Support for bereaved Armed Forces schoolchildren under trailblazing initiative from charity Scotty’s Little Soldiers

A project which supports bereaved Armed Forces schoolchildren been officially launched at a special event at the House of Lords (held on the evening of Tuesday 25th February).

Scotty’s Little Soldiers is a charity dedicated to providing integral support to hundreds of children and young people across the UK who have lost a parent who served in the British Armed Forces. The charity, which was founded by war widow Nikki Scott in 2010, has identified that many bereaved military children, who face a number of challenges, don’t receive the care they need whilst in education, and has subsequently launched a new initiative in conjunction with Norfolk County Council’s Children’s Services’ team to provide support to both the children and the schools.

The new project, named Abeona (after the Roman goddess who supports children for their parents as they venture out from home) involves enrolling bereaved military children into Norfolk County Council’s ‘Virtual Schools’ network, which was introduced in 2015 to identify, track and support children facing recognised difficulties. Service children, who have lost a parent, now receive the same, much needed, support as other vulnerable children in the county. This means information is regularly shared between the charity, the Local Authority and schools, that their wellbeing and progress is tracked and monitored, and swift action taken when challenges arise.

Stuart Dark, Head of Families at Scotty’s Little Soldiers, said: “There are a number of challenges faced by bereaved Forces children. Not only will they be grieving for a parent but many of the children will have left their military towns after the death and had to change schools, sometimes mid-way through a term. The children therefore face recognised high-risk factors throughout childhood, including parental bereavement, PTSD, familial and educational displacement, financial hardship and being around and caring for grieving surviving parents and siblings. Unmitigated these can seriously impact on their wellbeing, relationships, development and educational attainment.”    

Stuart continued: “We’ve heard many worrying stories from parents where their children have been treated as disruptive or poor performing at school. The children are being perceived as problematic, rather than as needing and deserving help. Another area of concern is the lack of pastoral care in schools. For example, we’ve heard stories where children, who have recently lost a parent in combat, have been made to sit through graphic war history lessons and Remembrance events.”

Stuart added further: “We also receive positive feedback from families who have great support from schools, where, around Remembrance, for example, the teachers talk to them in advance, ask for their input and check on their wellbeing. We want all schools to give bereaved Service children this level of support.”

Cllr John Fisher, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council said: “Children and young people who have lost a parent who served in the military face unique challenges. Along with their families, they have paid the ultimate price for their country and are among the most vulnerable in our county, so this partnership with Scotty’s Little Soldiers is a really important one.

“Our Virtual Schools framework is a well-developed infrastructure that is already effectively supporting vulnerable children such as those who are looked after, or those who have previously been in care.

“So, it makes absolute sense for us to expand the service to also wrap around those children in our county who have lost a parent who served in the Armed Forces. We are so pleased that we can help support these children, their families and schools in line with our commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant.”

It’s estimated that there are currently over 1000 bereaved Service children in education across the UK and all these children are a stated priority as part of the Armed Forces Covenant – being amongst those who have given up most for their country.

Abeona has been successfully commenced in Norfolk and it’s hoped Local Authorities around the UK will follow suit to offer this much needed to support to bereaved military children and young people.

Scotty’s Little Soldiers’ CEO, Stuart Robinson, said: “At Scotty’s we take the holistic approach when it comes to the welfare of bereaved military children. The idea behind Abeona is to watch over the children and provide continued support. We want to avoid, where possible, dealing with the consequences of lack of support. It’s great to see the difference Abeona is already making to families in Norfolk. We hope we can roll this out in other counties to provide the same support to families and schools across the UK.”

Abeona was launched at a special event at the House of Lords hosted by Lord Dannett, Former Chief of the General Staff, held on the evening of Tuesday 25th February. The event was attended by members of the Lords and members of the Commons.

To learn more about Scotty’s Little Soldiers visit:

Smashing stereotypes: 3M and British Science Association join forces to celebrate everyday scientists this British Science Week

From Artificial Intelligence to mixology, new campaign aims to illustrate the diversity of science and scientists and help more people engage

(London, 25 February 2020) The British Science Association (BSA) today announced that it is partnering with science-based technology company 3M on a new campaign to tackle stereotypes in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), during British Science Week this year (6 – 15 March 2020).

The ‘smashing stereotypes’ campaign will encourage STEM employees and researchers to share their stories about what they do in their day-to-day work – to highlight the diversity of the STEM workforce, the broad range of jobs and careers available, and that scientists are just like other people – using the campaign hashtag #EverydayScientist on social media.

Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the BSA, said: “Each year during British Science Week, we are always hugely encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by schools and community groups across the country in running events and activities, but stereotypical images of scientists dominate our social media feeds. These include ‘crazy scientist’ shows, children dressed up in lab coats, goggles and crazy hair wigs and sometimes even gendered costumes for the boys and girls. While this can be an engaging (and identifiable) hook for children, we want young people to see that science is so much more than this. 

“We’re aiming to highlight the diversity of the people who work in science, in both industry and academia, and the diverse range of roles within – and paths into – the STEM sector. We want to engage the British Science Week audience with this campaign that we hope will help start to shift the perception of who scientists are, what they look like, and what they do.”

Dr. Jayshree Seth, 3M’s global chief science advocate, said: “3M is working to inspire and encourage more people from under-represented groups to learn more about science and the full range of science related careers that can help them make the world a better place to live. We also want to break down barriers and myths; last year our global State of Science Index found that a third of people thought that science is ‘for geniuses’ and many believe that traditional science careers ‘are not satisfying’.

“We need to tackle these societally-entrenched stereotypes of scientists and scientific careers, because we face a whole host of global challenges in the coming decades. We need diverse thinking, creative thought processes and everyone to have a seat at the table (including women and minorities), to understand how to tackle these challenges and build a more sustainable future.”

The campaign will highlight case studies of 3M employees across the week and will crowd source content via scientists sharing their stories using #EverydayScientist on social media.

Dr. Claire Donoghue, an AI Technical Team Leader, and one of the 3M employees profiled during the campaign, creates AI and computer vision concepts to develop new products to improve peoples’ lives. “When I was young, I had no idea this type of job would be available,” she said. “Technology is constantly advancing, and we’ve not yet imagined all the things that will be possible. There will be careers in tech that we can’t currently foresee, so it’s essential that tech roles attract a diverse workforce to generate the creative ideas of the future.”

3M and the BSA hope that the campaign will also chime with the activities of the many thousands of community groups, libraries and cultural institutions who participate in the week; enabling them to celebrate their work in highlighting the links between science and other areas of our everyday lives.

British Science Week 2020 ambassador, children’s author and broadcaster Konnie Huq, said: “I’m pleased to be supporting this campaign which aims to tackle long-held but misplaced assumptions and unconscious biases about what sort of people excel in science.

“It’s important that science represents the whole of society, otherwise the solutions and innovations currently under development will not benefit the whole of society. There are already too many examples of this, such as racially biased Artificial Intelligence (AI), and we need to make sure that the next generation of scientists is much more diverse and representative.”

Progress is being made, with the Women Into Science and Engineering (WISE) 2019 Workforce Statistics report showing we have reached one million women in core-STEM occupations. However, there is still a way to go as the same report also highlighted that the proportion of tech roles filled by women has flatlined at 16% since 2009 – so further action is needed to encourage more women to get into a category of jobs which make up a quarter of the STEM workforce.

Engineering UK’s State of Engineering report 2018 shows there is work to do in supporting ethnic minorities in STEM careers. With stats showing only 8.1% of workers in the engineering sector were from ethnic minority groups, compared with 12.7% in non-engineering sectors, and 12.2% of the broader population.

The BSA believes that entrenched social stereotypes of science and scientists are fuelling this challenge and hopes that the ‘smashing stereotypes’ campaign, in conjunction with 3M, will catalyse a much more diverse and inclusive conversation this British Science Week about who scientists are, what they look like, and what they do.

Academy Transformation Trust appoints IMP Software to provide MAT budgeting system

Academy Transformation Trust (ATT), comprising of 22 primary and secondary academies and one further education college in the Midlands, East of England and South East, has purchased IMP Software’s MAT budgeting system to support its move to centralisation.

From March, ATT will switch from its existing budgeting software to IMP Planner, which provides one unified database for all academies, automated budget-building and unrivalled reporting across the Trust. The timing is significant for ATT, which recently made the strategic decision to adopt GAG Pooling, where the Trust receives its funding centrally and then allocates budgets to individual academies, rather than academies receiving their income and then just paying a top slice to cover central costs.

“Our current budgeting software, put simply, did not enable us to get to where we wanted to be,” explained ATT Chief Finance Officer Peter Wilson. “We needed something other than a school budgeting software with MAT reports stuck on top. It is the different approach brought by IMP Software that we really value – the ‘top down’ rather than the ‘bottom up’ – and it gives us detailed cross-MAT information on budget lines that we did not have before. The expectation is that this software will further support our MAT budgeting and reporting, enabling even more effective analysis across the Trust.”

