitled to free school meals they take on – to improve the performance of disadvantaged children.

A top prize of £250,000 will next year go to the secondary school that achieves the best results for their pupils. The schools will be judged on their performance in the academic year 2013/14.

The plan was revealed yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Liberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws, as the pupil premium was one of the main concessions wrung from the Conservatives by the Liberal Democrats when the Coalition Government took office.

In all, around 500 schools will benefit from the new prize money, with £100,000 going to the top primary and special schools. A further 20 regional awards of £100,000 for secondary schools and £50,000 for primary and special schools will also be made, with runners-up receiving up to £50,000 as well.

Hundreds more schools will be given more modest awards of up to £5,000. Schools will be free to use the money to buy in extra teaching support for disadvantaged pupils or send them on out-of-school trips.

Up until now, the maximum “prize” for the best performance has been £10,000.

Mr Laws said the new awards “will reward the schools leading the way in bridging the gap between background and achievement”.

“Previous awards have been a tremendous success and we are making the 2015 scheme bigger and better,” he added. “By next year’s awards, we will have invested a total of £6.25 billion through the pupil premium over four years, highlighting our commitment to helping disadvantaged pupils do well in school.”

At present, primary schools receive £1,300 for every disadvantaged pupil, and secondary schools £935.

Daily Telegraph Wed 7th May, 2014


15/11/13 reported in national press

A total of 43% of education staff said they doubted whether or not they could spot if a youngster was being subjected to controlling behaviour or physical, emotional and sexual abuse from their partners.

The figures were released by children’s charity NSPCC and education union Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) as the organisations released new guidance for people who work with youngsters on spotting signs of abuse.

Relationships between young people can be “just as intense” as those between adults, the new guidance states. Many youngsters will not have had a relationship before and might not realise that their partner’s behaviour is abusive, it adds.

The poll, conducted on 750 education staff working in middle and secondary state-funded and independent schools, sixth form colleges and FE colleges across the UK, also found that one in four have been asked for help by youngsters suffering from relationship abuse.



Todays news quoted Brian Lightman of ASCL commenting on the Government proposals announced today on the new Primary aged children ‘banding system’

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), is concerned about children who rank in the lower ability bands.

“I worry what will happen to those children who have tried hard yet are told that they are in one of the bottom bands,” he said.

“Children at that age mature differently and their confidence can be easily damaged.

Children as young as five could be tested on their progress

“It could make secondary teachers’ job in building self-esteem and confidence even more difficult.

29th July, 2013

Looking forward to the School Summit Expo at St James’ Park, Newcastle in October- Especially as John Dunford will be speaking about Pupil Premium and how it’s spent (See Below)

3rd July 2013

Today, Schools Minister David Laws has launched a new package of measures focused on “narrowing the unacceptable gap in attainment between disadvantaged pupils and their peers”.

The measures, which will come into effect from September 2013, centre around an increased focus on the attainment of disadvantaged pupils’ in the school accountability system.

Across all parts of the ‘existing accountability system’ (Ofsted, performance tables and letters from Ministers) schools will now be held to account for: • the attainment of their disadvantaged pupils; • the progress made by their disadvantaged pupils; • the in-school gap in attainment between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.

To ensure that schools with a small number of disadvantaged pupils can be effectively held to account for the progress of these students, whilst maintaining the necessary pupil anonymity, performance tables will now also include three year rolling averages for schools.

In addition, from September 2013, any school where there are concerns about the attainment of its disadvantaged pupils that is judged by Ofsted as ‘requiring improvement’ for overall effectiveness and leadership and management will take part in a Pupil Premium Review.

The review will be led by another Head Teacher who will explore how the school is using their pupil premium and work with the school to develop a strategy for using it more effectively.  To support this, a list of “Head Teachers with a proven track record of achieving good outcomes for disadvantaged pupils” will be published on the National College for Teaching and Leadership website.

The DfE has also announced that John Dunford has been appointed as Pupil Premium Champion. The former General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders and current Chair of Whole Education and the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors will act as an advocate for the pupil premium; highlighting and sharing examples of the best uses of the pupil premium around the country and flagging issues raised by school leaders and teachers with the Department for Education.

The new measures have been launched alongside the publication of independent research commissioned by the DfE evaluating the Pupil Premium.

A research team, that included Liz Todd and Karen Laing from Newcastle University, investigated how pupil premium funding has been spent, how schools make decisions about pupil premium funding, the differences in the use of pupil premium in schools with different characteristics, schools perceptions of the impact of the Pupil Premium and their future plans for the funding.

Based on a survey of 1,240 schools, they found that: • 80% of secondary schools and 67% of primary schools have introduced new support and/or enhanced their existing support for disadvantaged pupils as a direct result of the pupil premium; • 75% of schools thought using additional staff to support disadvantaged pupils was very effective; • two-thirds of schools thought they would not be able to do as much for their disadvantaged pupils without the pupil premium; • 70% of schools already use evidence from other schools and 45% use academic research to help them make decisions on how to spend their pupil premium funding;

(From the DfE press release “Pupil premium evaluation paves way for new raft of measures so schools help disadvantaged pupils”)