By Reena Kumar
Only 48 per cent of teachers feel that they have been given adequate training to identify and report forced marriage according to a new report.
The survey from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), also revealed that over a quarter of education staff- 28 per cent were concerned they could be perceived as prejudiced or racist if they reported concerns about honour-based abuse and child abuse linked to faith and belief.
In the results released last Tuesday (11), a primary school teacher who was not named, said: “More and more demands are being placed on the average practitioner. I fear I’ll miss the signs of a critical situation.”
Less than half (49.4 per cent) believe their safeguarding and child protection training has fully equipped them to deal with emerging problems, liaise with the designated safeguarding lead, and work with other professionals to support early identification and assessment.
In relation to honour based abuse, a support staff worker said: “Many of the signs are so subtle or could easily be something else, and I’d hate to get it wrong and make a child or family feel like the subject of prejudice…but the issues are so serious I hope it wouldn’t stop me from reporting concerns.”
Teachers reported feeling more confident reporting signs of female genital mutilation (FGM) which has been a recent government priority.
ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said: “While it’s positive that 71 per cent of members we surveyed have had training in how to identify to identify and report FGM, it is vital that the 29 per cent who haven’t are given the information and training they need to feel confident about reporting concerns.
“Most staff need more information, guidance and training about honour-based and child abuse linked to faith, the time to implement policies relating to child protection, and access to health, social care and police resources and support to help them protect children and young people who are vulnerable to abuse.”
ATL’s equalities co-ordinator, Helen Porter, said that schools’ training of staff in terms of safeguarding in general had improved over the last few years. However she admitted that improvements needed to be made in terms of informing teachers to recognise the indicators of forced marriage.
“I think the system in schools where they have a designated safeguarding lead is generally a good one. Staff within a school do feel that they can go to that person. That person would be highly trained,” she said.
The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) run by the Home Office, provided support or advice in 1,428 cases last year. It was the highest number since 2012 and an increase of 14 per cent on 2015.
In total, 371 cases (26 per cent) involved victims below 18 years of age, and 497 cases were related to men and women aged 18-25. The majority of cases, 80 per cent involved female victims.
The unit said the increased number of reports could have been due to its “extensive outreach programme of training and awareness events” and that almost 80 per cent of calls came from professionals, or friends and family members of victims.
It added: “The fact self-reports represent a smaller proportion of calls may reflect the hidden nature of forced marriage and that victims may fear reprisals from their family if they come forward.”
An NSPCC spokesman said: “We know from calls to our helplines that faith-based abuse and FGM are issues that affect hundreds of young people in the UK. It is vital that all teachers are able to spot the signs of this abuse and feel confident to report it.
“If teachers have uncertainty around their concerns they can talk to a trained counsellor at the NSPCC Helpline who will help them to understand whether a child is in danger and how best to protect them.”[TheChamp-Sharing]