Having already changed its budgeting models, with academy principals given oversight of education spend only and operational spend sitting under operational directors, ATT’s decision to centrally collect funding and allocate according to need was a further milestone for the Trust. “We felt this was required because our academies operate under 10 local authorities, with different funding levels for primary and secondary schools,” Peter said. “Some academies were really struggling, others were doing better financially, so GAG pooling across the Trust gives everybody that even keel. We wanted to GAG pool our reserves too. We have been interested in new budgeting software for some time, but these developments meant that IMP Planner would be the perfect supporting resource.”

Peter praised IMP Software’s knowledge and expertise in MAT budgeting systems, and said he was looking forward to a successful working relationship. “IMP Software knows the sector and I have every confidence in their delivery. The quality of communication in implementation has been very good – we have had lots of video conference calls, web chats and training session – and for the first time we will be able to implement a zero-based budgeting approach and really understand our costs across the MAT. Not only will this help our position, I see IMP Planner as a development for the sector,” he added.

IMP Software co-founder Will Jordan said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working with Academy Transformation Trust at such a key stage in its organisational development. Our first 10 months as a company have shown there is huge interest in our MAT-focused budgeting, re-forecasting and financial reporting software, from both small-to-medium sized and large Trusts. We are now working with 15 MATs, which represent over 200 schools in all four corners of the country, and are looking forward to further establishing our position as the strategic financial planning partner to MATs.”

New feedback tool launched to identify and improve teacher wellbeing

Developed by leading education specialists and psychologists, this edtech tool is specifically tailored to understand and improve staff wellbeing and retention

In a drive to improve engagement and address teacher wellbeing, a new edtech tool for teachers has been launched to provide continual feedback loops which can be used to identify the pressures school staff may be facing, develop tailored action plans and transform school culture and teachers’ working lives.

Developed by the world’s largest community of teachers, Tes Global, in partnership with an educational psychologist and UK and international schools, Staff Pulse gives schools the ability to gather anonymous, real-time data and insights from staff across 21 different categories, including workload, support, communication and enjoyment.

Supporting the Government’s edtech strategy as well as addressing teacher recruitment and retention, Staff Pulse has been specifically designed for schools to deliver a positive work environment and ensure staff are happy in their school and career. Using the data-driven feedback and insights, schools can better understand the evolving views of their staff, identify key pressure points and continually refine responsive action plans tailored to their needs.

In scoring and commenting on given statements, staff can be completely honest about how they feel without fear of judgement or repercussions, and senior leaders can gather and analyse insights to track success and improve areas for development. Responses and scores in the centralised dashboard can also be compared to the national average, giving school leaders their own benchmarks as well as a guide to how other schools are performing.

Carla Bennett, Headteacher of Sherford Vale School in Plymouth has been using Staff Pulse over the last few months. She said:

“I send the pulse to my staff every Wednesday. I read the results as part of SLT and note down any action points. We set up an action plan for ‘communication’ which was rated the least effective and gave staff chance to comment upon improvements. As a result, staff feel like they are listened to and have a say and we are actioning or providing reasons why some of their suggestions are not possible. As a result, this has increased staff morale and the pulse rating for the school has increased. Staff and leaders like using the pulse and have recommended it to another MAT who are in the process of setting it up.”

According to the Health and Safety Executive, teaching staff and education professionals report the highest rates of work-related stress, depression and anxiety in Britain. Subsequently, Ofsted has increased its emphasis on teacher wellbeing and its impact on the wellbeing of students in schools in its latest Inspection Framework. As part of this, edtech can play a powerful role, not only in facilitating a more streamlined approach to lesson planning and delivery, but also in being able to provide senior leaders with complete visibility across the school and tracking and responding to teachers’ needs.

The different categories which can be tailored for staff, identify key drivers of satisfaction and allow for a granular response to build and measure the impact of responsive action plans. This regular feedback empowers school leaders to build an inclusive and transparent culture that attracts, engages and retains the best staff, without adding to their workloads.

Caroline Wright, Director General of BESA said:

“Teacher wellbeing is something that should concern us all. If teachers are anxious or stressed, this effects their ability to prepare, which severely hinders children’s education. Schools need to be supported to monitor how their teachers feel and take action quickly, in order to maintain a confident positive staffroom.”

Tes Global Product Director, Funmi Alassan, involved with Staff Pulse since its inception, said:

“We developed Staff Pulse after listening to schools across the world. Senior Leadership Teams at schools want to know what their staff are thinking and how they are feeling so they can provide the right level of support and promote their wellbeing. Staff Pulse provides schools with regular robust anonymous feedback that can translate directly into action plans. It’s a key part of Tes’s mission to support teachers to have time to do what they do best – teach.”

Capita launches Literacy 360 survey tool to help encourage reading in schools

Capita plc has announced the launch of Literacy 360, a new software-based questionnaire that schools can use to measure and monitor each child’s attitude towards reading throughout key stages 2 (ages 7 to 11) and 3 (ages 11 to 14), both pivotal developmental stages when it comes to reading and literacy.

