Government announces immediate review into sexual abuse at schools

A message left on a tree outside Highgate School

The probe will cover state and private schools - Credit: Polly Hancock

The Department for Education has announced an immediate review into sexual abuse in schools.

Ofsted will look at safeguarding policies in state and independent schools, “the extent and the severity of the issue”, and ensure there are appropriate systems in place to allow pupils to report their concerns.

The probe follows thousands of reports of sexual abuse by pupils on the Everyone's Invited website, including at Highgate School

The DfE said the review will also look at ensuring there is enough guidance on how schools should deal with sexual harassment and violence allegations, and whether current school inspection systems are strong enough to address any concerns.

A new helpline to support potential victims of sexual harassment and abuse in schools, run by the NSPCC, will go live on Thursday, the DfE said.

The announcement comes after numerous anonymous testimonials of sexual harassment and abuse were submitted to the website Everyone’s Invited.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Sexual abuse in any form is abhorrent and it is vital that these allegations are dealt with properly. While the majority of schools take their safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously, I am determined to make sure the right resources and processes are in place across the education system to support any victims of abuse to come forward.

“This government is committed to ensuring victims feel supported to refer the most serious allegations to the police via the helpline, safe in the knowledge that everything possible will be done to bring offenders to justice.

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“No child or young person should have to experience abuse. But if something isn’t right, they should speak to someone they trust to raise concerns, whether that’s family, a friend, teacher or social worker, helpline or the police.”

Sir Peter Wanless, CEO of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), called it a “watershed moment” outlining the “urgent need” to tackle violence against girls.  

“All children should be able to grow up in a safe community that is free from sexual violence where their rights are respected," he said. 

“Creating a culture that fosters healthy relationships and challenges harassment and abuse is integral to this.  

“With the right support for teachers, compulsory relationships and sex education has a pivotal role to play in achieving this.  

“But this issue goes beyond schools and we all have a role to play in keeping children safe.” 

Highgate students have called for an end to male violence “once and for all"

Highgate students have called for an end to male violence “once and for all" - Credit: Polly Hancock

Vanessa Ward, chief executive of the Independent Schools Inspectorate, said that she welcomed the safeguarding review and the NSPCC helpline.   

“We are conducting an internal review in to ISI’s inspection of safeguarding in schools, with a particular focus on how we gather pupils’ views on inspection,” she said.  

“We look forward to sharing our findings with Ofsted as part of the wider review.” 

The confidential NSPCC Helpline - Report Abuse in Education - will launch at 9am on Thursday and can be reached on 0800 136 663, or by emailing