Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg

Children, Young People and Education Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

James Evans MS
Jayne Bryant MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Ken Skates MS
Laura Anne Jones MS
Sioned Williams MS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Amanda Blakeman Dirprwy Brif Cwnstabl ac Arweinydd Plismona sy'n Canolbwyntio ar Blant
Deputy Chief Constable and Child Centred Policing Lead
Cecile Gwilym Rheolwr Polisi a Materion Cyhoeddus, NSPCC
Policy and Public Affairs Manager, NSPCC
Claire Parmenter Dirprwy Brif Gwnstabl ac Arweinydd Plismona yng Nghymru
Deputy Chief Constable and Policing in Wales Lead
Dafydd Llywelyn Comisiynydd Heddlu a Throseddu Dyfed-Powys
Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys
Emma Wools Dirprwy Gomisiynydd Heddlu a Throseddu De Cymru, Arweinydd Plismona yng Nghymru
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, Policing in Wales Lead
Jamie Insole Swyddog Polisi, Undeb Prifysgolion a Cholegau
Policy Officer, University and College Union
Jane Houston Cynghorydd Polisi, Swyddfa Comisiynydd Plant Cymru
Policy Adviser, Office of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales
Jon Drake Cyfarwyddwr Uned Diogelu rhag Trais Cymru
Director of the Violence Protection Unit for Wales
Kirsty Davies Rheolwr Tîm Troseddau Ieuenctid
Youth Offending Team Manager
Maxine Thomas Uwch-arweinydd Dynodedig Diogelu a Llesiant Dysgwyr, Coleg Sir Benfro ac yn cynrychioli ColegauCymru
Designated Senior Lead Safeguarding & Learner Wellbeing, Pembrokeshire College and representing ColegauCymru
Professor Sally Holland Comisiynydd Plant Cymru
Children’s Commissioner for Wales
Sharon Davies Pennaeth Addysg, Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
Director of Education, Welsh Local Government Association
Stephen Wood Rheolwr Tîm Troseddau Ieuenctid
Youth Offending Team Manager
Sue Walker Prif Swyddog Addysg, Merthyr Tudful ac yn cynrychioli Cymdeithas Cyfarwyddwyr Addysg Cymru
Chief Education Officer, Merthyr Tydfil and representing the Association of Directors of Education in Wales

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Jennifer Cottle Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Naomi Stocks Clerc
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Tom Lewis-White Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:21.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:21. 

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da. Croeso i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg heddiw. 

Good morning. Welcome to today's meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee. 

I'd like to welcome Members to the meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee. The public items of this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv with all participants joining by video-conference. A Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. Aside from the procedural adaptations relating to conducting proceedings in hybrid format, all other Standing Order requirements for committee remain in place. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. Apologies have been received from Buffy Williams MS and there is no substitute. Are there any declarations of interest from Members? No, I can see no declaration.

2. Aflonyddu rhywiol rhwng cyfoedion ymysg dysgwyr—sesiwn dystiolaeth 2
2. Peer-on-peer sexual harassment among learners—evidence session 2

We'll move on to item 2, which is our inquiry on peer-on-peer sexual harassment among learners. This is our second evidence session. I'd like to welcome our witnesses this morning. You're very welcome. We've got with us Dafydd Llywelyn, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys; deputy chief constable Amanda Blakeman, Gwent Police; Jon Drake, director of the Wales Violence Prevention Unit; deputy chief constable Claire Parmenter, Dyfed-Powys Police; and deputy police and crime commissioner Emma Wools from South Wales Police. And we have Kirsty Davies who's the operational manager from Newport youth offending service, and I believe that Stephen Wood will be joining us, who's the youth offending team manager.

So, thank you again for joining us this morning. I know that Members have lots of detailed questions to ask you, but perhaps to start it would be good to ask each of you in turn just briefly to describe your role and your involvement in relation to dealing with sexual harassment among children and young people. So, perhaps if we start first of all with Dafydd Llywelyn. 

Diolch, Gadeirydd, a jest cyn cychwyn hoffwn i ddiolch i chi am y gwahoddiad i fod gyda chi yn rhoi tystiolaeth heddiw. Byddwn hefyd yn bachu ar y cyfle i gyfrannu at unrhyw ymgynghoriad pellach yn ysgrifenedig ar ôl y sesiwn heddiw, gan gynnwys gwahoddiad i chi fel pwyllgor, os oes angen, i chi ofyn unrhyw bwyntiau rŷch chi'n eu codi yn ysgrifenedig ar ôl y sesiwn yma heddiw. 

Thank you, Chair, and before I start I'd like to thank you for the invitation to be here to give evidence this morning. I'd also like to take the opportunity to contribute to any further consultation in written form after this session, including an invitation to you as a committee, if you need, to ask any points that you raise in written form after this session, too.

Chair, if I may just briefly then explain, I'm, as you described, Dafydd Llywelyn, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys. I'm also currently the chair of what is referred to as the policing in Wales group, which is the four police and crime commissioners and the four chief constables in Wales coming together. That is one of the reasons why I'm here giving evidence with my colleagues today. But just perhaps briefly before handing over to other operational colleagues, I could highlight how we see this agenda, the topic of today's discussions, dovetailing with our collective vision and responses, ultimately, within policing in Wales, where—


I'm happy on that, Dafydd, if you'd like—I'll ask you to go into a bit more detail on that in the next question, if that's okay.

Okay, yes.

Is that okay? So, I'll just get everybody to say what they're doing and then come back. That'll probably help. Thank you, Dafydd. Can I move on to deputy chief constable Amanda Blakeman?

Good morning, everybody. Bore da. Amanda Blakeman, deputy chief constable at Gwent Police, but also the all-Wales police lead for child-centred policing and, also, for violence against women and girls. Good morning, it's a pleasure to be here.

Bore da, bawb. Jon Drake; I'm director of the Wales Violence Prevention Unit. We're an all-Wales unit. Our mission is to prevent violence across Wales using a public health approach. We have a particular priority around the prevention of all forms of youth violence, so that's my connection to the session today. Thank you.

Good morning. Bore da, bawb. 

I'm DCC for Dyfed-Powys Police, but I also lead on behalf of the Welsh chiefs for the Wales schools programme, which, I think, will be an intrinsic part of the conversations today. So, bore da, and thank you for the invite.

Bore da, bawb, and good morning. I'm Emma Wools; I'm the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales. I have the privilege of leading on violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence on behalf of all of the PCCs across Wales.

Thank you, Emma. Stephen Wood now; I think Stephen has joined us now. 

Bore da, bawb. Steve Wood ydw i, rheolwr gwasanaeth cyfiawnder ieuenctid Gwynedd a Môn.

Good morning. I am Steve Wood, the youth justice manager for Gwynedd and Môn.

I'm the youth justice manager for Gwynedd and Môn. I'm here representing YOT Managers Cymru.

Can you just tell us a little bit about the agenda—how you're involved with this agenda?

Obviously, youth violence is a very high priority for all YOTs in Wales at present, due to the occurrences in the community and the statistics that we see of young people coming through into the service both at an early level, but also in the case management of statutory orders. We are represented on many of the national panels with regard to reducing youth violence, but, also, we are currently, as YOT Managers Cymru, looking at the effects of youth violence within schools and the effects of COVID on that.

Good morning. Hi. I just wanted to update in terms of my role. I'm a YOT manager, actually in the Vale of Glamorgan—I've taken up post recently there. I'm here in the same capacity with you as Woody, as a representative of YOT Managers Cymru, and in relation to the all-encompassing work of the youth justice services, which would be from the preventative and the intervention right the way through, as Woody highlighted, in terms of statutory interventions and orders in relation to young people and sexual harassment, and where that may lead to contact with professionals and the criminal justice system.

Thank you, and thank you all. I just thought it was really helpful for you all to just state your roles within this, because we're really grateful that you've joined us, and it's about knowing who's doing what and what your interest is in this.

As I said, Members are going to have lots of specific questions, but perhaps you could give the committee a broad overview of the law relating to sexual harassment among children and young people, and perhaps you could mention what, if anything, is actually illegal. Who wants to go? Amanda.

Yes, thank you, I'll come in, if that's okay. If I just give a very broad overview, there is quite a lot of legislation that covers all of the different permutations that we may see in relation to this type of activity and its complexities. If I go back to the criminal law Act, sexual offences, 2017, that updated the legislation really with a view to combating sexual exploitation and the sexual abuse of children. It introduced new offences of sexual grooming, it strengthened the ability to be able to tackle child sexual abuse images, and it also did a number of other things in terms of decriminalising the ability, for instance, to purchase sexual services.

So, we do utilise that part of the legislation, but there are other parts of legislation as well, for instance, the Malicious Communications Act 1988, which covers sending messages that are grossly offensive, and the Protection of Children Act 1978 covers the taking, possessing or sharing of sexualised images of a person under the age of 18. So, without going into each specific area of legislation, there is a lot of legislation out there that has been developed over time as we've started to see the proliferation, for instance, of child abuse sex images, but also in relation to other elements of behaviour that identify in this particular area.

That's a fairly short response in relation to quite a complex area; I didn't want to overstate it. Is it just the legislation that you wanted to know about, or did you want to know about prevalence?


Yes, I think Members will have some more detailed questions on this, so just an outline of the legislation was really helpful. On that matter, we'll move on to questions from Sioned Williams. Sioned.

Diolch, Cadeirydd, a bore da i chi gyd. Ie, mae gen i gwpwl o gwestiynau ynglŷn â maint a natur yr achosion o aflonyddu rhywiol rŷch chi'n eu gweld. Felly, os gallwch chi sôn efallai ychydig am natur aflonyddu rhywiol rhwng dysgwyr mewn lleoliadau addysg, felly ysgolion, colegau, unedau cyfeirio disgyblion. A allwch chi ddweud wrthym ni beth yw maint y broblem, ac efallai beth yw'r prif fathau o bethau rŷch chi'n eu gweld? Dwi ddim yn gwybod pwy sydd eisiau mynd yn gyntaf ar hynny. 

Thank you, Chair, and good morning everyone. Yes, I have a couple of questions with regard to the scale and nature of the cases of peer-on-peer sexual harassment that you see. So, could you tell us a little bit about the nature of sexual harassment between learners in educational settings, so schools, colleges, pupil referral units and so on? Could you tell us what the scale of the problem is, and perhaps what are the major kinds of instances that you see? I don't know who wants to go first on that.

