Wakefield councillor 'horrified' at stories of sexual abuse in schools and colleges uploaded anonymously to the internet

A senior Wakefield councillor has said he is 'horrified' at some of the stories of sexual abuse in schools and colleges anonymously uploaded to the internet in the past few weeks.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 2:38 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st April 2021, 9:12 pm
Wakefield Town Hall

It follows a national headlines made by the "everyone's invited" website, on which more than 10,000 anonymous accounts of sexual abuse and harassment in schools, colleges and universities were uploaded by children and young people.

Chairman of Wakefield Council's Children and Young People's Scrutiny Committee Coun David Jones said he was "horrified" at some of the testimonies, and called for the council to look into its own services to ensure children are properly supported.

At a meeting of the committee, its chairman Coun Jones said: "You may be aware in the media of a large amount of concern expressed at things that have gone on in schools and colleges.

"There is a website called 'everybody's invited' (sic) - can I suggest it may be worthwhile having a look at this website. I looked at it on Monday and Tuesday and was horrified about some of the experiences I had read about from young people.

"As a result of that, I had a conversation with Beate (Wagner, Wakefield's director of children's services) on Tuesday. Last night, the Government has instructed Ofsted to take note of this."

Everyone's Invited was set up within the last year to act as a platform for school pupils and college/university students to anonymously disclose instances of sexual harassment and abuse. More than 12,000 incidents have been uploaded to the site from children and young people across the country.

The meeting heard how it was difficult for victims to be identified via their posts on the website, due to the anonymity.

A Wakefield Council officer said: "The website provides a platform to share experiences. Although these are anonymous, the website enables the educational institutions to be named.

"Due to the anonymity, it has been difficult for establishments to identify those children who have been affected. So in light of what has come to fruition this week, we as a safeguarding children partnership are wanting to understand the current offer in Wakefield for children and staff to ensure prevention and support."

He added relationship health and sex education was part of the curriculum, and had been in place for two years in most schools. Among other services mentioned was the Spectrum community health service, which advises children on healthy relationships.

School staff training and governor training was also listed. Ofsted will inspect safeguarding arrangements when assaults and abuse have been raised to them.

It was recommended that the Wakefield Safeguarding Children Partnership should review the current support available to children.

Committee member Andy Tagger said: "Implicitly, this is structured around the expectation that children and young people being able to disclose and share.

"It seems surprising to people that there has been so much abuse within these context. What is it doing to enhance the quality of the pupil's voice, because that is where the issue has been."

The Government announced this week it had set up a helpline, run by the NSPCC, for victims to come forward and report abuse. It can be reached on 0800 136 663, on Monday to Friday 8am-10pm, or 9am-6pm at weekends. For more information, visit https://stopabusetogether.campaign.gov.uk/.