Landmark Children’s Commissioner report on abuse calls for lessons on healthy relationships

A landmark report published by the Children’s Commissioner today suggests that just one in eight victims of sexual abuse come to the attention of the police and children’s services. Evidence examined by the Commissioner also suggests that most victims of sexual abuse do not report it until they have the knowledge to recognise abuse and the words to describe it – often years after the abuse has started.

Strong international evidence demonstrates that when pupils receive lessons on healthy relationships and consent, disclosures about abuse and exploitation increase significantly, yet Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education remains optional for schools in England, meaning that millions of pupils miss out on high-quality lessons. The report recommends that such lessons be made compulsory, a call backed by child safety experts, parents and young people.

PSHE Association Chief Executive Joe Hayman said:

“With just one in eight cases of abuse coming to the attention of police and children’s services, we need to ensure that all school pupils receive learning on keeping themselves and others safe. The Prime Minister has previously called child sexual abuse a ‘national threat’, but has not taken significant action to ensure all young people learn how to keep themselves and others safe.  If his Government is serious about doing all it can to prevent such terrible crimes then it must make PSHE education statutory as a matter of urgency.

The Government has committed to responding to the Education Select Committee’s recommendation that the subject should be made statutory by the end of the year. For the sake of all pupils, particularly the most vulnerable, we hope it is a positive decision.”

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