I'll start and then I'll hand over to my colleague, DCC Claire Parmenter, who will give some more information in relation to schools. So, nationally, we know, in terms of, especially when we look at violence against women and girls, the number of adults, in particular women, who experience some form of sexual harassment is high. And we know that the younger individuals are, the higher that is. As many as 86 per cent of 18 to 24-year-old women have experienced some sort of sexual harassment. However, the number of women who report those incidents is low, and the reasons behind that may be that people feel that it isn't serious enough to report. In fact, the survey results came back in at around 55 per cent of women feeling that it wasn't serious enough to report, and that it wouldn't help to report it. However, we do see that women are very much—. Forty-four per cent felt that reporting an incident might prevent it from happening further. 

So, we've got work to do nationally in terms of women, and especially younger women in relation to this. But when we look at peer-on-peer within a school setting and environment, which is what you've asked for particularly, Sioned, DCC Claire Parmenter, who leads in this area, is perhaps more able to give that specific information. 

Good morning. Bore da, Sioned, thank you for the question. Yes, I think Amanda has given a high-level sort of overview there. Certainly, from my perspective, my role is to oversee the schools programme in Wales. And, as you know, colleagues in Wales will be aware that we have a footprint in every school across Wales, which is a fantastic achievement, and, of course, supported very well by Welsh Government, and is the envy of some of our colleagues the other side of the bridge in some of our English forces.

But I have to be clear in that our footprint there is to try and educate young people, to support young people, and, of course, to improve interactions with police colleagues. That's together with our neighbourhood policing teams, and, of course, our police community support officers. So, we are really keen to encourage reporting, and certainly, post the Estyn report, I wrote to every headteacher in Wales to encourage that reporting via our schools officers. That said, we of course have the SchoolBeat policy, which is a fine balance between encouraging reporting and dealing with the issues, versus, of course, the unnecessary decriminalisation of young people, which we're really conscious of as well. So, it's taking a balanced, sensible approach, through restorative approaches, through early intervention, which I know Jon will touch upon later on.

But the reality of it is that it is prevalent. I think, sadly, it has become the norm, and part of our challenge is to encourage schools to be comfortable in reporting, because, of course, there is sometimes that apprehension with schools, because when they do report it, is there going to be a feeling from their perspective that the school isn't coping and it's breeding the wrong culture et cetera? But of course we know that it is a big issue across Wales. I really want to stress that fine line between reporting the incidents, dealing with criminal matters, but of course, not criminalising young people when of course sometimes these incidents are low-level and can have a significant impact on children's lives if dealt with in the wrong way. I hope that gives you an overview and I'm sure we'll go into a bit more detail about the schools programme shortly.


Just to give a little bit more of an illustration of prevalence, policing across Wales continuously look to enhance their engagement with and seek the views of young people in terms of a wide range of policing and community safety issues. Just as an example, in the South Wales area, the Young Voices Conversation, which engages young people on a regular basis—and to date has engaged 2,000 young people—has identified a regular and common concern, particularly amongst young girls, in relation to sexual harassment in the education setting. Feedback absolutely concurs with the findings that the Estyn report has clearly uncovered from their engagement with young people and young girls. The minimisation of such behaviour as well is also being fed back to us by young people themselves. It's very much a case of not always knowing whether the issue is worthy of reporting within an education setting or to adults, and at times being told that the behaviour is technically nothing or a non-issue, giving, I think, young people the impression that there wouldn't be support available and that no action would be taken should they report those behaviours. That's just to give you a wider view about how young people are reporting back to us through our wider engagement activity in terms of this issue.

Diolch. Mae'r ddwy ohonoch chi wedi cadarnhau eich bod chi yn cytuno gyda chasgliad adroddiad Estyn bod yr ymddygiad yma wedi cael ei normaleiddio i raddau o fewn lleoliadau addysg. Ydych chi'n gwybod i ba raddau y mae achosion yn cynyddu ac ydych chi'n teimlo bod cynyddu o ran nifer yr achosion ond efallai hefyd o ran difrifoldeb yr achosion?

Thank you very much. You have both confirmed that you agree with the conclusion of the Estyn report that this behaviour has been normalised to an extent within education settings. Do you know to what extent cases are increasing and do you feel that there is an increase in terms of the number of cases but perhaps also in terms of the severity of the cases?

Shall I start? The evidence does suggest that we are seeing that across Wales in terms of increased reporting at all levels, really, from women and girls. We are seeing more reporting in schools, which is really positive. And of course, the first step is building that trust and confidence. Very often, young people don't want to tell teachers, but what we are seeing is those children have come through the primary stream into secondary and have built relationships with our schools officers. They do have really good trust and confidence in them, and that's really positive. I have a number of case studies that, as part of our written submission, I can share with you to show evidence of that, where young people really do value that relationship. I think we've got lots more work to in Wales to encourage that reporting and to make young people feel that, if they do report it, we take action where appropriate. But certainly, on the prevalence, without giving you the exact stats, certainly from my own force perspective—and I've got some briefing notes here form other forces—absolutely, yes, we are seeing it.

In terms of severity, well, of course, where those cases are severe, they would be dealt with appropriately, and where there's a criminal act, obviously, that would be dealt with appropriately. But I think we should realise that this is a societal impact and of course a much wider cultural impact in terms of the normalisation. Some of the national tragic cases we've seen in terms of violence against women and girls and young people have only added to that. So, I think we've got more work to do.

Thank you, Claire. We would appreciate any further information that you do have, any briefings. That would be very helpful. Amanda.

Just to add to the comments that my colleague has made, we do know that these incidents are increasing. We do know that because of the fact that movements like Everyone's Invited—a national movement that called for evidence in relation to online communities around sexual harassment within the education settings particularly—have highlighted a vast array of anonymous testimonies that have been submitted and shared. We have gone through those in terms of Wales to understand that from a Wales perspective, so that we can identify those school establishments in order to be able to look at doing that work. I think that indicates to you that the prevalence is there, but we do have a situation where young people don't want to tell their teachers in respect of it, and they certainly don't want to identify that to parents. We know that attitudes are significantly influenced by what's happening on social media. I think there is a real complexity of issues to try to get to grips with in order to get that confidence around reporting, and in order for young people to feel that they're not in trouble for something that's happened to them, and obviously to allow us to move those anonymous testimonies into supported testimonies that we can then work with and help and support, and seek to tackle this really important issue.


Fe wnaethoch chi gyffwrdd arno fe fanna, Claire, o ran y rhai mwyaf difrifol. Does dim angen yr ystadegau union, ond yn fras, pa fath o gyfran o'r achosion yma sydd yn cyrraedd y trothwy ar gyfer trosedd? Sut mae'r rheini'n cael eu hymdrin â nhw? I ba raddau mae'r rhai sydd yn gysylltiedig â'r achosion hyn yn cael eu harestio a'u herlyn?

You touched on it there, Claire, in terms of the most severe cases. We don't need the exact statistics, but in general terms, what kind of proportion of the cases that you're seeing reach that threshold for criminality? How are those dealt with? To what extent are those involved with those cases being arrested and prosecuted?

Certainly, if those are the exact details and stats you want for each force, we can collate that, but that's obviously a bit of work that would need to be done outside. As a general principle, of course you'll be aware that children up to the age of 10 would not be prosecuted. For children between the ages of 10 and 17, each offence would be assessed. We would do a THRIVE risk assessment, we would look at that with partner agencies, there would be a safeguarding referral that would assess the whole situation, who is the victim, who is the subject, what are the background situations, has that individual had previous incidents of behaviour of a similar nature. Then, it might be that a restorative justice approach is appropriate, it may be that a caution is appropriate, or it may be actually that a criminal output is the most beneficial output in that particular case. Each case would be looked at on its own merits.

What we see is that, because of the content that we're putting into schools—we have three lessons; one is think before you share, one is anti-bullying, and one is sexting—by giving children the information—. There's one case study, for example, where a young child has taken an indecent picture of himself, had it on his phone, and did not realise that that was going to be an offence. So we were very early able to go in and give appropriate advice and deal with that matter. So, it's back to the point I made earlier, really, about we do not want to criminalise young people in Wales unnecessarily, but of course, where there's a risk, and if it's a repeat offender, for example, then we would of course need to take action. But certainly in terms of numbers, as a general rule we do not see a large amount of serious high threat and risk cases. Lots and lots of them are lower level, but of course, we're keen to take appropriate action at that stage so that there's no escalation.

Jest i fod yn glir o ran y trothwy, mae yna agweddau gwahanol o ymateb. Mae yna ymateb uniongyrchol yn y lle cyntaf gan yr ysgol, a chydweithio rhwng yr ysgol a'r swyddog sydd yn gweithio—

Just to be clear in terms of the threshold, there are different aspects of response. There is a direct response in the first instance by the school, there's co-operation between the school and the officer—

Sorry to interrupt you, Dafydd. There's a problem with your translation. We're hearing your voice and—I think everybody else is the same—the English at the same level, so it's really difficult to understand. I know that somebody's trying to fix that.

No problem at all. I'm happy to give the answer in English.

Are you sure? Sorry. Apologies for that. I know they're trying to fix it.

Is that any better for people?

We can hear you speaking fine, it's just that you voice and the translator are at the same level. It's okay for others, I think.

Okay. That's fine. I was just explaining that, obviously, there are thresholds in that activity, as has been explained by Claire. But the point I wanted to make was about this partnership working between non-devolved and devolved institutions. Policing is working within schools, and the SchoolBeat programme is obviously funded and supported by Welsh Government, and we're very, very grateful for that support. But then wider than that, if there is an escalation of those incidents, bearing in mind the different thresholds that are worked within, then there's that interaction with the unitary authority as well within the youth service provision, and the work that we've done, the strong work that we've got in Wales, of having a restorative approach around youth justice, and the youth bureaux. They are called different things across the different unity authority areas, but certainly in the Dyfed-Powys area, we have youth bureaux, and that is where we have a police individual working alongside youth justice colleagues within a unitary authority in that setting to again build on that level of intervention. The severity would—. In my opinion, having researched this area prior to becoming the police and crime commissioner, as well as being active in this activity for the last six years, the last intervention is that criminal justice intervention where possible, in order to give young people that opportunity to learn from some of their mistakes, but at the same time, safeguarding individuals that are potentially caused harm. That incremental threshold and the way in which we interact with partner agencies is really important in terms of the delivery of justice within Wales.


Diolch. A yw'r cyfieithu'n iawn gyda fi nawr?

Thank you. Is the interpretation working okay with me now?

Iawn. Un cwestiwn olaf gen i, te, i gynrychiolwyr y timau troseddau ieuenctid: pa mor aml yn eich gwaith chi ŷch chi'n dod ar draws pobl sy'n aflonyddu'n rhywiol, a beth yw natur eich cysylltiad chi â nhw?

Okay. One final question from me to the representatives of the youth offending teams: how often in your work do you come across perpetrators of sexual harassment, and what is the nature of your involvement with them?

Would you like me to go, Kirsty? Yes?

I'll just go back a couple of questions if you don't mind, and just talk about trend. What we're seeing in youth justice at the moment—and I speak primarily for north Wales, but I know trends in other parts of Wales are the same—is that we saw a significant increase in the reporting of inappropriate sexual behaviour within schools and the community over the past five to seven years. However, we have seen a plateauing of that in recent times. There hasn't been a significant increase over the last two or three years, but the numbers there are still quite high and different to what they were five to seven years ago.

We can link that to community and society in general, but one of the things we are aware of is when we put a 4G phone in the hands of a child and they can access whatever they like on social media—. We know there's been a lot of work done politically to reduce the access to pornography sites on social media in recent times, which is welcome, but also, there's the issue of society in general where we have misogynistic behaviours across the age groups and that does feed down to our younger children, so you will see sexual harassment, inappropriate sexual language being used, and that does then move into the inappropriate sharing of sexualised texting—sexting—and harassment and abuse. So, it is there; it's part of our work over the last five to seven years, I would say. Here in Wales, we have had a very good response to that. There are many projects that have been developed over that time to assist with the police schooling project and with children's services.

Just to feed on what Dafydd and others have spoken about with regard to the bureaux, let's take first those lower level sexual offences or inappropriate behaviours that children will be involved in. When it is reported to the police, and the child isn't known to the criminal justice system and youth justice services, a bureau process will be available for them, so the police will give the details to youth justice services about the incident. They will, in that referral through the youth offender 8 form, tell us what their feelings are about an outcome. We will meet with the child, we'll meet with the parents, we will speak to the victim, we will make an assessment of the incident and we will assist the police and others, the CPS, to make decisions on what is the most appropriate outcome there.

Obviously, in Wales, we have a child-centred approach, a child-first approach. We want to minimise the criminalisation of children. Where it is appropriate, the child will receive or be offered an out-of-court disposal. It could be a caution or a youth conditional caution, which is recordable by the police and does go on to their record, but also we have the restorative justice option, which is voluntary. The child must admit guilt for what they have done, they must be willing to engage with the victim, if the victim is happy with that, and they will be subject to 12 to 14 weeks intervention from the youth justice service. And that needs to be agreed by all before the police can make a decision not to give a caution or to proceed to prosecution and take them to court. Now, that's worked very well for us. It works well for youth justice services and, obviously, benefits the victim, but also benefits the young person to prevent further behaviours happening again. There's an educational programme attached to it and, through the victim work and restorative work, we will educate the young person on the impacts of their behaviour on the victim, but on society, on the school and them and the family from that behaviour.

But there are also other programmes that we're working on, and we'll maybe touch on them later, about specific areas of working with schools and some of our health colleagues and children's services around improving awareness of what is appropriate, what is inappropriate, what is harmful and what is offending behaviour. 


But then, to jump forward to prosecution, where there's a significant offence occurred, what we need first is the police and children's services to carry out a section 47 discussion and possible investigation, and then it will be referred to us via the police anyway if there is a crime. There will be a two-way role there; they run parallel, the section 47 investigation for child protection and to safeguard all those that have been involved, but also the criminal prosecution, where the youth justice services will be, again, asked to assess the young person and to support the police and CPS for appropriate disposal via the court.

I'd like to say that is becoming rarer, because we've managed to work a little bit further upstream with schools, with the police to make sure people are aware of what's right, what's wrong, what's appropriate, what's inappropriate and what will happen to you if you commit an offence.

Thank you, Stephen. I'm just conscious of time. We'll move on, now, to some questions from Laura Jones about the causes and impact. Laura.

Thank you, Chair. Yes, I just want to ask about the causes and impact of peer-on-peer social harassment now. The youth offending team have just given some excellent examples of what he thought were causes, but I just wanted to ask all of you: what do you think are the main causes of the increase in incidents of sexual harassment among children and young people? And to what extent do you think this is driven, as Stephen alluded to, by what young people are accessing online, exposure to inappropriate behaviours and content, for example, pornography—and, of course, you also said, I think, Stephen, inappropriate language, maybe in schools and whatever else, other environments—and how that's contributing towards unhealthy attitudes on relationships and sexuality? And if so, do you think parents are taking enough of a role in this regard? Thank you.

Thank you. Thanks very much. So, just in relation to what's driving behaviour, I think it's important to recognise the whole issue around violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence as a whole. What we do see is a prevalence of sexual violence and harassment within the night-time economy, for instance. So, as young people get older, they'll go into those environments where that's certainly prevalent. They may have older siblings who are experiencing that behaviour, or, indeed, may be perpetrating it. So, from a prevention point of view, I think it's addressing the issue from two very different but connected perspectives. Obviously, one is in relation to interventions within the school, and there's a lot of evidence about the success of conducting interventions at school, such as peer-led programmes, bystander training programmes, and the impact that that has, not only on preventing harm to young people at the time, but also in terms of changing those dangerous norms as people get older as well.

I think also a lot of the wider work that's done around violence against women and girls, such as within the night-time economy and as part of the all-Wales taskforce that Amanda and Emma chair, is actually also going to be really complementary to preventing this specific type of sexual harassment and sexual violence as well within schools. So, my argument from a violence prevention point of view is that all this harm is very much linked, and what you can't do is just hang your hat, for instance, on being exposed to issues online; I think it's very much a challenge for the whole of society.


Yes. So, I would agree with that. I think that the online does have a significant part when you consider the amount of access that children can have, and that becomes then normalised. But I would say that it isn't just in relation to the online; it's about society, it's about culture, it's about the reality, the Love Island, the whole wider perspective of influences on our young people, but also in terms of those gendered assumptions, because we look at it in terms of violence against women and girls, which is absolutely right, but there's also a real lack of clarity about what it is to be a male in terms of appropriate behaviours and the pressures, if you look at young people of different genders in terms of what they feel that that is. And they may have had those messages to behave in these ways that are misogynistic, but that has become very much part of a wider cultural norm, and, within schools, that is really just a microcosm, isn't it, of society. So, I think it is about the online, I think, yes, there is a specific element in terms of what children can access online, but it is wider, it's about everyday influences that impact everybody within society.

Thank you. Just to agree with what Jon and Kirsty have already said in terms of this being a much wider societal issue. I think, as we would all say, we're all a product of the communities and the social environment that we are growing up in. And there's constant exposure and, I think, reinforcement of those sexist stereotypes, behaviours and misogynistic attitudes in every walk of life, so this is an enormous endeavour that we have in terms of being able to change that culture around.

But I wanted to move on to impact; I think Laura talked about it. So, we, in policing, and I know with a wide range of our partners, have very much taken the public health evidence around adverse childhood experiences, which have really illustrated to us the impact of such behaviours, particularly sexual abuse, and, no doubt, in more detail, those lower level behaviours in relation to sexual harassment. I think that impact is far-reaching. So, for young people and learners within an education environment, if this is something that they're constantly exposed to, it has an impact on their ability to engage in education in the first instance.

We know, through feedback we've had from children and young people, through our schools programme, through the engagement work that's been done in the violence prevention unit and the wider work that we've been taking forward in terms of engagement, that mental health is really affected when this behaviour is going on. And then, of course, you've got those wider impacts if those mental health issues are sustained and not addressed—that inability to engage in an education setting, which may mean that young people end up outside of that mainstream education; they have much longer term impacts in terms of life course outcomes. And I think the ACEs evidence quite starkly illustrates for us what that could end up looking like for children and young people who've had exposure to such harmful behaviours, that this not only translates into—how can I put it—that socialisation and that education impact, but it equally does in terms of wider health implications and behaviours going forward—so, that substance misuse, potentially ending up in the criminal justice system. So, again, I think we've got a significant endeavour from all partners to make sure that we are trauma informed and trauma aware, and particularly understanding that the exposure to the low level behaviour can equally have as significant an impact as that higher end sexual abuse and sexual assault that we might see.


Amanda. I'm just conscious of time as well, so, Amanda, if you'd like to—.

Yes. I'll be very brief, but a very important point, I think. We were talking about this whole issue in terms of impact, and I suppose we need to look no further back than the horrific murder of Sarah Everard and what we have seen in policing and our absolute commitment to tackle that across our own organisation, as a reflection of what is happening in society, what is happening in lots of other sectors and environments. We've got a wholescale, I think, piece of work and approach to be able to really land in terms of challenging attitudes, behaviours, across the board that start and form in our children and then carry on across society, and that's a huge piece of work for us to be able to land.

From a policing perspective, myself, Claire, and all the other chief officers across Wales, are absolutely committed to making sure that we have safe, happy environments for our staff to work in, and that members of the public are able to go to police officers as a point and place of safety. But you can see the scale of the impact and the scale of the issue in order to be able to tackle and challenge those attitudes and behaviours.

Yes. Thank you. This is obviously—. It's obviously a wider societal issue as well, but just going back to the end of my question, how do you see parents' role in this, and do you think that they're getting enough support to be able to support their children in terms of maybe looking at the online content their children are looking at and that sort of thing? And, obviously, the entire issue. Thank you.

Yes. I think it's a really valid point, and I think, for some parents, it'll be a real challenge. So, what we try to do through the schools programme is we try to extend that education and that access to material and resources that we have for parents as well. So, our SchoolBeat website contains lots and lots of information, guidance, podcasts and signposts to many other organisations, third sector et cetera, whereby parents can seek that help and support. And I think part of what we try to do is embed ourselves in the schools so much that, if, as a parent, you feel you really do need that point of contact, then we hope that they have the trust and confidence to go to those schools officers for that guidance. Because it is an incredibly complex area, and with the best will in the world, sometimes, for officers to keep up with legislation, changes to issues; I think it's a real challenge for some parents.

And, of course, we've touched upon it, but I don't think we should underestimate the impact that COVID has had as well, both on young people and their families, and the pressure that has put on parents, when you take children out of the education setting, people who've tried to maintain jobs, maintain work lives, educate children at home; it has been a massive challenge. And I think in terms of planning, from a partnership approach, a Welsh Government approach for the next five to 10 years, the well-being of children post COVID should be absolutely front and centre in those plans.

Thank you. Yes, thank you for that. That's a very valid point, actually, because we know that people were online much more during those lockdowns—children—and it wasn't as 'policed' I want to say, but you're the police, within the households as much, because of, as you said, other things—parents were working, or whatever the situation would have been. So, it is definitely part of the problem, I think, and exacerbated it.

My final question is: how are certain groups of learners, for example, LGBT, or girls, or boys, particularly supported with this problem, and what help and support is available to them as victims? Thank you.

Yes. So, we've got a little bit of research around what does that look like, and I think, particularly around children with particular—. Certainly, in terms of the offending patterns, we do see, on some occasions, children who have particular learning difficulties—. Sometimes, it's more of a challenge for them to be able to express themselves, and sometimes that can manifest itself in inappropriate ways, i.e. inappropriate texts, inappropriate messaging et cetera. Certainly, I think some of the evidence we've seen nationally and, indeed, some of the evidence in the Estyn report would suggest that, sometimes, children with specific characteristics will be unfairly targeted by other groups. So, absolutely, yes, some children who identify as LGBTQ or have a particular disability will naturally be unfairly targeted, sometimes, by children in schools. So, I think what we try and do is we try and put that wraparound support in terms of them, additional support where needed, and, again, just building those strong relationship with the schools officers, really. But, in terms of have we got a specific programme just targeting those individuals, no, but, certainly, the schools officers are more than aware of children who are more likely to be targeted, to be at risk, and, of course, they will put that additional support in.

Amanda's done a lot of work in this space, particularly around disability. Amanda, I wonder whether there's anything you wanted to add on that.


If I come to the approach that we've taken in Wales that complements the National Police Chiefs' Council approach, it's very much in terms of our child-centred policing work, very much set out along the vision and the mission of child first, offender second approach, and also, making sure that we are consistent and fair in relation to how we support and understand young people and what their needs are. Particularly, the work that the police and crime commissioners have done around engagement in this area is absolutely critical to us, because that very rich environment comes back to us with specific feedback.

Specifically, I can talk about Gwent, but I know it's happened within all of the force areas. That specific feedback that's come back from young people about what they need in order to be able to feel safe and happy within the environments that they are in, whether that's an online community, whether that's at school, whether that's at home, allows us to be able to shape our response in terms of our child-centred policing response. So, I would say that that—I don't know whether Emma wants to talk any more about the engagement work that I know south Wales have embedded, and, certainly, Dafydd will, as well—has been absolutely golden to us, from that reaching to young people, listening to the children's voice, understanding children's choices, understanding the pressures and environments they're in, understanding all of the diverse make-up within our communities and our young communities. Being able to provide a fit-for-purpose policing response starts with that engagement, and that engagement has got to be whole and it's got to have the ability to get that very true position from our young people. So, I would say that that has been something that has really assisted us in the child-centred policing approach that we've taken across Wales, and as we look at our best practice framework that we've got in place across Wales, then that is very much at the core of how we seek to structure our responses and our service provision.

Thank you, Amanda. I think James has got some questions now around intervention work by the police, so, hopefully, you'll be able to cover those off now. James.

Thank you, Chair. I know some of the questions that you've already answered have answered some of the things that I'm going to ask, but I'll try and go on a different tack, a little bit. Community school liaison officers through the police, I think, do do a valuable role. I know they go into schools and talk about substance misuse, and do you think they can play a bigger role here in trying to prevent sexual harassment and the education of children, and what more can they do around that?

If I start, and then perhaps I'll bring Jon in, because I know Jon is particularly involved around the prevention work. I probably touched upon this earlier, but part of what we are really keen to do is to ensure that the curriculum that we support, and the curriculum that we deliver, is fit for purpose for today's issues in society. So, for example—you're right—a lot of the work that we did previously was around substance misuse, and whilst that's still an issue, there are other, very relevant issues, such as violence against women and girls, such as child sexual exploitation, such as race and inclusion that we want to make sure are embedded in the curriculum. So, we are working really closely with Welsh Government in ensuring that the curriculum for September does actually pick up on all of those issues. We are in every school in Wales. I think, in the last six months, for example, we've delivered over 8,000 lessons, all of which have got content in there about the areas that we're discussing today, but actually we know that we could be doing more. But, it's a fine line between stepping into the space of the teachers and keeping it from a policing perspective about building that trust and confidence and that access to report. So, I think we do cover an awful lot of the content, but absolutely, for September, we want that to be much, much tighter to the curriculum.

Jon, from a VPU perspective, was there anything to add from your perspective?


Yes, I totally agree with everything you've said there, Claire, and I would commend the schools programme in Wales. We're incredibly lucky to have the availability of police officers to go into schools across Wales, and there's certainly a role for trusted adults being in schools alongside teachers. So, it is a very, very important part of prevention. However, when we also look at things that work to prevent sexual violence, I just come back to those issues around research around the effectiveness of things like bystander programmes, work with peers as well, so taking a peer-led approach, and all of those are seen as particularly helpful at changing culture and changing gender norms. So, I think that police officers in schools is one of a range of interventions within the school area that can be effective, but I think it's really important to look at these other wider programmes as well. It needs to be part of a whole approach to the prevention of sexual violence in schools. 

Thank you for that. So, in your opinion, then, do you think that the current legal framework and the criminal justice system do enough to deal with sexual harassment towards younger people?

Thank you, James. I think I gave a very, very brief overview of the types of legislation. The legislation framework in relation to dealing with a wide and diverse variety of offending type, I think, is probably there. I think the issues are more around how we interact in that prevention space, especially when we're talking around very young people being involved in this approach. So, within the schools programme, I suppose the value of that has been that, in reality, it allows us to be able to intervene at that sort of inappropriate, problematic level and deal appropriately with the legislation framework where that is abusive or even violent. So, obviously, it allows us to be able to have that scope, to be able to work with the youth offending service, to be able to make sure that we follow the principles of a child-centred approach to this and try to intervene, educate, deter and divert. I think the legislation framework is wide enough. I don't know whether colleagues want to come in, and, certainly, the commissioners may have a slightly different view in relation to that. But, in terms of tools in our armoury to be able to deal with this, then, yes, it's the appropriateness in terms of age, development, the types of events, the risk assessment around it, and how we can prevent that happening further.

Not particularly a different view, I guess. It's just to reinforce what Amanda has said by making a statement that I don't think there's one legislative golden bullet that needs changing in order to deal with this. This is something where, within the current arrangements and parameters that we have, as we've explained in relation to the child-centred approach to policing and the way in which we're working in partnership with other agencies, this early intervention and prevention focus is critical—is critical, ultimately. The only aspect of it, I guess, where we diverge slightly, is the extension of that to behaviour that might be described as misogynistic. Misogyny within our communities is perhaps the area where we would want to explore how that could be legislated for, because, at the moment, our work doesn't cover that activity. For me, that's why, again, the development and the dynamic nature of the schools programme and the curriculum that Claire talked about is really important, because there are opportunities to provide some of that wider awareness and understanding to young people as they go through the education system, to ultimately make them better citizens within Wales and understand their role and the part that they play in relation to that, again echoing a little bit of what Jon has said in relation to that bystander and those bystander peer-led programmes that are in place. But, I guess the next dynamic would be: how could we extend that to that misogyny that we see playing out in our society and also within the education setting with young people, when we've talked about the wider sexualised behaviour that perhaps is driven with online activity and other things? That would be the area that, certainly from a police commissioner perspective, we'd be interested in having further discussions in relation to.


It's just to come back in on that and, I suppose, pick up on a point that Laura made earlier around parents. I'm a parent and, as a parent, you're expected to be a child psychologist, a social worker, a police officer and know and understand a huge framework that's out there in terms of legislation, child development, and so on and so forth, whilst, behind it all, social media is going at an alarming rate. Children keep up with that, but us as parents perhaps don't. Where we could do some effective work—and Claire has already started this—is that parental ability to be able to understand that increase and vast movement across social media, so that they are able to have those conversations with their child, to understand what they're looking at, what is happening with them, and also, I suppose, instil that confidence that they aren't going to be in trouble for telling a parent something that perhaps they may feel has been generated by themselves.

So, it is a really challenging environment to work in, and sometimes we go to the legislation and say, 'What else do we need to legislate?', when, actually, this is a really challenging area for parents and professionals to get right for the vast and diverse array of problems that we'll see and the emotions that are tied up in that, including that online community that develops at an alarming rate. You think you're keeping up with it, and then it's moved on.

That's a really good point. James, did you have any other questions?

Yes, I've got one final question. It's actually on social media, so I'm glad we've gone down this bit of a rabbit hole at the minute. I know you said that legislation's wide enough on this, Amanda. One thing I do worry about is that people fake their age—they fake their profiles to go on social media. So, when somebody says they're 16, they could be 13, and when they're '18', they're only 16, and people who are talking to them, from the other side of things, actually think they're older than what they are, and those people are committing an offence when actually they think they're talking to somebody older. And, vice versa, those people are lying to get on that platform, and it does allow them—people on the other side—to actually exploit younger people, and I think that's totally wrong. So, do you think we need to tighten up legislation around social media to make sure that we have got the correct checks and balances in place to make sure that, when people are signing up for social media, there are checks done to verify age, to verify their address and to make sure that parents know that they are on social media and to actually warn them about the impacts that that can have and the devastating effects that can happen if you meet the wrong person on social media? And that's my last question, Chair. Thank you.

I think it's a really good point, isn't it, and, James, you touched on a reason that a child may not want to tell a parent that they are being exploited online, because, actually, they perhaps haven't been as honest as you'd want them to be in terms of their age for accessing a particular platform.

We do also have the situation, of course, where parents allow children to access platforms when they're not old enough to do so, and do allow them to use dates of birth that aren't accurate, because it's a peer pressure around being on that platform. It's the same as playing video games that have got an age range on it. James, you're absolutely right—it is an incredibly complex area and one that covers a whole range of criminality, not only from peer-to-peer sexual abuse but to wider sexual abuse. I think, whatever we did in relation to it, we would have to step through very carefully, because I think we'd solve one problem and create another. So, it's how we do that and how we work through the fact that, obviously, with everything, people see a route around it and, also, we do have a situation where some parents, wrongly in my view, will allow a child to go on a platform when they're not old enough to do so and allow them to put in inappropriate, untruthful age ranges in order to be able to do it.


Thank you, Amanda. Claire, do you want to come in on that, briefly?

Yes, it was a very brief point, just to add to James's concern, really. I think there are two things. One is, of course, as policing we do have an online presence in terms of trying to protect children and young people, and we have officers who operate online on our behalf in order to do that, but, of course, resources are difficult, aren't they? So, that's just one reassurance point.

I think you're right—I think there is a corporate social responsibility here on businesses and some of the big internet providers to do more to support policing in making this a much easier field to police.

