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Written Statement - Educational Provision and the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill

Leighton Andrews, Minister for Public Services

The Welsh Government is taking forward an ambitious programme of reforms to tackle violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.  At the centre is the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill (“the Bill”), which is currently being considered by the National Assembly.  

Since the introduction of the Bill we have added a new section covering Educational Provision, which states that the Welsh Ministers may require local authorities to publish information on whether and how local authority education functions are being exercised to promote the purpose of the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 (VAWDASV). Welsh Ministers must have regard to the desirability of parents having information on whether and how the curriculum and any educational provision in schools (other than nursery schools) is promoting the purpose of the Act.

We have tabled further amendments at Stage 3 to:

  • Amend section 14 to indicate our intention to issue statutory guidance to ensure that Local Authorities designate a member of staff for the purpose of championing VAWDASV matters in schools and other settings, who would take steps to increase awareness or change attitudes to gender-based violence, sexual violence and domestic abuse. Local Authorities would have to comply with such statutory guidance unless they could demonstrate, to the satisfaction of Welsh Ministers, that they had found a satisfactory alternative approach.
  • Provide Welsh Ministers and HEFCW the power to issue guidance to governing bodies of HE and FE institutions and to require those institutions to have regard to such guidance. The effect of this amendment is to enable the Welsh Ministers and HEFCW to issue guidance to governing bodies of HE and FE institutions on how they may contribute to the purpose of the Act.


Today I can confirm that we will also be supporting the VAWDASV Act in other ways including a suite of complementary education policies centred around the importance of educating children and young people about healthy and respectful relationships, in respect of the curriculum, safeguarding guidance, professional training and inspection.

Curriculum

Yesterday, the Welsh Government published Professor Donaldson’s report, Successful Futures, which reviewed the curriculum and assessment arrangements.

Successful Futures suggests a vision for our curriculum of what a successful young person leaving statutory education would ‘look like’.The report identifies four purposes of the curriculum in Wales – that all our young people will be:

  • Ambitious, capable learners;
  • Enterprising, creative contributors;
  • Ethical, informed citizens; and
  • Healthy, confident individuals.

Professor Donaldson identifies a range of specific characteristics within each purpose.  So, for example, he suggests that healthy, confident individuals should “form positive relationships based upon trust and mutual respect”.  His report also suggests that the new curriculum should be structured around six Areas of Learning and Experience – one of which should be Health and Well-being. It is here that healthy relationships would feature. The report recognises children and young people need to experience social, emotional and physical wellbeing to thrive and engage successfully with their education.  This Area of Learning and Experience will help them to build the knowledge, understanding and skills that will enable them to develop positive and appropriate relationships, deal with the difficult issues and decisions they will face and learn to live independently.

The Minister for Education and Skills has signalled his intention to have a Great Debate on the report recommendations, on which further information will be available in the coming weeks.  Subject to the outcome of that, there will be an important role for key stakeholders to be involved in supporting the development of all of the Areas of Learning and Experience, including that of Health and Well-being. This will be very important in taking forward the purpose of the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 and I have agreed with the Minister for Education and Skills to explore with the Violence Against Women Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence sector how they can contribute to taking forward this work.

This provides the opportunity to move forward from the existing provision. Healthy relationship education is currently covered in schools as part of Personal and Social Education (PSE), or where relevant under Sex and Relationship Education (SRE).  PSE is a statutory curriculum requirement for all registered pupils aged 5 to 16 in maintained schools in Wales.  The Personal and social education framework for 7 to 19-year-olds in Wales, implemented since September 2008, should be used by schools to plan their PSE programmes.


Currently, there are several contexts for schools to teach about all aspects of relationships within the health and emotional well-being theme throughout all the schools phases and stages, for example:

  • at Key Stage 3 (12-14 year olds) – schools should cover developing a positive attitude towards themselves and others and specifically to understand the features of safe and potentially abusive relationships.
  • at Key Stage 4 (15-16 year olds) there is an expectation that schools will provide opportunities for learners to develop a positive attitude to personal relationships and to understand the:
    • risks involved in sexual activity including potential sexual exploitation;
    • factors that affect mental health and the ways in which emotional well-being can be fostered.

For our youngest learners, the Personal and Social Development, Wellbeing and Cultural Diversity area of learning in the Foundation Phase covers self esteem and physical well-being.

