Today’s news review examines coverage of sexual violence in schools, teen neglect and maths and science success.
Sexual violence in schools
The Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) today, Tuesday 29 November, commented on our response to its Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence in Schools report.
Media coverage led on the WESC’s claim that the Government is not doing enough to tackle this serious problem and that schools and pupils are being let down. This was picked up on the Today Programme, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, Sun, Times, Guardian and the Independent.
However what was not reflected was the action we are taking to address this very serious problem. We will be taking a holistic, schools-based approach by supporting schools to produce their own new codes of practice, building our evidence base and setting up an advisory group.
Additionally, one of the recommendations which the report made was to make Sex and Relationship Education compulsory. It has been incorrectly reported in the Times, and alluded to in other outlets, that we have ruled out making this change. This is not the case. We are currently looking at how we can improve sex education for all young people.
A Government spokesperson said:
Sexual assault of any kind is an offence and must always be reported to the police. Schools should be safe places and fortunately crime is rare but no young person should suffer harassment or violence.
We think the right laws are in place to enable teachers to take swift action to deal with this sort of behaviour but we will work with schools on whether further support is needed for them to tackle it and promote a culture of tolerance in the classroom. Sex education is compulsory in all maintained secondary schools but we continue to look at how we can improve it further.
A report which claims that tens of thousands of teenagers across England are suffering neglect at home was published by the Children’s Society today.
This report presents the findings from an online survey of around 2,000 young people aged 12–15 in 70 schools, who were asked about their experiences of being cared for by their parents.
The findings were covered by BBC online, Guardian and the Huffington Post and Press Association. The government’s position was represented in the articles but it is important to stress the hard work we have been doing to ensure children of all ages are kept safe.
In March 2016, we launched a nation-wide campaign “Together, we can tackle child abuse” to raise awareness and encourage members of the public to report child abuse and neglect. We plan to run a second phase of the campaign in 2017.
We are also improving social worker education and practice – including through investing over £700 million since 2010 in new routes into social work. An additional £1.4billion is being invested into transforming support available for children’s mental health.
As set out in the Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015) statutory guidance, it is important that every local authority has clear criteria for taking action and providing help across the full continuum of need, including addressing the needs of families with adolescent children.
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.
Maths and science performance
This year’s Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) was published today and shows that England has improved in both subjects.
The fact that children in England have received the highest results in maths for 20 years in both the 9 to 10 and 13 to 14-year-old age groups has gained positive coverage.
Since 2010, the Government’s plan for education has included a focus on encouraging more young people to study science and mathematics, as part of our work to make Britain the best place in the world to study these subjects.
The government is doing much to improve the teaching of science. As well as reforming the national curriculum, we are offering bursaries and scholarships of up to £30,000 to attract top science graduates into teaching, and supporting schools through enrichment and professional development.
We are also investing £41million in scaling up our south-east Asian-style maths mastery programme in primary schools.
School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said:
We want every young person, regardless of background, to leave school having mastered the skills that will help them fulfil their potential. We know maths and science are highly valued by employers and are linked to higher earnings.
Today’s results show our pupils are more engaged and confident in both subjects compared to some of the top performing countries. Mastering these skills will ensure there is no limit to a pupil’s ambition and will ensure our future workforce has the skills to drive the future productivity and economy for this country.
The new more demanding primary maths curriculum began to be taught in schools from September 2014, and we expect future TIMSS surveys to reflect further progress.
We know there is more to do to narrow the attainment gap and that’s why this year alone we have invested £2.5billion through the Pupil Premium to tackle education inequality.