4 May 2018
By Rebecca Avery

Survey of Headteachers and Designated Safeguarding Leads regarding online abuse

The proliferation of mobile devices being used by children of school age appears to put more young people at risk of online peer on peer sexual abuse, including grooming, sexting and distribution of sexualised content. It is an area of great concern to schools and parents. Despite the admirable efforts of educationalists, widespread online safety education for pupils and even extra-curricula coaching for parents by some schools, cases of abuse continue to rise.

Marie Collins Foundation, the UK’s leading charity supporting victims of online abuse and their families, is working with colleagues at the University of Suffolk, to establish a clear picture of the scale of the issue, the experiences of schools and how well equipped headteachers and school safeguarding leads feel in their response.

The foundation is conducting a short, anonymous, online survey and would like input from headteachers and DSLs. By taking part, you will be contributing positively towards helping the foundation:

  • Identify more closely the scale and impact on schools of this type of abuse;
  • Improving understanding of the challenges schools currently face in how they respond;
  • Levels of confidence among professionals in how appropriately and effectively they feel able to deal with it;
  • Future training needs and improvements in guidance. 

The survey is anonymous and should take less than ten minutes to complete, and there are links at the end for further information should you need it. The survey can be accessed here 

The research is being led by Professor Emma Bond, Director of Research and Professor of Socio-Technical Research, University of Suffolk, and Professor Andy Phippen. The findings will be announced at Marie Collins Foundation’s annual international conference in June, attended by professionals across education, social services, law enforcement, government and industry. They will also be used to improve guidance for headteachers and fed back directly to relevant government departments to help inform policy. Any suggestions for any improvements, for example to training and law enforcement, will be shared with appropriate authorities as part of the survey outcomes.

North Yorkshire-based Marie Collins Foundation is led by founder Professor Tink Palmer MBE, who has spent more than 40 years working in the field of child sexual abuse. Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the National Police Lead for Child Protection and Abuse Investigation, sits on the charity’s Board of Trustees. 

Professor Palmer said: “While the internet has many advantages, especially for schools, there are those who abuse it and use it to commit abuse. Sadly, often through ignorance, children may unwittingly also break the law.

“For those of us working with young people, protecting them from harm is of paramount importance. We all have a vital role to play in helping to address and tackle this problem, and to work in partnership with industry, law enforcement and other professionals, to protect children even further.

“This is the first national survey of its kind into how these issues are impacting on the daily life of children and schools and adding to the workload and responsibilities of educationalists. By taking part you will be joining colleagues across the country in helping us to identify the scale of the issues and contributing towards any recommendations for improvements in this area. Thank you for your support.”

Thank you very much for taking part.