'There’s no text book': how schools are handling sexual abuse claims

“You’ve got two 15-year-olds, one of whom is from your school, one from another. They’ve had sex. Two weeks later the girl says to her school, actually she changed her mind half way through and she no longer feels it was fully consensual.”

A headteacher at an independent school is outlining a typical scenario that schools are having to deal with “more frequently than you think”, often as pupils begin to find their feet sexually, go to parties, and – more often than not – drink alcohol.

An incident happens beyond the school gates, allegations are made and headteachers can find themselves negotiating complex, delicate situations, which could affect a young person’s future for years to come, both victim and perpetrator.

“They are both below the age of consent,” she continues. “What if they were both drinking? Then you’ve got the question of the change of heart. There are going to be interviews, questions about whether the boy knew that.

“You’ve got questions about whether you want a 15-year-old to have a criminal record. Would this behaviour be regarded as at all predatory? Is there a pattern in the behaviour?”

There’s a good framework in place involving multiple agencies including police and the local authority-designated officer, 她说, but that doesn’t make the situations easy to deal with. There is no text book to refer to, as another headteacher puts it.

“Over the years working in various different schools we’ve had incidents where there’s been a party, children have got inebriated and the next day you have a complaint,” said another school leader working in the north of England.

“No one has a really good recollection of what’s happened. It’s extremely difficult finding your way through that. Both students have unblemished records and suddenly you have parents at loggerheads, their children embarrassed.”

Another headteacher, of a large comprehensive in Yorkshire, says he has not seen the scale of abuse described in accounts on the Everyone’s Invited website, but he has had to deal with two incidents in the last couple of weeks. The media coverage, he thinks, will encourage more girls to report incidents in the future.

He describes one of the recent complaints. “A female student has had her bottom squeezed by a male student in the lower years. We went through the CCTV footage to try to find out, but we were not able to identify him.”

In a separate incident, a young female teacher has complained she felt intimidated after a group of male students wolf whistled in the corridor. “We were horrified,” the head said. The boys were all confronted and made to apologise.

He has dealt with incidents of “sexting” where intimate images are widely shared among pupils. “It can really haunt a student,“ 他说. While schools move on, images can resurface, causing further damage for those involved.

“Two years ago I dealt with a case of a sixth form student, who had been in her boyfriend’s house. She made an allegation he had raped her. That was a very very challenging situation.

“She would not go to the police, but she was presenting with mental health issues. We worked with her to disclose to her parents so she had their support. The parents did not want the boy in the school. The boy’s family said it was a false allegation.

“We were in a really difficult position as a school. We were concerned about the wellbeing of the young person involved, but we weren’t the police or investigating officers. We found that very challenging to negotiate.

“It’s delicate and complex work that can very, very easily go wrong,” the headteacher said. “I don’t think there’s enough training. There’s not a text book on how to deal with these cases.”

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