According to the National Literacy Trust, children who enjoy reading are three times more likely to have good mental wellbeing than children who do not enjoy it.

Literacy 360 will provide crucial insights on how each student views their own reading abilities and how they feel about reading for pleasure. The tool helps schools identify children who are struggling or reluctant readers, so that early evidence-based interventions can be put place to ensure they develop a love of reading.

Literacy 360 was developed in collaboration with Adam Lancaster, librarian and head of literacy in a secondary school in the south of England. The software incorporates Lancaster’s Impact Through Reading methodology and Attitude to Reading survey, to provide schools with the ideal tool to gather insights into and evaluate the reading habits of students.

The survey includes questions about the genres that students like, whether they have books at home, how many books they read each year, and how much support they have for reading at home. Students will use the software tool to take the survey twice a year so schools can monitor progress and factor in any additional assistance that might be needed.

Using information around reading preferences, schools can stock the right books to support reading for pleasure and measure and monitor a student’s attitude towards reading over time.

Sue Polchow, library adviser, Capita Reading Cloud, said, “Capita helps millions of people each day by delivering innovative solutions such as Literacy 360, which will provide schools with the insights they need to really understand how each of their students feel about reading. We know that having this detailed understanding of students’ attitudes can have a huge impact on attainment. We hope that Literacy 360 will empower schools across the country to encourage pupils to pick up a book and enjoy reading.”

Adam Lancaster, librarian and head of literacy of a secondary school in the south of England, said: “Reading for pleasure is a fundamental habit that we want to instil in all young people. Literacy 360 will help schools find ways to inspire all young children to read for pleasure.

“In terms of education, its impact should not be underestimated or ignored, and it is crucial we invest our time and resources in promoting a healthy reading culture in every school and for every child.”

Literacy 360 is available to all schools, whichever management information system or library system they are using. Find out more:


25 February 2020

Four schools in Warrington have come together to create cross-curricular primary school education resources for the Rugby League World Cup 2021’s education programme. 

Oakwood Avenue Community Primary School, Woolston Community Primary School, Croft Primary School and Gorse Covert Primary School – who form the ‘One Community Trust’ – are developing the free-to-use resources, which will be available for the 2020/2021 academic year.

The resources – which are being made by teachers, for teachers – will use an innovative approach to educate primary school children on traditional subjects such as geography, history, maths, English, science, art and music, within a continual context of Rugby League. Teachers will be able to use the interactive resources to enthuse and educate their pupils, regardless of their own Rugby League knowledge.

Rugby League World Cup 2021’s education programme launched in July 2019 and features a collection of free and engaging resources available for primary and secondary schools to help teachers deliver Rugby League lessons in a fun and exciting way.

The original series includes a 6-week lesson plans, fixtures templates, certificates and video messages from RLWC2021 ambassadors to help inspire pupils.

For the 2020/2021 academic year, the resources created by the One Community Trust will be available to schools across the UK. The resources cover a range of themes in line with RLWC2021’s values, including inclusion and diversity, as well as female empowerment; creating a platform to inspire genuine social change through sport and education.

Tracy Power, Legacy Director for RLWC2021, said: “Our education programme plays a key role in inspiring the next generation of Rugby League players and fans. We are delighted to be reinvesting money back into local communities rather than into external providers and it’s great to see four Warrington-based schools working together to create the next phase of our education resources.

“Hosting RLWC2021 in England provides an opportunity to make a genuine difference in communities across the country and giving pupils access to education resources is vital to our aim of inspiring the next generation through sport and learning, not only in the Warrington area, but up and down the country.”

Gary Cunningham, CEO for the One Community Trust said: “One Community Trust was only established in September of last year and creating a rich and relevant curriculum was one of our initial aims. All four schools were delighted when we were appointed to create the educational content for the Rugby League World Cup 2021, and it has given staff the opportunity to work collaboratively on a unique, inclusive and prestigious international event.

“We are proud of the materials produced to date and are looking forward to trialling them with our children, prior to a full launch later in the year. We can promise schools who use the resources, high quality, structured resources that not only have high expectations, but are also easy to understand and use.” To find out more information about our education resources or download your free pack, please visit:

Sportsafe leading the way with ground-breaking accredited inspection

Sportsafe has become the first organisation to be accredited by The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) in accordance with ISO/IEC 17020:2012 for the inspection of Physical Education, sports, gymnastic, cardio vascular, resistance and outdoor playground equipment.

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) is the sole national accreditation body for the United Kingdom. UKAS is recognised by the UK government, to assess against internationally agreed standards, organisations that provide certification, testing, inspection and calibration services.

