Female Genital Mutilation: Teachers told to 'check holiday plans' of children at risk of FGM

Tens of thousands of girls in the UK are at risk or have already had an operation

Education Editor

Teachers and schools should check on the holiday arrangements of pupils from communities which practice female genital mutilation (FGM), a conference was told.

Delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' annual conference became the first teachers to discuss the issue at a national conference yesterday when they called on the Home Office to draw up a national strategy for eradicating the practice in the UK.

Helen Porter, from Berkshire, moving the motion, told the conference it was estimated 66,000 women resident in England and Wales had undergone the process and over 23,000 girls under the age of 15 were at risk or had already undergone FGM.

“As education staff, we need to raise awareness and encourage young women and women to question FGM,“  said Ms Porter. ”We need to help reposition FGM in terms of violence against women and girls not cultural practice.

“Schools and education staff can help by opening discussion with parents and scrutinising holiday requests and summer holiday plans from members of communities that practice FGM.

”They should be vigilant for the signs of FGM such as frequent toilet visits and pain whilst sitting down.“

In particular, she said teachers should persuade boys to challenge the practice. ”Do they want this for their sisters, daughters, girlfriends or wives?“ she asked.

Experts have predicted children are in more danger of having FGM carried out in the summer holidays - when they can go abroad to have it carried and have more time to recover from the after effects before mixing with people at school.

Niamh Sweeney, from Cambridgeshire, added: ”FGM is the violent, brutal and systematic abuse of young girls and should be treated as such in every section of a fair and just society.

“But young child victims are unlikely to come forward due to the stigma attached to such violent crime.  It is vital that peers, brothers, uncles, fathers, mothers, other family members and anyone else is aware and knows what to do should they suspect and discover it.”

She said it was “a scandal” that campaigners had to rely on TV programmes such as “Law and Order UK” and “Casualty” for highlighting the issue when it needed “joined up thinking” from government departments to draw up a strategy to combat it.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said scrutinising holiday arrangements was “just one of a number of suggestions” for tackling the issue.

“There will be a whole range of issues that we need to think about - what do teachers need to know and what can teachers do,” she said. “There needs to be a clear system for them to report their concerns.”

She praised Education Secretary Michael Gove who has written to all headteachers stressing the fact that FGM is a safeguarding issue and they should be on the alert to look out for signs it may be about to happen to some pupils in their schools.

Yesterday's motion, which was carried unanimously, called on teachers to campaign to raise awareness of the issue in schools.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions