Centre of expertise on child sexual abuse – Safety planning in education

In September 2022, the Centre of expertise on child sexual abuse released ‘A guide for professionals supporting children following incidents of harmful sexual behaviour’. This blog summaries the report and recommendations.

The full report can be read here.

Who is the centre of expertise on child sexual abuse?

The Centre of expertise on child sexual abuse (CSA Centre) initially launched in 2017 where they were funded by the Home Office, “hosted by Barnardo’s and working closely with key partners from academic institutions, local authorities, health, education, police and the voluntary sector.” They’ve since received a further grant for 2020-23. Their aim is to “reduce the impact of child sexual abuse through improved prevention and better response, so that children can live free from the threat and harm of sexual abuse.”

The purpose of the report

The intended outcome of this report was the following:

  1. To increase the priority given to child sexual abuse, by improving understanding of its scale and nature
  2. To improve identification of and response to all children and young people who have experienced sexual abuse
  3. To enable more effective disruption and prevention of child sexual abuse, through better understanding of sexually abusive behaviour/perpetration

What do you need to do?

The report starts by acknowledging that some sexual behaviour is a normal part of a child’s sexual development. Professor Simon Hackett has developed descriptions of the sexual behaviour of children.

Hackett’s descriptions recognise that there are certain children’s sexual behaviour that is a cause for concern, he calls this ‘harmful sexual behaviour’ and he defines this as:

 “Sexual behaviours expressed by children and young people under the age of 18-years-old, that are developmentally inappropriate, may be harmful towards self or others, or be abusive towards another child, young person or adult.”

Safety planning

A large part of safety planning is understanding the severity of the children’s behaviour, to appropriately identify any worrying behaviour, to then be able take appropriate action. In each situation the way each child is dealt with needs to be taken into serious consideration, by trying to understand their points of view.

After an incident has occurred implementation, management and a review of the safety plan are vital. An important factor is being able to manage the contact between the children. Things such as supervision and managing offsite contact will be vital moving forward. However, when safety planning there may be other areas that need to be considered when creating then plan, such as:

  • The Start of the school day
  • During the school day
  • If the children continue sharing a learning space
  • During less structured times of the day
  • Curriculum and timetabling
  • Mobile devices and social media

These are all factors that can continue to change over time. Children are also constantly developing, and their circumstances can develop too. It’s vital to make sure that the safety plan continues to be proportionate to the level of risk identified.

Understanding the sexual behaviour

Encouraging open conversations between the adults and the children involved is an essential part of the process, and in any situation, it is helpful for the staff handling the incident to get the best understanding possible of what exactly happened. This includes understanding the dynamics of the relationship between each child involved. This will make the staff better informed and able to identify future risks to others.

With a greater understanding of the children’s circumstances and the nature of the incident you can more easily determine the likelihood of the behaviour reoccurring as well as when the risks might be greater.


Safety planning and supporting children following incidents of harmful sexual behaviour is so important, and needs to be taken very seriously. Remember that, this blog is only a summary of the information provided by The Centre of expertise on child sexual abuse. To be able to fully understand the findings of this report click here, for the full document.

Posted Date

25th May 2023

Kelly Ofasi
Marketing Executive

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