Okay, thank you, Claire. How effectively do you think schools, colleges, PRUs and other agencies, including the Welsh Government, are working together to address this issue? What more do you think they could do? Dafydd and then Emma.

Yes, just briefly, as I'm conscious of time as well, to say that, and I think it's been alluded to by some of the other colleagues this morning, very often, when we compare and contrast with other forces, in particular across in England—because we're a non-devolved agency, we obviously look very often to the England-and-Wales set-up—we are blessed with the schools programme, so I think a lot is already being done. There's an opportunity to inform and influence some of that delivery from a policing point of view, but also working in partnership with agencies such as, in particular, the youth service and unitary authorities, all of which, of course, sit within a devolved environment. So, I think we're in a good place, and I think we're now at a transition to getting to what, hopefully, will be a better place. A lot of that is led, then, by Welsh Government strategies around, in particular, violence against women and girls. I'm looking forward to sitting as the co-chair of the inaugural ministerial board for violence against women and girls with the Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt, which will, hopefully, have its inaugural meeting in June.

These are progressive steps that we're taking, and, ultimately, working in conjunction, bridging the devolved and non-devolved, is where we see, hopefully, things improving even further. So, I think we're in a good place, but there's more to do. Perhaps Emma might come in with some of the detail in relation to the next steps that we're taking, if that's okay, Chair.

Thank you, Chair. Just to reinforce the point that the commissioner has made, there's a real opportunity, I think, here to accelerate the scale and pace of change in relation to this area, particularly through the new Welsh Government VAWDASV strategy. We're working very collaboratively with the Welsh Government on shaping the new strategy, particularly focusing on prevention and the call for a dedicated area of work around children and young people.

The commissioner has mentioned the inaugural national partnership board that will be co-chaired by him and the Minister for Social Justice. As a precursor to that board being established, in terms of driving work and accountability with partners, policing in Wales has taken a steer to set up a Wales taskforce, which involves Welsh Government colleagues, policing, wider criminal justice partners, non-Government organisations and all of those who are going to contribute heavily to addressing this issue. As a group of senior leaders in that taskforce, we have very much debated and covered the issue around peer-to-peer sexual harassment and the normalisation of this behaviour, recognising that we have to focus on our children and young people and a prevention element to this new strategy in order to be able to sustain that change.

Some of the practical things and actions that we're taking forward as a result of those conversations are working collaboratively now with Welsh Government officials to support and contribute to their peer-to-peer action plan, which is their direct and immediate response to the Estyn report and Everyone's Invited. As I mentioned, we're seeking to introduce a very specific priority around children and young people in the new strategy and programme of delivery. The schools programme is increasingly being discussed and considered as being central to addressing this issue and, I think, well recognised, certainly by our Welsh Government colleagues and, now, wider partners.

Also, two other areas of priority for us are data, going back to the beginning of the conversation that we've had in this session around prevalence. We need to enhance and enrich that data and information picture that all partners might have in order for us all to better understand exactly what that issue looks like.

And then, finally, on sexual harassment in an education setting, whilst we've talked very much around that evidence in terms of secondary schools, I think we recognise that we have to train our attention to that higher education setting as well as that primary education setting to be able to start to teach children at the earliest opportunity around what are healthy behaviours and healthy relationships. So, from a partnership perspective, I think I'd like the opportunity to say and reassure this committee that there is absolute commitment and intent to work as a multi-agency, with clear accountability or joint accountability between leaders, both devolved and non-devolved partners. 


Thank you, Emma. I can see Stephen wants to come in, but I'm just very aware that we're over time, and I'd like to bring Ken in and, maybe, Stephen, you can wrap it up in the answer to Ken's questions.

Thanks, Chair, and, again, I'm conscious of time, but just an opportunity, really, for our guests today to be able to make any direct recommendations they'd like to see in our report, and would they be able to share with us any suggestions for what the Welsh Government should be considering? Are there any other comments that anyone would like to make? 

Thanks, Jayne, and yes, I'll be quick. So, firstly, there is a huge responsibility on parents here. I'll just say that to confirm and support what others have said. Children in this space are way ahead of all of us, whether we're professionals or parents, with regard to social media, and we need to get more savvy and we need to help parents to be more savvy around what children are accessing on the very dangerous phones that they're allowed to have these days. So, that's the first one.

The second part I want to start with is that, back in 2012, there was a Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation inspection on sexual offences committed by children. The outcome of that thematic inspection was that lots of behaviours that had escalated to very serious offences had gone in the past unchallenged, ignored or swept under the carpet, or there was a lack of professional awareness about what behaviours were being displayed at a very young age. Now, we worked with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children on this, on developing our harmful sexual behaviour audit tool. The upshot of that was we developed Tîm Emrallt here in Gwynedd through the integrated care fund. That is a group of professionals—education, health and children's services—who are trained in the awareness of all the different programmes that are available for schools and for health professionals, to be aware of what is normal sexual behaviour or sexual interaction between each group, what is appropriate, normal, what is inappropriate, what is harmful. 

And our project over the last four years has been engaging with primary schools, secondary schools, health professionals to work upstream to help to train staff to be aware of what they're seeing, why maybe children are behaving the way they are, how to discuss this with parents, what appropriate programmes are available nationwide both in Wales and in England to address some of those behaviours, but also to support staff who are carrying out assessments and interventions with children who have committed serious offences. So, there are models out there of engaging with both children and professionals to deal with this. There just needs to be an upscaling of it. But many of the children that we see that come to us on the inappropriate and harmful levels are subject to trauma. The reason that they behave the way they do is because they see it in the household, they see it within the family and they see it within the community. They think it's normal behaviour. So, then they're challenged and they're shown that there's a different way to behave between one another, and especially towards females—women and girls—and whether they actually realise how their behaviour impacts on others. So, there is a huge piece of work to be done here, both in society and amongst professionals, and it does, as Emma says, need a partnership approach. 

Okay, thank you, Stephen. Who else would like to come in on some recommendations? Dafydd.


Just briefly, and you're not going to be surprised, as a police and crime commissioner, focusing on the commissioner, that I'm going to mention funding. I suppose all of the work that we do from a strategic point of view needs to be supported by a show of intent through additional funding. We've seen over the years a reduction in funding in relation to youth services provision, in particular. I think that is an area of activity that we would like to see being increased. Early intervention and prevention is the theme, ultimately, from a policing perspective and our partners that are busy within their space.

And the other aspect, and this comes a little bit more from the lived experience of being married to a teacher and the father of five children, or young adults and children, is that I think the training within the education setting is going to be vital and important for us as well. So, as we move to slightly altering, I guess, the schools programme and the curriculum that's at play there, it would be wise to have some form of specific training within that education setting. Whether coming from the perspective of youth service, and/or policing from a legislative point of view, I would just personally suggest that those would be areas that need to be identified and prioritised, and, again, it would then follow that they would need some additional funding.

Thank you, Chair. So, just absolutely to agree with the points that both Stephen and Dafydd have raised in terms of the need for collective investment in prevention activity and particularly around trauma-informed responses and practice. I think the only two I would add to that, as I've mentioned before, are, first, reducing barriers to data sharing. I think the only way to get an effective response is to absolutely be clear and understand the whole picture of the issues. So, where we can reduce barriers to sharing data between partners, that would be really welcomed. And I think, finally, and most importantly is putting children and young people at the centre of designing solutions. Certainly, through our engagement with young people, they've come up with some really, really fantastic ideas, and it would be great for us to be able to respond to those at scale, so that we've heard exactly what it is that is going to make the greatest impact for them as young people.

Most definitely. Thank you, Emma. That's really important, and I think you've given us all a lot of ideas here for our recommendations, so thank you very much for that. Is there anybody else, finally, before we come to an end? No. Okay. Well, thank you so much. That was a really fascinating session. Thank you for your time. I know that Claire has said that she will provide some more information to the committee, but if any of you have any other information you would like to share with us on this issue, please do so. You will receive a transcript in the coming weeks to check through. Thank you for attending. And to my committee members, just to say that we're going to take a very brief comfort break.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:33 a 10:42.

The meeting adjourned between 10:33 and 10:42.

3. Aflonyddu rhywiol rhwng cyfoedion ymysg dysgwyr—sesiwn dystiolaeth 3
3. Peer-on-peer sexual harassment among learners—evidence session 3

Welcome back for item 3 on peer-on-peer sexual harassment among learners. This is our third evidence session. I'd like to welcome Sharon Davies, director of education for the Welsh Local Government Association, and Sue Walker, the chief education officer for Merthyr Tydfil, and representing the Association of Directors of Education in Wales. You're very welcome, and thank you for joining us today. We've got some detailed questions from Members, and we've got a tight timescale. So, we'll start with some questions from Sioned Williams.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Bore da. Rŷch chi'n dweud yn eich papur fod cael gafael ar wybodaeth am y maes yma yn heriol, ond, ar sail yr hyn rŷch chi'n gwybod, beth yw maint y broblem o ran aflonyddu rhywiol rhwng dysgwyr mewn ysgolion ac unedau cyfeirio disgyblion, a beth yw natur yr aflonyddu hynny? Ac a allwch chi hefyd efallai gyfeirio at ysgolion cynradd nad oedden nhw'n rhan o adolygiad Estyn?

Thank you, Chair. Good morning. You state in your paper that accessing information about this issue is challenging, but, based on what you do know, what is the scale of the problem in terms of sexual harassment between learners in school and pupil referral units, and what is the nature of that harassment? And can you also refer to primary schools that weren't part of the Estyn review in your responses, please?

Sharon? [Inaudible.] That's okay, Sharon, you're on. Did you want to start?

Yes, I'll happily start. Thank you for your question. I think it is challenging for numerous reasons, and the main one is because this isn't collected in the protected characteristics that schools do formally give in their data, and, therefore, this is challenging for us and for local authorities. It's an area that has been flagged up, and it's an area we do need to work on, but it's understanding how best to collect this data because it's not the easiest of data to collect, as you can appreciate, and it's also understanding the nature—as in, it's sexual harassment and that can incorporate quite a large remit in some respects. So, it's understanding, then, the nature of the data. So, (1), what data needs to be collected and, (2), how does that data—? It's key for that data to be able to inform policy and to enable the next steps, to see what can be done, what is the problem, how big a problem it is, and what's the solution.


