Additionally, recent evidence has been gathered by Public Health England showing the link between pupils’ health and wellbeing and attainment. Report here.
OFSTED have a number of requirements of schools that have direct links with domestic and sexual violence. These cover:
- The behaviour and safety of pupils
- Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development
- PSHE and RSE (Relationships and Sex Education)
Under the Human Rights Act all public bodies have an obligation to protect the human rights of individuals and to ensure that their human rights are not being violated. Domestic violence and abuse denies individuals the most fundamental of human rights.
In 1989, the world’s leaders officially recognised the human rights of all children and young people under 18 by signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Domestic abuse or violence experienced by a child or young person breaches a number of their rights recognised in the UNCRC. See below.
- Article 6: Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily.
- Article 19: Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally.
- Article 34: Governments should protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.
- Article 35: The government should take all measures possible to make sure that children are not abducted, sold or trafficked.
- Article 36: Children should be protected from any activity that takes advantage of them or could harm their welfare and development.
The Equality Act 2010 introduced a single Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) that applies to public bodies, including maintained schools and Academies, and which extends to all protected characteristics – race, disability, sex, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment. This combined equality duty has three main elements. In carrying out their functions, public bodies are required to have due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate discrimination and other conduct that is prohibited by the Act,
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it,
- Foster good relations across all characteristics – between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.
As a result of Section 120 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, the responsibility of schools and other agencies has changed. The definition of significant harm provided by the Children Act 1989 has been amended to include “impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another”. Consequently, all agencies must be alert not only to children and young people at risk of harm, but also those who are at risk of seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of others, such as the abuse of one parent by another.
The Munro Review also identifies the impact of domestic violence and abuse on children and young people, and recognises that “those working in early years settings and schools see children on a daily basis and are often in a better position to identify chronic forms of maltreatment such as neglect and emotional abuse”[i].
In light of these responsibilities, it is important that all education settings understand the importance of making an effort to respond effectively to, and work to prevent domestic violence and abuse and other forms of gendered violence.
In addition to these responsibilities, schools should capitalise on their position to promote positive messages of respect and equality:
- School should be a safe place where positive relationships based on respect can be modelled,
- School is a universal experience, and education staff are thus ideally placed to reach all children and young people,
- It is not inevitable that children who have experienced DSVA as a child will grow up to become adult victims or perpetrators, with support from agencies including schools, children can leave their childhood experiences behind,
- Adult abusers come from both violent and non-violent backgrounds. Interventions solely with children who have experienced domestic violence is insufficient to prevent future abuse; a more general approach is required.
Including domestic violence within the school curriculum is not additional work. Rather, its inclusion will aid schools in meeting their obligations as well as benefiting their pupils and the wider community.
[i] Munro, E (2011) The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report – A child-centred system