One year on: Bristol Ideal

Just one year on from its launch, Bristol’s innovative schools’ project, The Bristol Ideal, already has 18 schools on board and has had interest from the UN, Home Office and the national Education Select Committee.

The Bristol Ideal project aims to work effectively with children and young people at school to prevent domestic and sexual violence and abuse in later years, by setting out a whole-school approach to tackling all forms of abuse and violence with Relationships Education at its heart.

The initiative was launched one year ago by George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, all four of the city’s MPs, alongside several partner agencies already working in the field, and is jointly funded by the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner and Bristol City Council.

The Bristol Ideal team has presented to the UN Rapporteur for Ending Violence against Women and Girls, hosted a visit from the Home Office and presented the project to the national Education Select Committee, who visited Bristol as part of their evidence-gathering around Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). Since then the committee has published its findings and recommended that RSE become a statutory subject in all schools.

Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset’s Police and Crime Commissioner, has this week written to all the other local authorities in her area, advocating the roll out of the project across the Avon and Somerset force area. This is in addition to the project team being contacted by nine other local authorities, keen to take on the model.

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, said: “It is not enough to tackle the catastrophic impact of domestic and sexual violence and abuse by supporting victims. We need to prevent the abuse happening in the first place by teaching our young people what a healthy relationship looks and feels like.

“The Bristol Ideal has rightly received national attention for its ground-breaking approach to preventing domestic and sexual violence and abuse, by working in partnership with schools to deliver a set of standards that work towards eradicating this abhorrent crime.”

Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Tackling domestic and sexual violence and abuse is an important priority for me as PCC and I actively support initiatives which help to challenge and eliminate this terrible crime. I truly believe it is only by teaching the next generation about healthy relationships that we can enable a step change to eradicate all forms of abuse.

“I have now written to local authorities across Avon and Somerset highlighting the merits of this model in the hope that children across the force area may benefit from this brilliant initiative. Extensive public resource goes into treating the symptoms of abuse and it is time we invested more heavily in preventing this victimisation. A pivotal way that we can enact this is to mainstream discussions about healthy relationships into our children’s education.”

The Bristol Ideal sets out guidance, lesson plans and free training to ensure every Bristol school reaches a minimum standard to make a lasting impact on reducing domestic and sexual violence and abuse figures in the city while supporting pupils and staff who might be victims.

The Home Office estimates that in Bristol 14,273 women and girls aged 16-59 have been a victim of domestic violence and abuse in the past year. Domestic and sexual violence and abuse are major public health issues that cost Bristol over £40million each year. One in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.