Accreditation by UKAS demonstrates the competence, impartiality and performance capability of these organisations. In short, UKAS ‘checks the checkers’

UKAS is a non-profit-distributing private company, limited by guarantee. UKAS operates under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government, through the Secretary of State for Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Sportsafe, the leading Physical Education, School Sport and Physical Activity (PESSPA) Inspection Company, based in Colchester, has been working to achieve UKAS accreditation for the last three years, and were proud to gain accreditation for ISO/IEC 17020:2012 in May 2019.

Andy Bickerstaff, Technical and Quality Manager at Sportsafe, said: “It has been really confusing for clients to know who to trust when it comes to inspecting their sports equipment.

“For the last three years, Sportsafe has been working hard to gain UKAS accreditation and we are proud to say we are now the only provider in the UK to have achieved ISO 17020:2012 accreditation for those activities detailed on our UKAS schedule of accreditation which can be accessed via the UKAS website

“This accreditation will give schools, councils and facility management companies confidence that Sportsafe work to an internationally recognised standard and are competent to undertake inspections.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has worked tirelessly to prevent accidents since 1914 and was the first to introduce a variety of playground inspections and indoor soft play which support the BS EN1176 recommendation of an annual inspection.

Register of Play Inspectors International (RPII) took it one step further by introducing the inspection for Children’s Fully Enclosed Play Equipment (FEPE) and Inflatable Annual inspections.

The advantage of being a UKAS accredited inspection body is we are routinely assessed in accordance with ISO/IEC 17020:2012 which in turn provides an assurance of our competence, impartiality and integrity. 

Using Sportsafe can save you money

We believe that by using Sportsafe we can save schools money by combining indoor and outdoor inspections and passing that saving back to the school. Facilities with both indoor and outdoor equipment can combine their inspections to take place at the same time by the same inspector and save on the travel costs involved in two separate inspection visits by two separate companies.  

It also saves clients the time calling out two different companies to ensure their users’ safety and saves administration costs of managing two suppliers. It also saves the PE teacher or Headteacher time having to review two different indoor and outdoor reports and repair recommendations.

Unlike other companies, Sportsafe can quote for, and undertake, any remedial work identified during the inspection themselves, ensuring the work is carried out quickly and correctly. Any work undertaken by Sportsafe will be conducted by personnel not involved in the inspections process in order to maintain impartiality.

Combine indoor and outdoor inspections can help to reduce your school or leisure centres carbon foot print

Finally, combining indoor and outdoor inspections helps save the environment and can help reduce the carbon footprint.

Sportsafe Inspectors drive on average three times round the world every year, visiting in total 10,000 schools. By combining indoor and outdoor inspections this initiative will allow us to reduce the carbon footprint of each school’s inspection. This together with the move to hybrid vehicles will hugely reduce the environmental impact of customers’ inspection and repair programs.

Claire Hunt, Sales and Marketing Director, said the changes would see primary schools save on average £150 and secondaries £350 by working with Sportsafe.

She said: “It’s fantastic that Sportsafe customers are actually going to see the difference in terms of inspection quality but also in terms of time, money and environmental savings.”

Further changes Sportsafe has innovated under ISO 17020:2012

The requirements of ISO 17020:2012 mean that all Sportsafe inspectors undergo rigorous training and formal examinations with a set pass rate to ensure they are competent to undertake inspections Sportsafe has rewritten the inspection manual, with thorough information on how to inspect each piece of apparatus so clients can be assured their equipment is safe for their users.

Sportsafe’s Technical and Quality Manager, Andy Bickerstaff

Mr Bickerstaff, Technical and Quality Manager, said: “Currently, the scope of inspection written in tenders and the afPE handbook is very basic and, in some areas, vague.

“Sportsafe has rewritten the inspection process for all the equipment found in an educational environment. It goes into much more detail on how to inspect apparatus.

“For example, the scope of inspection for a wooden PE bench is usually no more than a few sentences. The new written inspection process for PE benches to be used for this standard is two A4 pages and details the inspection process of each bench component.

“We are really looking forward to the much-needed changes this brings to the industry.”

Sportsafe is based at Eastgates, Moorside, in Colchester, and has offices in Manchester and Scotland.

Employing more than 95 people, it serves more than 12,000 customers across the UK.

To find out more, go to

Wellbeing First!

Hays Education has launched Wellbeing First, the UK’s first free wellbeing training available for school staff across the UK.

Wellbeing First is the first of its kind to offer free courses to help teachers and staff manage their stress levels, reduce their anxiety, discover how to foster positive mental health and prioritise their work-life balance, while also meeting CPD requirements.

