From education to employment

Reducing the Risk of Sexual Harm: Episode 3 – Compliance


In this podcast we are discussing what regulators are looking for, signposting some of the documents you need to be familiar with and suggesting some questions you might want to consider if you are interested in building a strong approach to compliance in the area of preventing sexual harm.  

The Ofsted guidelines specify that they will be looking for the following:

  • Any safeguarding ecosystem needs to be whole institution – that is, safeguarding needs to be at the forefront of everything you do. Everything you do needs to operate with the best interests of your learners at the core.
  • Learners should feel safe. That includes not only knowing what to do if they feel they are at risk of harm, but also that their concerns will be acted on.
  • Your ecosystem has to be proactive – you need to be alert to the signs of harm (whether from those within your intuitions – as in peer-on-peer – or from those outside of it – as in online or domestic harms).
  • Staff need to know what to do if they suspect or know about harm, who to escalate to, what will happen with their report.

But what does this mean for you?

Leaders of regulated organisations often end up debating some form of the question ‘what does compliance look like?’  It sometimes feels as though we have a uniquely complex regulatory environment in the UK, on the one hand setting the bar extremely high in demanding evidence, on the other stepping back from a precise definition of what the evidence is objectively supposed to demonstrate. 

Sometimes an enormous amount of time is spent trying to get the boxes ticked, and it’s only when something goes wrong that the gaps in defensible decision-making become evident with hindsight.  In relation to reducing the risk of sexual harm, we’re interested in encouraging leaders to be thoughtful and curious about what a ‘gold standard’ of compliance might look like, what questions they should be asking and what answers they could be looking for.

In a previous podcast we agreed that although the criminal law applies in some cases most situations will be less clear-cut. Much of what we are looking at – sexualised bullying, sexual harassment, circumstances which lead to infringements of learners’ (or colleagues’ or other stakeholders’) human or equality-based rights – are matters of civil law or in many instances are not covered by any current laws to the extent that it would be practical to seek legal redress.  So how do you identify and address concerns in this complicated and confusing environment?  

A deceptively simple definition of compliance in this area might be that you are trying to show that you have taken serious steps to prevent harm.  At some level we all know that systems and policies and protocols and procedures are useless if they are not living things, they have to be active and pro-active.  As leaders, it’s helpful for us to be curious not just about all of those things but about the exact nature of the problems they are created to address as they apply to the organisation we lead.  That would seem obvious, but it is surprising how often you only discover how little you knew about something when apparently perfectly sensible measures turn out to have been chocolate teapots.     

Curiosity about compliance is not something that should be devolved.  Ideally, everyone in the institution – board members, designated Safeguarding and Sexual Harm leads, staff (including non-teaching staff), learners and indeed external stakeholders such as caregivers should be interested in understanding what is going on in their organisation and questioning whether the measures in place to protect people are fit for purpose.  Neither a regulator nor anybody else can define the perfect approach, but the more intelligence you build up about your organisation, the better placed you will be to create a system that makes everybody safer. 

Reducing the Risk of Sexual Harm

This brand new series of podcasts, by TDI, will be published on FE News every Thursday. Find each episode on FE News!

Find the series rundown below:

Episode 1 – The Big Picture – 15th June

    Episode 2 – The Law – 22nd June

      Episode 3 – Compliance – 29th June

        Episode 4 – The Challenge of Technology – 6th July

          Episode 5 – Accountability – 13th July

            Episode 6 – Creating A Safer Community – 20th July

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