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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Education in the Media: Tuesday 26 February 2019

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Today’s Education in the Media blog looks at the funding for children’s services, and how we are working to tackle sexual harassment at universities.

Children’s Services

Today, Tuesday 26 February, a press release has been issued jointly by Action for Children, Barnardo’s, NSPCC, the Children’s Society and the National Children’s Bureau. This has received coverage from the Guardian, the Independent, Sky News and the Express, as well as on broadcast by BBC News.

The top line of the press notice says that funding for children’s services has been cut by a third since 2010 and points to various regions which have seen the biggest drops.

We are investing in Britain’s future by providing local authorities with access to £91.5b over the next two years to meet the needs of residents. Over the next five years, there will also be £84m of extra funding to support local authorities to invest in initiatives that improve social work practice and decision making to help children stay at home safely with their families, where it is in their best interests.

The local government settlement for 2019-20 sees a core spending power increase from £45.1b in 2018-19 to £46.4b in 2019-20. This year’s settlement includes extra funding for local services and support vulnerable groups.

Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi said:

We want every child to have the best start in life, with the opportunities and the stability to fulfil their potential, which is why we have made £200 billion available to councils up to 2020 for local services including those for children and young people.

The government announced £84 million in evidence-based interventions which will help to reduce demand, saving money for local authorities, as well as providing a further £270 million for councils to develop improvements in their services.

The number of local children’s services rated outstanding is growing, and the number rated inadequate has dropped by a third since 2017 – from 30 down to 19. By 2022, I want this reduced to fewer than 10 per cent of councils, and we are on track to meet this.

University Sexual Assaults

Today, several national outlets have reported on research by sexual health charity Brook, which says that over half of female university students say they have been subjected to unwanted sexual behaviour. The Guardian, the Telegraph, the Independent and the Mail all reported on this.

The government has requested that the Office for Students work with universities to tackle harassment and hate-crime in higher education, including the implementation of UUK Taskforce’s recommendations. Over £4.8m worth of grants has been allocated to 119 projects across the country, including 63 which address concerns about sexual violence and harassment on campus.

We encourage institutions to be proactive in their response to tackling sexual harassment and we urge providers to collect comprehensive data on harassment incidents so that we can continue to break down barriers to reporting these crimes.

Yesterday, we also confirmed new guidance for Relationships and Sex Education in schools, which will include teaching pupils from school-age about what respectful relationships look like, as well as consent issues and staying safe online. You can read more about this on our blog post from yesterday.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Sexual violence and harassment is illegal and can have a devastating impact on its victims. These crimes should always be reported to the police.

We have asked Universities UK to establish a sexual violence and harassment taskforce specifically to tackle the issue in higher education, and have tasked the Office for Students to work with universities to implement its recommendations.

Issues such as these are exactly why just yesterday the Education Secretary pressed ahead with plans to update sex education guidance for schools for the first time in nearly two decades.  We are also introducing relationships education to ensure all children are taught about healthy, respectful relationships and can recognise, seek help and report inappropriate behaviour, harassment, abuse or exploitation.

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