I think you mentioned the scale of it, and I think it varies, and it varies at particular times as well. When it's in the media, we hear more about it. This is the issue, it comes to the forefront and then it seems to sort of die down. Prior to the pandemic, we were certainly seeing—. We thought that the issue of sexting was sort of diminishing. However, I think, as the children and the young people went into lockdown, they were communicating more on social media, so we are hearing anecdotally that there has been more harassment via social media, but that hasn't been reported to schools because the children weren't in schools; they were learning at home. It is creeping into the primary sector. It has been seen as the domain of the secondary schools, but, as we know, our primary pupils are more savvy and they're more socially aware, so we are seeing it creeping into the primary sector as well. And your PRUs are slightly different, so we see it sort of—. Most of our PRU children—and I speak from my authority—are boys, and they don't tend to say a lot of it. So, we're not hearing a lot of it; that's not to say that it's not happening. And I think the concern for us, as Sharon said, is how we collect that data. Wwe collect data on bullying, but it doesn't necessarily delineate what form of bullying that is taking.

Diolch. Felly, o'r hyn rŷch chi wedi dweud, mae'n amlwg i fi eich bod chi'n teimlo—er, efallai, fel ŷch chi'n sôn, dyw'r data ddim gyda chi i gefnogi hyn yn union—ei fod e'n cynyddu, a'r teimlad yw ei fod e'n lledu ar draws lleoliadau ysgol. Ydych chi'n cytuno hefyd gyda chanfyddiad Estyn fod yr ymddygiad yma wedi cael ei normaleiddio?

Thank you. So, based on what you've said, it appears to me that you feel—although, as you said, perhaps the data aren't available to you to support this directly—that it is increasing and that it is spreading across the school and education settings. Do you also agree with Estyn's finding that this behaviour has been normalised?

I'm not sure it's been normalised. I went to our youth council to talk about this term, as we've been looking at it following the Estyn review, and looking at what we were doing. I don't know whether it's normalised, or whether the children, the young people, are not accepting it, but they are not informing members of staff, because what came back from our young people was they felt that the staff were keeping them safe, but actually didn't understand themselves that this is a training issue for staff. We've been through it with Prevent, we've been through it with radicalisation. This is the next big training issue that we need for our teaching staff and our staff who are working with young people. I include youth service workers with that—the whole range of staff with that. So, I think that they felt that they didn't know who to go to necessarily in the school, because they didn't—. So, whether that's normalising it or just the fact that they need to go to somewhere else—. They're aware they can go to youth workers and think they can go to other people, but they're not sure at the moment of where to go in school.

Sharon, oeddech chi'n moyn dod i mewn ar hwnna?

Sharon, did you want to come in on that?

It was just that I think Sue's covered it. Diolch.

Yes, I did want to come in on this point about how peers can actually help in schools. I had an amazing talk with a young chap yesterday, because of my mental health brief, around actually having other—. We talked about males earlier and, actually, how sometimes young men don't tend to come forward in schools when they are being bullied, and sometimes having mentors in schools and people who they can actually go to to talk about these problems—someone their own age, on the same level as them—sometimes can actually help. And do you think we need to do more, then, to put more people who are more relatable to young people into schools, who actually are on the same wavelength as kids, who can actually talk the same language as them sometimes, rather than having someone who's a bit older, and perhaps a younger person might see them a bit more detached from what they believe and what their values are?

I agree. I think that's where we need to look at, and we need to look at schools. Schools are—I can't get the word out—academic institutions, aren't they? But this is a social issue, and we need to ensure that we have the right staff. The children are in school 9 a.m .until 3.30 p.m, and we need to ensure that there are the right trained staff in the schools at that time to be able to support the young people if they have these issues. It fits in with the wider brief at the moment of looking at mental health and looking at young people's mental health, as you mentioned. What sort of staff should we have? We need to have mental first aiders in all our schools, but then you've got that wider brief to actually be able to—. These are the people, the pastoral team, that the children can actually go to.

You mentioned the primary. How is that managed in the primary? You have a pastoral team in the secondary school, so it's then how you ensure that the staff in the primary school have got the same skill set to be able to start, and for primaries to be able to start, the education of it—that, 'This is wrong; this is wrong behaviour,' and how they report it as they take that and move that forward.


Diolch. Mae'r cwestiwn yma'n gysylltiedig, mewn ffordd, o ran yr hyn ddywedoch chi'n gynharach ynglŷn ag effaith y cyfnod clo. I ba raddau ydych chi'n deall bod aflonyddu rhywiol yn digwydd y tu allan i'r diwrnod ysgol, er enghraifft, ar-lein, ac felly pa wahaniaeth mae hynny'n ei wneud, os o gwbl, i gyfrifoldeb a chapasiti ysgolion a lleoliadau eraill, fel unedau cyfeirio disgyblion, i fynd i'r afael â'r achosion yma?

Thank you. This question is linked, in a way, to what you said earlier with regard to the lockdown period and its impact. To what extent do you understand that sexual harassment takes place outside of the school day, for example, online, and therefore what difference does that make, if at all, to the responsibility and capacity of schools and other settings, such as pupils referral units, to deal with these incidents? 

I think the majority of social media today is outside of school, because when you're in the school community, it's quite rigid with timetables and so forth, and, obviously, they're not to use their mobile phones, so I would imagine that it's outside of the formal school hours that the problem festers. And it's really difficult, but that's where we can use, then, other services within local authorities, such as the youth service, to engage with young people, and to keep that engagement going at different levels of the day. It comes back to what Sue was saying earlier about young people not knowing who to go to. Is it a school problem if it's not happening during school time? And that's where that grey area comes in. But it's about, then, using other services, and not just the youth service. If you think of SchoolBeat officers, your police community support officer, community safety teams, it's about that whole multi-agency of services, but appropriate services within local authorities and beyond to support those young people so that they've got a clear pathway and that they know—. I suppose, the key thing is having a clear pathway and a safe environment for them to be able to disclose, if they have anything to disclose 

I think, although it's happening outside school, it's impacting their life in school, isn't it? So, it's that holistic approach. It's making it truly a community approach. So, the people who are supporting the children outside school need to engage with the school, not in any great detail, but actually saying, 'We are supporting this child, this young person, because of what's happened', just for the school to be aware, because behaviours can change because of what's happening. So, it's that holistic approach to the young child to ensure that we're all doing the very best in supporting them to go forward.

Thank you, Sue. I'll move on to questions now from Laura Jones.

Thank you, Chair. Just quickly following on from that, and from what James actually said, about when you're in school, having the first point of contact problem, I'm very aware, having been an advocate for mental health first aiders, as was mentioned just now, that having that peer mentorship and peer-on-peer support is absolutely vital, and it has worked in a lot of schools, so it's definitely something to consider in this regard too. I'll just ask the panel quickly: what do you believe are the main causes of the increase in incidents that we're seeing? Thank you.

I think there's been a huge cultural shift over the years. If you look at the Me Too movement and, obviously, Everyone's Invited, there's been a huge cultural shift over the last few years, quite rightly, and I think that's having an impact that's coming through. I don't think we've seen the full impact yet, because, as we're saying, young people are still a bit wary of coming forward, and that's the conversation we need to be having now. But also, the obvious one, as well as cultural shift, is that we've had the lockdowns, COVID-19, the pandemic, and young people are more anxious, young people have been frustrated. It's not normal; the last two years are far from normal for us and for young people, especially when they've been at home and they've relied more on online learning, online meetings. It's been the social element then through social networking, and we're seeing that coming through. As we get better informed with the training—as Sue said, it's all about the training, isn't it, and it's all about our policies and ensuring that this is at the forefront—I'm sure that we'll see more cases coming through.


Thank you. Is there anyone else, Jayne? I can't see everyone.

Thank you for that. Obviously, there are many contributing factors to this problem that we're seeing now, but to what extent do you think it's driven by what children and young people are accessing online? You alluded to it then, the exposure to harmful and inappropriate content—you know, pornography and such like. Are parents taking enough responsibility in this regard? Thank you.

I think that's a really interesting question. As a parent of a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old myself, it's really hard—I can only speak from personal experience—to monitor. They've both got mobile phones because of peer pressure and it's easier to communicate with them when they're out and about and so forth, and although you try and monitor and you try and tell them, 'No, you're not going on TikTok' and this, that and the other, it's really hard, I think, speaking as a parent, to monitor that. I think, as well, there are training—. When you think of internetmatters.org and on the tv, there are things, but I do think, as a parent, maybe I don't take as much notice of the training that's available. I know that I'm not up to speed with all the talk, all of whatever's on social media; there are so many of them now, and as soon as you say no to one of them, another one pops up. They say, 'I'm not on that, I'm on this' and I think, 'I have no idea what that is'. So, I think we do need to engage parents more, but the key thing is how do we engage parents more. I don't think it's just about school. School has a part to play, but I do think, as a community as well, then, we need to look wider at how we engage parents, and not just parents, but the community as well, to upskill everybody.

I completely agree with what you said there, Sharon. As a parent myself, I found it really hard to monitor particularly my son's content during the pandemic, and that's obviously something that we've seen. And we heard from another evidence session that there were more children and young people online during those lockdowns a lot more, and so that's exacerbated the problem a little bit. I'm just wondering, for certain groups of learners, for example girls, LGBT young people or those with learning difficulties, what particular support is there for them, please? Thank you. 

In respect of how they manage this, Laura, is that what you're looking at?

If you're looking at the girls, they will have the same sort of support in a personal and social education lesson as all children. In a school, this is where it will be taught and discussed; it will be through their PSE lessons, through their form tutor lessons, through that learning. So, there wouldn't be any difference.

If you're looking at the high-level additional learning needs children, it would just be tailored for their needs within particular settings. And I think there is a different way of ensuring that sometimes—. Because a number of the high-end children with ALN won't necessarily be accessing social media, but will still be displaying behaviours. It's the communication with those children, so it's actually adapting the support that's out there and adapting the skill set of staff members to actually support those young children.

I think, if you look at the LGBT agenda, that is certainly far more to the front in all schools and you're having that dialogue. But it does come back to what I said earlier, at the very beginning: sometimes teachers can be older teachers and can be a little bit more uncomfortable with those discussions. So, it's how we support teachers in having those discussions. It's still relatively new to have transgender children coming into school, but it's giving the teachers the confidence to be able to manage that situation and to understand. And teachers themselves being accepted when they are presenting as transgender or gender neutral. It's that confidence that we need to get into our workforce.