Wellbeing for teachers was recently added to the Ofsted 2019 framework, meaning staff workload and wellbeing must be prioritised and reported upon by school leaders. Research also shows that teacher wellbeing is often rated consistently lower than other professions. In data from the latest Hays Salary & Recruiting Trends 2020 guide, half (50%) of teaching staff rated their work-life balance as average to poor, higher than the overall average of 43%.

The ten courses are available free for all educational institutions, designed with the aim of supporting and empowering teachers and to help headteachers support their staff. The training comes integrated with management information, allowing leaders to see who has completed training and when, and collate this information for inspections, including Ofsted.

Paul Matthias, National Director at Hays Education, commented: “Research has shown that one in five teachers could leave the profession due to excessive workloads, so to help towards combatting this we wanted to provide school staff with training which can help place staff wellbeing at the heart of every school.

At no cost to the school or teachers, we’ve designed our wellbeing courses to help improve mental health, reduce stress and create a more positive working culture. By undertaking some of our courses including life balance, prioritisation and resilience, we’re confident this will help schools improve retention, build loyalty and help attract new staff.”

The Hays Education Training portal also offers safeguarding and compliance training for schools across the UK. For more information on the free Wellbeing First or other training courses, visit:

News: Free online course on understanding and preventing the spread of coronavirus

With 71,429 cases in 25 countries and sadly 1,775 deaths so far in 4 countries – 1,772 in China and one each in Japan, the Philippines and France – the novel coronavirus outbreak currently constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.* There is now a free online course open for registration on “COVID-19: Tackling the Novel Coronavirus” from experts at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, a renowned institute of public health, available on, the leading social learning platform. 

Understanding and preventing the spread of Coronavirus

The online course is focussed on the outbreak of novel coronavirus, officially named COVID-19, and will cover what is known about the disease outbreak so far, what the practical implications for response are, how to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and what is needed for the future. 

The course will start on 23 March and is suitable for everyone, from those working in healthcare to anyone interested in the subject and the response more generally. The course will run for three weeks and will require approximately four hours of study per week. 

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who will be running this online course, was named Times Higher Education University of the Year 2016 for its response to the Ebola outbreak which included, among many other things, an online course, Ebola in Context, on FutureLearn. That course saw over 18,000 enrolments from over 185 countries including Sierra Leone, which was badly affected by the epidemic. 

The course will be led by Dr Anna Seale and Dr Maryirene Ibeto from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. 

Dr Anna Seale, Associate Professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:

“The response to COVID-19 is an international effort, requiring worldwide collaboration and transparency. This course, which is open to participants around the world, aims to bring together expertise, and share knowledge on what we know to date and what we are still learning about the virus and how to combat it.”

Dr Maryirene Ibeto, Research Coordinator at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, commented:

“Through this course, we aim to facilitate communities of practice, connecting those working with, or interested in, COVID-19. By pooling our knowledge to fill gaps in our knowledge about the virus, we stand the best chance of stopping this outbreak in its tracks.”

Simon Nelson, Chief Executive at FutureLearn, commented, “Our purpose is to transform access to education. For me, that means working with institutions like the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to support them to get information out into the public domain as quickly as possible that is accessible all over the world. When we worked with them on the Ebola course, we saw the impact. We played a small part in helping with the response to Ebola and we’re pleased to be able to support with the response to Coronavirus.”

The course is free to start and learners can upgrade for £29 which gives them access to course content for as long as the course remains on the FutureLearn platform, and access to tests in order to be eligible to gain a certificate if they complete the course and score at least 70% on any tests.

Child sexual abuse far more widespread than people believe, says Barnardo’s

People in the UK underestimate how widespread child sexual abuse is, according to a new survey by Barnardo’s, as the charity launches a campaign to highlight how vulnerable children are slipping through the cracks. 

More than half* (55%) of respondents underestimated the prevalence of abuse while almost one in four (19%) weren’t able to guess a figure, the survey conducted for the UK’s leading children’s charity by YouGov shows.

Almost a third (31%) of respondents to the poll of more than 2,000 adults across the UK thought that child sexual abuse – including both ‘contact’ and ‘non-contact’ abuse – only affected 5% of children or fewer.

But it is thought more than three times as many children are affected, with research suggesting one-in-six** 11-17 year-olds have experienced sexual abuse at some point in their lives.

Even this is believed to be a conservative estimate, though, with experts believing child sexual abuse is far more prevalent than research suggests.

With advancements in technology, abusers have increased mechanisms to access children, often in environments like gaming and social media where childrens’ defences are down as they relax and enjoy time with their peers.

The findings come to light as Barnardo’s launches a new hard-hitting TV campaign aiming to raise awareness of child sexual abuse and how important it is for victims and survivors to get support.

