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New report finds 1 in 10 pupils missed school in the past six months because they felt unsafe

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A review of 70,000 English school pupils exploring their feelings of safety and the factors of influence, reveals the impact on school attendance

  • Nearly one in ten (8%) of pupils reported not feeling safe in school
  • Of the pupils that feel unsafe in school, one third (33%) report multiple instances of feeling unsafe
  • Pupils from certain minority groups, particularly homosexual pupils and those with gender identities other than male or female, are much less likely to feel safe in school than their peers
  • Only 25% of pupils that have felt unsafe at school have reported speaking to an adult at school for help or support.

A new report, from education specialists Edurio and The Key, exploring the feelings of safety of approximately 70,000 English school pupils has revealed that one in 10 pupils surveyed have missed school in the last six months due to feeling unsafe.

The report, which gives a robust view of pupils across year groups, regions and other key demographics, found that whilst the majority of pupils reported feeling safe in school – 75% of all pupils surveyed – one quarter of pupils reported feeling not at all safe, not very safe, or only fairly safe. Further, amongst those pupils who felt unsafe in school, one third (33%) reported that they felt unsafe many times during that period.

As well as being an important issue to address in terms of young people’s safety and wellbeing, the report helps demonstrate the relationship between safety and attendance, with pupils who felt unsafe at school more likely to report they had missed school because they felt unsafe. Seventeen per cent of pupils who felt unsafe in school reported a safety-related absence during the last six months compared to 6% of pupils who had safety-related absences recorded but say they feel safe in school. This shows the clear implications for pupil engagement with learning and the potential impact on pupil outcomes.

Dame Rachel de Souza, Children’s Commissioner, said:

“This research carried out by Edurio and The Key shines a light on an incredibly important issue: that for a school to provide a supportive environment, it needs to feel safe to the children attending. It is testament to the hard work of school staff who support their students and build caring school communities that 75% of children who took part in the research reported feeling safe in school. However, that leaves a quarter of children – that’s eight in every class of 30 – who don’t feel safe.

“Pupil safety is paramount, and the findings from this report should make essential reading for all school leaders. It is only through understanding what leads to children feeling unsafe that effective policies and procedures can be implemented.”

The review also  provides a breakdown of the feelings of safety amongst different demographics including, sexuality and gender identity, sharing that   those with a gender identity other than male or female have lower feelings of safety in school (just 48% felt safe at school in the last six months, compared to 75% of girls and 78% of boys) and that less than half of gay (43%) or bisexual (45%) pupils reported feeling safe at school compared to nearly three quarters of heterosexual pupils (71%).

Importantly, the research explored children’s knowledge of, and trust in, access to support, finding that most pupils know what to do if they feel unsafe. Sixty-one per cent of pupils who didn’t feel unsafe reporting that, hypothetically, they would speak to an adult at school if they ever felt unsafe however, the reality is quite different with only 25% of pupils who felt unsafe reporting that they have spoken to and adult at school.

In addition to feelings of safety at school, the review asked pupils how safe they felt online, to which 88% responded positively. This indicates that more children feel safe online than in school (88% online compared to 75% in school) however, the report also notes the hidden nature of online risks that could be granting young people a false sense of security as they are less aware of the online dangers they may encounter.

Leora Cruddas CBE, Chief Executive, Confederation of School Trusts, said:

“As educators, the greatest responsibility we have is the trust we hold on behalf of children so this research by Edurio and The Key, informed by the views of 70,000 pupils, is a vital and instructive indication of what is going on beneath the surface.

“These findings are at once both reassuring and concerning, and should be reflected on by all school leaders to help them devise strategies to close the gaps between different pupil demographics to create safe, inclusive environments in which all pupils can learn and flourish. They also provide a valuable model for schools and trusts who wish to listen more systematically to pupil voice in their own settings, sitting alongside existing pastoral and parental engagement.”

Other notable findings from the report include:

  • Almost half (47%) of pupils attributed feeling unsafe in school to another pupil or a friend, 13% said a teacher and 6% selected another staff member

·Feelings of safety in and out of school decrease during Years 8-11, with between 33-36% of pupils reporting they had felt unsafe, or only fairly safe in the last six months

  • Almost one in four (23%) pupils with a gender identity other than male or female have missed school in the last six months because they felt unsafe    
  • Outside of school, unknown adults are the most likely to make pupils feel unsafe (29%)    
  • When exploring the use of devices, 64% of pupils were using a personal device when they felt unsafe online, with 8% using a school device.    

Ernest Jenavs, Co-founder and CEO of Edurio, said:

“True impact on improving safeguarding requires deep collaboration across the sector. Our experience in designing national feedback projects has been brilliantly complemented by The Key with their rich knowledge of safeguarding interventions and strategies, and this report grants us a rare but important chance to hear first-hand how safe children in England feel in school.”

Michael McGarvey, Managing Director at The Key, said:

With the help of this research, it is our intention that these insights can arm policymakers, educators and parents with the necessary information to take effective action to improve safeguarding practices so that together, we can help ensure no child’s education suffers from feeling unsafe.”

About the report

Conducted by education specialists, Edurio and The Key, the report highlights insights gathered from children between Years 3 and 13 and provides teachers, school leaders, policy makers and parents with a better understanding of the scale of this issue and, importantly, the steps that can be taken to improve safeguarding practices and pupils’ feelings of safety.

The report is part of a wider Pupil Safeguarding review conducted by Edurio and The Key, based on a survey co-designed by the two organisations alongside safeguarding experts and school and trust practitioners. The report highlights data collected between 3rd October 2022 and 11th November 2022.

The full report is available here:

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