Allaf i jest ofyn cwestiwn ar hynny? Rŷch chi'n siarad lot yn eich papur am ystadegau bwlio a'r trafferthion, mewn ffordd, o geisio tynnu allan o'r ffigurau hynny, neu sut y mae'r rheini'n cael eu cofnodi, o ran deall beth yw, o fewn y ffigurau yma, neu o fewn yr achosion yna, aflonyddu rhywiol. Yn yr yn modd â beth rŷn ni newydd ei drafod nawr, ydy achosion sydd yn amlwg gydag elfen sy'n ymwneud â rhywedd, a chasineb yn erbyn rhywedd, neu fod yr aflonyddu wedi'i gymell yn sgil agwedd tuag at rywedd—? Ydy hynny'n cael ei gofnodi o gwbl, neu oes yna unrhyw weithrediadau yn sgil hynny? Unrhyw beth penodol—[Anghlywadwy.]

Can I just ask a question on that? You talk a great deal in your paper about bullying statistics and the difficulties, in a way, of trying to draw down from those figures, or disaggregate those figures, and how they're recorded in terms of understanding, within those figures, or within those incidents, what sexual harassment is, and identifying that. In the same way, as we've just discussed, are cases that have an element related to gender and gender-based hatred and harassment that has been caused by attitudes towards gender—? Is that recorded in any way, or have any actions been taken as a result of that? Anything specific—[Inaudible.] 

It'll vary. We collate data, we collect data if it is a gender-biased one. What we are still waiting for, what we're still looking at, across Wales, is the LGBT guidance from Welsh Government. We have been waiting for it. We've been asking for it, because there is guidance out there, from Scotland and from Brighton and Hove, but, actually, we're looking for which ones are we going to take up. Because we could develop it on our own within each local authority, or within reach region. We've certainly, within the central south region, discussed that: should we be looking at it ourselves, do we go out to consultation, et cetera. This is an all-Wales issue. It isn't Merthyr Tydfil, Denbighshire or Wrexham; it is an all-Wales issue. It's an all-UK issue, but it's an all-Wales issue. We're looking for that all-Wales guidance on how we actually support that agenda, and that is something that we are really pushing for from an education perspective, and from our equalities officers as well.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. I've got a couple of questions. I want to know to what extent you believe that local authorities, schools, PRUs, governors, and, more importantly, pupils, are aware of the problem of peer-on-peer sexual harassment. And why do you think that pupils sometimes don't tell teachers? You know, something that I always feel—I mean, Ken and I are the only men on the committee—is that sometimes young boys, for example, are also people who do experience sexual harassment from girls. I sometimes fear that boys are too frightened to come forward, because if they do, they're going to be turned from the victim into the villain very quickly, because of the way that society views things. I'd just like to get your views on that, please.

As mentioned earlier, I think there's been a huge cultural shift on it, but I don't think enough has been done in raising the awareness. As Sue mentioned before, as previously with the whole Prevent agenda, with radicalisation, that was really heightened and came at the forefront, and I think a similar kind of importance now needs to be given to this matter, to this subject. And then, as I said, it's about developing the whole policy, isn't it? It's about the support, it's about the clear pathways for young people then to say, 'If this is happening to you, in any shape or form, you need to speak about it, and this is how you go about it, and these are the people you can speak to'. It's about building that safe environment, not just in school, but in the community as well. So, if they do go to a football club, wherever they're at, it's for all young people to feel safe in, that they've got a clear pathway. They know then what support is out there. It comes back to what Sue said as well; it's about training for teachers as well, but not just teachers, but people in the community, as well, so that it's all joined up and we're all saying the same thing.


I think it is society, isn't it, because boys—. There's still this gender issue in society, and we'll create the safe environment in school, but the young people go home, and they have a different set of boundaries. So, as Sharon said, it is how we engage with sports clubs, with all the youth clubs, all the clubs the children are going to, to make sure that they all have the same sort of training, so you've got that support. Because there's that safe agenda, that safe place in school that we will develop, but then if they go home to a different environment—. And mental health is a big issue for the children and young people.

Thank you for that. I think it's right what you say about society. I'm well aware of a case within my own patch of a female that kept texting a boy, asking for indecent pictures of him. He kept saying no, and when he actually said, 'I'm going to report this', that female went and said, 'He was pestering me.' It was then flipped completely the other way. It didn't go anywhere, and the male was actually then vilified for it, even though there was no evidence to say he was, and the evidence was pointing the other way, but society blamed the male. And this rolls on to my next question, really. Do you think there's a common enough understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment, and do you think there's consistency right across Wales in the way that individual schools, teachers and everybody else actually respond to it? Because, as I say, some schools may take it very seriously, as others, perhaps, do not. 

I'd say that this is a very grey area and that it's inconsistent across Wales. I'd hold my hand up to say I wouldn't be fully aware of what classes as sexual harassment or not myself, because it's cultural things: is it somebody saying something to you, is it more than that? And I think there is a huge piece of work here to be done across society in general—not just in schools, but in society. But, again, it's knowing what training—. It comes back to understanding the issue and then the appropriate training to go with it. I think some schools, as you've mentioned, do this really well, and it's about learning from those, using best practice, then, to see what is working really well and how can we adapt that then further so there is a consistent approach.

Do you think it's because some schools don't report these things properly, or don't follow them through, and then people turn around and think, 'What's the point of reporting it because the school isn't going to take it seriously anyway?' Do you think there should perhaps be a step-up system that pupils can actually go to if they don't think the schools are actually taking their concerns seriously?

I think it comes down to a lack of expertise, possibly, in some schools. That's why it may be that they're not as confident in tackling the issue. Therefore, again, it comes back to training, then, and it's about empowering the teachers, as well as the young people, (1) for the young people to be able to come forward in a safe environment, but (2) then for their voices to be heard, and not just heard, but to be actioned. It's the actions that follow that, isn't it, and that's where we need the training, I think. It's understanding what to do when this happens.

This is my final point, Cadeirydd, if that's okay. To what extent do you believe that parents and carers need to be involved in dealing with the children's actions and behaviours on sexual harassment? Do you think that those people are engaged enough with the schools and the PRUs sufficiently to actually try and explain to their children and people they're caring for that this isn't right, and so parents need to be a bit educated as well around this issue? Thank you for that, Chair, I'm finished.

Definitely the parents need to be aware, but I think what we also need to be careful—. Am I muted?


What we need to be careful of is then if the parents come into school and are displaying behaviours themselves that are putting the child at risk, so actually stopping the child from continuing that conversation and becoming safe—actually putting the child at risk—schools have got to balance that framework and then identify that the parents themselves may need support or may need some—. We talked about training, that conversation. And, then, that's where the schools may back off: 'Well, actually, the parents are seeing this in a different way.' And, as Sharon said earlier, this is a societal issue, isn't it, so we need to do work on this together. But, yes, parents need to be involved, but the schools also need to be careful of what the parents are displaying themselves because they could be actually saying, 'What you're doing is right' or 'What's happening to you is right', or 'You mentioned earlier that man thing, what are you talking about? You're flipping that.' So, it's a very difficult conversation that needs to be had with parents, but managed very carefully.

Thanks, James. Thank you. Just on to a couple of questions, and we've touched on it already, around the data collection. Can you just summarise what data local authorities currently collect on sexual harassment in schools and PRUs, and how is that used?

We collect data. We collect it, and I think most local authorities will collect data on at least a termly basis when you're looking at all instances of bullying. So, this is what this would actually come under, when you're looking at that. Whether, as we said earlier, there is a specific identity for sexual harassment, hands up, we haven't got one. It comes under—. There isn't a tick box, so we would have to look at the narrative to see what it is, but those are then analysed on a termly basis, and if you're finding that there's an issue in a particular school, it's a conversation with the headteacher or the team to put that pastoral work in; it's a conversation with social services or other services to see what support we need to put into the schools. Obviously, if there's an incident that suddenly blows up and leads to an exclusion of another child, that is dealt with immediately, and if there are concerns raised by staff or by schools, we would support them, but, as Sharon said earlier, I think this is quite new for all of us at the moment and we have to start developing those systems and looking at how we can gather that data more effectively.

I do appreciate that, and I realise that Estyn mentioned that in their report around the collection of data and you've also mentioned it in your paper, I think, that you've put before us, which acknowledges that data collection could be improved and made more consistent. You said that it's new. Are things in motion at the moment to try to develop this further?

I would say 'yes'. When the Everyone's Invited website, it certainly sort of—. We all sort of looked at that and thought there's a lot that's been hidden, and that comes down to safety because they hadn't gone to schools. There were two schools in our local authority and we weren't aware of those. We were aware of other things, of other incidents, but we weren't aware of those two. So, for whatever the reason, those hadn't come to the local authority. So, we've got to make sure that this is open and that people will report it, because, certainly, what that showed us was that it's not reported all the time. But, when you look at the Estyn report now, you've got those recommendations for local authorities, so each local authority is looking at those recommendations and actually ensuring that we meet those recommendations and put systems in place to ensure that those recommendations are met.

In terms of the approaches to sexual harassment and the wider problem of bullying, do you think sexual harassment should be treated separately, or part of anti-bullying measures and procedures?

I—. Go on, Sharon. Let me get my thoughts together.

I think, again, that's a really interesting question because what we need to be mindful of is we could have it as a separate one and then we could be flooded by people, by—. It's the understanding, isn't it, of sexual harassment itself? I think there needs to be a piece of work done for people to understand what it is, what is meant by 'sexual harassment', and this is where I think we need to have those conversations with Welsh Government and a policy in going forward. As Sue mentioned, we're still waiting for the LGBT+ guidance. Again, local authorities can do their own data collections, but it's about having that consistent approach and, as Sue mentioned, it is a cross-Wales problem. So, we need to be having a consistent approach that allows all that join-up. As we talked about earlier, if it's about communities as well, not just schools, it's about communities, so we need to have that joined-up approach.

And then I think it is about having—. It may be that we need to look at the whole data-collection system around not just bullying, but around all the protected characteristics to see if it's fit for purpose now, and it's about updating it then to see if it's fit for the twenty-first century, because we have moved on and culturally we have moved on as well. So, I would say we need an overhaul of all of it, not just one element.


Okay, thank you. That's really helpful. Sue, did you want to—? Are you happy with that?

Yes, I would agree with Sharon because I think we all collect the data, and we all collect it in a slightly different way, so if we want national data to show that any policy is making a difference, we need to make sure that we are collecting the same data at the same time. So, if it's going to be termly or if it's going to be whatever, we need to make sure that we're collecting the same things.

Brilliant, thank you. That's really helpful, and I think you are helping us with formulating our thoughts for our recommendations as well. So, that's very helpful.

Just on some other further questions, I do know that, unfortunately, due to workload pressures, a representative from the Association of Directors of Social Services was unable to join us today. I have got some questions on multi-agency working that I do hope you're able to respond to, but if not, don't worry, we can write to ADSS to request specific information, so it isn't a problem. Just, if you can answer them, that would be really helpful.

How effectively do you think education services and social services work together to ensure the appropriate safeguarding and child protection procedures are followed in cases of peer-on-peer sexual harassment between learners where this is warranted? Is that something you're able to answer? Sharon.

I think there's a very effective partnership, but, again, it can be built upon. Absolutely, both education and our other colleagues cover so many key priorities that it's crucial that there's that interlink, because one can't be effective without the other. But it is about building relationships and it is about continuing those dialogues and continuing collaboration and working together, and I think there is an effective partnership, but I think it can always be improved as well.

Thank you. And do you know if the issue is being considered by the regional safeguarding boards across Wales, given the scale of the issues uncovered by Estyn? Sue.

Ours is, definitely, because we've had to put in a response from the three authorities in Cwm Taf Morgannwg, how we've actually responded to the Estyn recommendations. I know that Cardiff and the Vale—I can only talk about the two in our region—have done something similar. We've had to put in a written response to our safeguarding report. So, I can only speak from—

Thank you, Sue. That's fine. We can write for further information, but that's really helpful to know that you're doing it in that area.

And just finally from me, how effective do you think the multi-agency approach between police, social services, schools and PRUs is to deal with individual cases of sexual harassment? And what more do you think the Welsh Government could do to ensure this effective multi-agency approach? Any thoughts? Sharon.


I don't have much expertise in this. I know that all agencies strive to do their best, and especially when there are individual cases, they prioritise. But I think, like everything, it's capacity, as always. I think that can always be improved, and again, it comes back to relationships as well, doesn't it? It's about building close relationships within those multi-agencies to ensure that there are no gaps.

Thank you, Sharon, and thank you for answering those questions. That was really helpful. James.

My question is to Sharon, actually, and it's on the online safety and harms Bill that's going through the UK Parliament at the minute. I just want to know what discussions you may have had with the Local Government Association in England, because I know they fed into this paper, from an education perspective, and obviously some of what they're trying to do in that Bill will overlap into Wales with regard to online safety and harms, and what we're seeing on social media is bullying and sexual harassment that continues outside the school day, and I want to know what discussions, if any, the WLGA have had around this.

I haven't had any discussions, but that's not to say those discussions haven't taken place. They could have taken place in the equalities team and various other teams in that respect. But I can find out for you.

If you could find out, that would be lovely. Sorry, Chair.

No, no, that's fine. Thanks, James, very happy. And if you could write to the committee, that would be really helpful. Thanks, James; thank you, Sharon. Moving on to questions now finally from Ken Skates.

Thank you, Chair, good morning. You've already talked, I think, quite extensively about the relative lack of appropriate educational awareness and understanding as a factor in young people's unhealthy attitudes, but what do you make of the new curriculum? How much do you think the teaching of relationships and sexuality education through the new curriculum will help prevent young people sexually harassing others, and to what extent do you think it might protect those who have experienced it? We're putting a huge amount of weight on the shoulders of teachers, I think, with the new curriculum in terms of the development of confident and competent citizens. Do you think this new curriculum, do you think the teaching workforce will be able to teach effectively to prevent and to protect? I can see Sue, first of all.

The thing, though, with the new curriculum as well is that it's not just the schools, it's not just the teachers that will deliver the school curriculum, so it fits in with everything that we've been talking about this morning, doesn't it? Actually, this is where we bring in people, we bring in people from wider society to be able to support those children. We all remember the school nurses coming in to do things like that. But what, for me, will be the key point is that they don't become stand-alone lessons, so if you do have people coming in to do it, the teachers don't then say, 'All right, well, that's been done; it's a tick-box, it's been done.' It's how it then becomes embedded, and people do look at the areas of learning experience, they do cross over each other, they interlink. So, it's ensuring that the staff who are in those areas actually have had the training, and actually pick up on what has been delivered to the children, perhaps, by other professionals. So, that's key for me. 

Can I just follow that up? I think that's absolutely right. Is there not a danger of inconsistency across Wales? Because it's still going to be the responsibility of teachers, the teaching workforce, to engage with and draw in those professionals, and there could be variable quality in terms of the approach that's taken across schools, or are you confident that there will be a good degree of consistency?

I don't think we could ever be confident that there would be consistency, unless you've got that, 'These are the people that you can bring in.' That is what we do for safeguarding: you bring in the NSPCC, you bring in Barnardo's, so you've got those key people, those key community services, that can actually support them. And as Sharon mentioned earlier, the SchoolBeat officers and the PCSOs, there is a role there for the safeguarding board, so, if you have got your safeguarding board, saying, almost, 'These are quality marked, these are the sort of people that can support this agenda item.' But I think schools also have to be open to following it up, because we're in danger of—we're bringing somebody in to talk about LGBT, we bring somebody in on Show Racism the Red Card, but then the teachers don't follow it up. So, that's a big piece of work to do with school leaders that, actually, if you're bringing these people in, you've then got to follow that message up. That's where the inconsistency will come in is in the following up, not from what's being delivered to the young people by other agencies, but the following up from the schools.


Okay. And do you think that governors would benefit from training in this area?

Yes. Yes, because—

Yes, okay. Because they're going to determine as well the extent to which—

And can I say that there's an age profile with a lot of governing bodies as well? So, there is a lot of support, lots of training that needs to be done with governors. 

Yes, absolutely. And I think, as Sue mentioned, it's not just about the school workforce in bringing this in, it's about bringing the appropriate expertise from outside in and so that the learning is effective. Because this is about enhancing learning, and it's about empowering young people as well, isn't it? So, it is about teachers and whomever having the appropriate, effective training to be able to deliver this learning effectively, and then knowing what resources are out there to be able to support this. As Sue said, it's great bringing the expertise in from other organisations, but how does that fit into the wider school learning, then—how does that fit into the school community so that it's not a bolt-on, it's not an add-on, but it's an integral part of that learning. Thank you. 

And to what extent do you think teachers and professionals will be able to guide young people in primary education, where obviously there'll have to be a suitable, an appropriate, way to deliver against the new curriculum? Do you think that it could be problematic within the primary school estate?

No, I don't think so, because, if you think now, they're already having relationship and sex conversations, aren't they? They're having those lessons, and that's key about relationships—it's about the individual, it's respecting your body. So, I think it is appropriate, and I think that piece of learning is already there, but it's about building on that, isn't it, and it's about effective learning and appropriate learning for the right age group as well. 

I think it's easier in a primary school, because it's the same teacher, so you get to know the children, so you've got that relationship. If you go into a secondary school, all of a sudden you're having all of these different teachers and you've got to have time to get to know the teacher that you're going to. So, in primary school, the primary teacher will know that holistic element, so I think it is almost easier to have that conversation in the primary school. I would say that, I'm an ex-primary teacher, but—. 

Thank you, Ken. And just to say, thank you very much to both of you for coming in this morning. We really appreciate the evidence that you've given us. Any information that you can follow up with for us, we'd be really pleased to receive that. 

To Members, we're just going to take a very short break now. We'll be back in a couple of minutes, really. So, if you want to take a short break, and we'll just have that break now. Thank you. 

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:28 a 11:46.

The meeting adjourned between 11:28 and 11:46.

4. Aflonyddu rhywiol rhwng cyfoedion ymysg dysgwyr—sesiwn dystiolaeth 4
4. Peer-on-peer sexual harassment among learners—evidence session 4

Good morning, and welcome back to our peer-on-peer sexual harassment among learners evidence session. This is evidence session No. 4, and we've got with us today Jamie Insole, who's a policy officer for the University and College Union, UCU, and we will hopefully be joined by Maxine Thomas, who's a designated senior lead for safeguarding and learner well-being from Pembrokeshire College, representing ColegauCymru. We've got a number of questions to ask, but, welcome, Jamie, in the first instance, and we'll start with some questions from Sioned Williams. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Beth yw'ch safbwynt chi a'ch dealltwriaeth chi o natur aflonyddu rhywiol a maint y broblem rhwng dysgwyr mewn colegau? A byddai diddordeb gen i wybod hefyd beth sy'n cael ei ystyried fel aflonyddu rhywiol gennych chi. O, dwi'n gweld bod Maxine newydd gyrraedd. A wnaf i ailadrodd y cwestiwn? 

Thank you, Chair. What is your perspective and your understanding of the nature of sexual harassment and the scale of the problem between learners in colleges? And I'd also be interested in knowing what is considered as sexual harassment by you. Oh, I see that Maxine has just arrived. Shall I repeat the question? 

Yes, that would be great, Sioned, and welcome, Maxine. 

Hi Maxine, ŷch chi'n clywed? 

Hi Maxine, can you hear me? 

Hello, can you hear me?

No, I haven't. Apologies.

That's okay, Maxine. If you'd like to just go to the—. At the bottom of the screen, you'll see a translation—. The globe button. 

Interpretation, yes.

That's right. Click to 'English' and you should be able to hear when Sioned starts speaking. 

Lovely. Thank you very, very much indeed. Apologies—I don't know what happened there. Thank you. 

Dim problem. Jest cwestiwn cyntaf—dydych chi heb golli heb unrhyw beth. So, cwestiwn i'r ddau ohonoch chi. Roeddwn i wedi gofyn beth yw eich safbwynt chi a'ch dealltwriaeth chi o faint o broblem yw aflonyddu rhywiol rhwng dysgwyr mewn colegau, a beth yw natur yr aflonyddu hynny. A hefyd mae gen i ddiddordeb gwybod beth sy'n cael ei ystyried gan golegau fel aflonyddu rhywiol. 

No problem. So, just an initial question—you haven't missed anything. So, a question to both of you. I asked what your perspective is and your understanding is of the scale of the problem in terms of sexual harassment between learners in colleges, and what the nature of that harassment might be. And I'm also interested in knowing what is considered or defined by colleges as sexual harassment.  

Would you like me to start or shall I defer to Maxine, simply because they refer to this directly in their report? 

Yes, I'm absolutely happy to start. Thank you very much indeed, and thank you, Jamie. Yes, so this is an emerging issue for us within colleges, and certainly it is an ongoing conversation and work that is happening. We are certainly seeing things around stalking, unwanted attention, inappropriate touch, online bullying and harassment, and we're seeing relationship issues between young people. We're also seeing historic reports and concerns being raised, and then the transition issues that come from school into colleges. So, very much that is what we are seeing. Colleges are taking the matter really, really seriously. In terms of the definition of peer-on-peer abuse, we take the all-Wales safeguarding procedure definition and the guidance in keeping learners safe, 275/2021.