As part of the campaign, called Believe in Me, a cutting-edge advert shows a girl alone in a bedroom while a CGI komodo dragon slithers up beside her, representing the abuse she has suffered and her feelings of powerlessness.

Child sexual abuse often goes unseen and unreported, the leading national children’s charity says. Rather than adults effectively protecting children, often the burden of responsibility for disclosing abuse remains with victims, meaning many children and young people do not disclose their experiences until they are much older.

Barnardo’s says boys and children under 10, as well as minority groups including BAME, LGBTQ and disabled children and young people, are even more likely to be hidden victims of child sexual abuse and are routinely being missed in safeguarding, risk assessment and prevention work.

Research by the Children’s Commissioner shows that professionals are not always confident in their ability to identify child sexual abuse, and levels of knowledge and confidence on how to progress concerns vary.

This, coupled with potential communication problems or issues of isolation or stigma, can mean minority groups are more likely to be ‘hidden’.

The charity is calling for these hidden groups to be front and centre of the government’s new Child Sexual Abuse Strategy, due to be published this month (February).

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

“Child sexual abuse is a horrific crime, causing trauma that can last a lifetime.

“This new evidence suggests that adults under-estimate how many children are at risk – and we know that even official figures just scratch the surface. Too many children across the UK are slipping through the cracks – unseen, unheard, and unsupported.

“Barnardo’s has been tackling child sexual abuse for more than 25 years, and we know that any child from any community or background can be sexually abused, including by perpetrators who groom children online. But some groups are particularly vulnerable and face additional barriers to disclosing their abuse, meaning they are even more likely to miss out on the help they need.

“The government’s upcoming child sexual abuse strategy must include a focus on ‘hidden’ victims, including boys, children under 10, disabled and LGBTQ young people and those from BAME communities. 

“At Barnardo’s we believe all children can recover from trauma and go on to achieve a positive future. So to help keep children safe we need better awareness and understanding of child sexual abuse, among parents, professionals, government, and citizens so we can improve identification and make sure children access the support they need.”

In the year ending March 2019, police in England and Wales recorded 73,260 sexual offences against children. As well as offences involving physical contact, child sexual abuse also includes ‘non-contact’ abuse like involving children in looking at sexual images or watching sexual activities.

Around a third of all sexual offences recorded by the police in England and Wales are against children but only one-in-eight child sexual abuse victims come to the attention of the police or a local authority.

Research suggests that children with disabilities are three times more likely to be sexually abused than children without disabilities and previous research by Barnardo’s shows that children with behaviour or conduct disorders are particularly vulnerable.

They can be disadvantaged by not having the same access to sex and relationship education as their non-disabled peers. Sometimes abuse can be missed because behaviour changes or delayed development may be attributed to learning disabilities when they may be a consequence of trauma from sexual abuse.

Victims of sexual abuse come from all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Fear of being stigmatised or labelled can lead to many BAME children not being identified or getting the support they desperately need. They may also be referred to culturally inappropriate services that fail to meet their needs.

Polling for Barnardo’s last year showed that men find the sexual abuse of teenage boys by women less concerning than the abuse of teenage girls by men.

Separate research conducted by Barnardo’s in 2018 and funded by the Home Office found that boys and young men often miss out on the support they would receive if they were girls because professionals don’t always recognise them as victims.

Director of the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse Ian Dean said:

“In recent years we have gained better awareness of child sexual abuse and its impact on victims and survivors but we still don’t know how many children are currently experiencing abuse.

“The cases being identified by agencies are most likely the tip of the iceberg; most sexual abuse remains hidden and is only reported years after it occurs, if it is reported at all. Abuse of children who are disabled or from BAME backgrounds is even more likely to be hidden.

“Agencies are making decisions in a fog, using limited or old data that hampers their ability to respond effectively and provide the best possible support for children.

“Without concerted action, we will likely never know the full scale of sexual abuse in this country. The government should commit to a regular prevalence study to shine a light on this horrendous and all too often hidden abuse.”

In the run up to Emmerdale’s grooming storyline in 2018 and 2019, Barnardo’s worked with the soap’s to help them tell the story sensitively. The show’s researchers, story team and actors Louisa Clein, Matthew Wolfenden and Joe-Warren Plant met Barnardo’s experts and young men who have been supported by the charity.

Matthew Wolfenden plays David Metcalfe in ITV soap-opera Emmerdale. The Barnardo’s supporter’s on-screen step-son Jacob (Joe-Warren Plant) was groomed and abused by his teacher Maya Stepney (Louisa Clein).

Matthew said: “We saw in Emmerdale how vulnerable Jacob was to abuse and how isolated from his support network he became as Maya tightened her grip on him.

