How have DSL dealt with peer on peer abuse as suggested in the KCSiE #DSL #safeguarding

img_2497After implementing the KCSiE in all our policies and training, it’s now time to digest the specific topics. One of them is peer on peer abuse, a topic that can be entwined in several areas. The obvious is bullying but it can be involved in sexting, e safety, peer pressure for substance misuse and consent.

Many DSL have found it hard to pinpoint and to ” prove”  that we as a school are dealing with it. For example, when is bullying, peer on peer abuse? Can you separate the two? A good Anti-bullying policy needs to address this issue and very clear guidelines on how the school proceed with either.  But are you confident that staff be able to identify the difference? According to a NSPCC report, at least half of child abuse is peer on peer. Last year 35%  of sexual referrals related to peer on peer. I would love to find out how they have defined this ( so any documents, please send my way) This could also be peer sibling abuse and schools can be caught in the middle of family arguments that are brought into school.

Raising awareness is always the start. Most schools PSHE and Pastoral system have educated the pupils and staff. Training on inset days and “on the job” has helped teachers understand the difference between banter, bullying and abuse. The topics covered in PSHE at various age groups can help those going through issues have a voice or develop coping strategies. It can also help those who are observers have the confidence and knowledge to step in and prevent issues. We have even found that the pastoral staff have attended more PSHE lessons to hear the message we are sending out, so they themselves know how to support and prevent.

We have also use the influence of the students for positive, getting the older peers to lead by example. We have Prefects for 11/12 yr olds and Mentors for 13 – 16 yr olds. Training and time is needed but the feedback and reviews have all been positive. Sports has also been excellent place to spot issues and to encourage positive peer on peer support.  Team captains with clear job descriptions and expectations have encouraged kindness and communication. Man of the match is awarded not just for the best player but the one who encourages the team to work together.  A happy and supportive team is seen as a winning team.

I have looked at starting peer support groups, but this has been a struggle to maintain. Students don’t won’t others to know about their situation and have often told me that they like to leave home issues at home. They seem to have come up with coping mechanisms which include having a façade. However giving them a space to go to if school gets to much, is beneficial not just for peer issues, but for MH issues. Instead of forcing this on students, the Health centre have left this an area that can be developed by the students, if they see fit.  

The future now looks at the parents and educating them. Many struggle with the difference with bullying and abuse. Any tips here would be appreciated.  

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Assistant Head ( DSL) at a boarding school. Interested in all PSHE and safeguarding topics.

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