The Welsh Government already supports PSE resources through the PSE website which we fund, through the All Wales Schools Core Liaison Programme (AWSCLP), funded in partnership between the Welsh Government and the four Welsh police forces and currently operates in 99.7% of schools across Wales, providing consistent education messages to school pupils aged 7 to 16 on a range of topics including domestic abuse and sexual violence, anti-social behaviour and substance misuse, and delivering lessons on all aspects of personal safety including safer relationships, domestic abuse and consent.

Additional Welsh Government funding has been provided to Hafan Cymru to extend the Spectrum Schools Programme.  Delivery of the National Programme began in late summer 2014.  Additional School Liaison Officers, a Schools Liaison Manager and Administrative Assistant were recruited for the Project.

I have signalled previously my intention to publish a Healthy Relationship Whole School Approach Good Practice Guide ahead of the 2015-16 academic year. This will showcase the excellent practice which exists across Wales. It will also support and encourage those schools we know need to do more to do so by learning from others.  Welsh Women’s Aid is taking forward work on this Guide and will be consulting widely on its content over the coming weeks.  It is our intention to incorporate this good practice guide within the statutory guidance to be issued under section 14 of the VAWDASV Act to ensure local authorities support schools in adopting these good practices.

Safeguarding guidance.

Safeguarding arrangements will also contribute to the aims of the VAWDASV Act. In January, the Welsh Government published revised statutory guidance, Keeping learners safe, to support all education services in delivering their responsibilities to help safeguard and promote the welfare of children.    

Chapter 2 of this statutory guidance sets out the roles and responsibilities of Local Authorities, governing bodies, proprietors of independent schools and head teachers, including the requirement to identify a designated senior person (DSP) who will have lead responsibility for managing child protection issues within schools and further education institutions.  The DSP is pivotal in giving effect to safeguarding arrangements, acting as a point of contact and a source of support, advice and expertise in the educational establishment on safeguarding matters which might impact on the welfare of the child.  The DSP will take lead responsibility for child protection practice, policy, procedures, professional development and for making referrals about allegations of suspected abuse to relevant investigating agencies. They must be given sufficient time and resources to carry out their role, including attending suitable training to be able to assist in recognising and identifying the signs of abuse and neglect, and how and when to make a referral to investigating agencies.

Chapter 4 of the guidance sets out the key issues associated with gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence to help support school staff in fulfilling their statutory responsibilities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children where those circumstances might be a factor. This approach ensures that the responses to such issues are central to effective safeguarding in schools and are recognised consistently, alongside other safeguarding issues, which might significantly affect children and young people in education.  

The Minister for Education and Skills has already said that we would engage further with key stakeholders to seek their views on help required to support the effective and consistent implementation of the guidance, and of robust safeguarding practice. This will enable us to identify gaps in current understanding and where extra support for practitioners might be required, and, where appropriate, ensure that future action aligns with the National Training Framework on Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence.

In May 2011, an all Wales protocol – Safeguarding Children and Young People Affected by Domestic Abuse – was published on behalf of Local Safeguarding Children Boards as part of the All Wales Child Protection Procedures. This protocol provides advice on the multi-agency response – including the education service – to safeguarding children who might be at risk from gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence. This protocol is key to effective and consistent multi-agency responses and is referenced in the statutory guidance.

Professional training

Linked directly to the work being taken forward through the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill, training will be offered in all schools through the National Training Framework on Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence to ensure:

  • school governors and every member of school based personnel are aware of gender-based violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, able to recognise such abuse  and know how to get help for children and young people, or indeed for themselves or their colleagues who may be victims (level 1);
  • a proportion of school based staff are trained to respond effectively to the recognition of the indicators of abuse, including providing efficient access to risk assessment, safety planning and support (level 2); and
  • there is at least one member of staff within each school who can support staff in managing difficult cases, offering enhanced knowledge and support to children and young people within a multi agency setting and promote increased awareness of gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence within education settings (level 3).

Inspection

Estyn inspects and considers the delivery of the statutory curriculum in Wales as part of its usual cycle of inspections and consider areas such as well-being (including attitudes to keeping healthy and safe) and reaches judgments on the care support and guidance offered to learners as part of their common inspection framework.

A thematic review on the subject of VAWDASV is planned for 2016-2017 academic year, by which point the current reforms we are undertaking, including in respect of the National Training Framework, will have had an opportunity to bed in.  

I hope members will agree that this is a comprehensive set of measures for improving education and awareness to end violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.