“Boys can be particularly vulnerable, as professionals are less likely to recognise them as victims. But as we saw with Jacob, sexual abuse against boys is just as traumatic as abuse against girls and needs to be taken just as seriously.

“As a parent, I think Barnardo’s Believe in Me campaign is vitally important; we need to raise awareness of child sexual abuse so it can be identified and children can be protected.” 

Louisa Clein played Maya Stepney in Emmerdale and is a Barnardo’s supporter. Her character in the ITV soap groomed and abused her teenage pupil Jacob (Joe-Warren Plant).

Louisa said: “Working with Barnardo’s on the Emmerdale grooming storyline gave me an invaluable insight into how child sexual abuse can be hidden and how isolated children can feel.

“I met some amazing young people and their support workers who helped me understand how abusers exploit children’s feelings of guilt and shame and can make young people believe the abuse is their fault or that they somehow deserve it.

“No child should ever be made to feel like that, and raising awareness of child sexual abuse is a step towards protecting and supporting more children at risk of child sexual abuse.”

Barnardo’s ambassador Nicola Roberts has supported the charity’s work around child sexual abuse and exploitation for years.

Nicola said: “Through working with Barnardo’s over the years I’ve heard heartbreaking stories and they’ve helped me understand how lives can be torn apart by sexual abuse and how difficult they can be to rebuild.

“Children and young people who’ve experienced sexual abuse can suffer deep trauma that stays with them for life, which is why the work Barnardo’s does to support survivors is so vitally important.”

What is child sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse involves forcing or persuading a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. This includes acts that involve physical contact such as:

  • assault by penetration
  • non-penetrative acts (e.g. masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching).

It also includes:

  • involving children in looking at (or making) sexual images
  • watching sexual acts
  • encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways
  • grooming a child (including via the internet), also called child sexual exploitation (CSE).

What parents can do

The most important thing is to be interested in your child’s life. Celebrate when things are going well. Respond with patience and sensitivity when they’re worried or anxious. Children who know that there is nothing too big and nothing too small to talk about are much more likely to speak up when things feel wrong or unsafe.

Try to talk about feelings as a regular part of your relationship. Speak to them about their safety strategies when they’re out of the house – including how they can contact you in an emergency and who else they could contact. It’s important to talk to them about how they can support their friends and what support they should expect from their friends, too. It’s worth talking to them about their apps and games on their devices, and exploring the safety features together.

You might have specific concerns. For older children and teens, these could be:

  • changes in behaviour and mood (especially if they’re becoming more withdrawn)
  • late nights out
  • new friends who you haven’t met or heard about before
  • any unexplained belongings that they might not have bought themselves
  • their online activity
  • unexplained injuries
  • STIs and pregnancy.

For younger children, you may notice comments or elements of “playtime” that are sexual in nature and wonder where they learned this from. Try to discuss these without judgement and reassure them that you’re always there to talk to. When you’re talking about concerns like these, make sure you’ve got time to talk about it. Consider the environment and both your and your child’s potential stress levels when planning this.

Case study

Alfie was just over 6 years old when he was referred to Barnardo’s by his school. He lives with his Nan, who had asked for help from teachers.

Alfie’s Nan was finding it hard to cope. His behaviour was often angry and loud, and when he was with his friends he would get frustrated and lash out.

Alfie found falling asleep really difficult and wanted to stay up late with his Nan watching TV with her, making her feel tired too. Alfie’s teachers had said he had recently started to repeatedly talk about sex a lot and some staff had found this hard to know how to respond to.

Alfie’s Barnardo’s worker started off by spending time with him and getting to know Alfie. There was time spent playing outside and with toys to help Alfie build up trust, and his worker would let Alfie decide what games and toys they would play with; Alfie liked crashing the toy cars together the most and said that crashing things together helped him with his ‘big feelings’ that made him feel angry and cross.

Alfie’s project worker spent time visiting his school and talking to his teachers to start to piece together how Alfie was feeling, as well as chatting to Alfie’s Nan about how she was coping. Through their time together, Alfie started to talk about his school, his friends and the adults in his life, including his Uncle James. 

In one of their sessions, Alfie told his project worker, “I don’t like Uncle James”, and when they talked about it more, Alfie said that Uncle James had made him touch his “privates”. 

Through sharing this information with police and Social Care, action was taken to ensure Alfie’s safety and an investigation started. The continued support of Barnardo’s was key to Alfie and his family throughout these processes. They gave Alfie the opportunity to show his feelings and they supported his Nan and school teachers to find consistent ways of helping him when some of his feelings got too big for him.  

*Alfie’s name has been changed in order to protect his identity.