Rochdale: Schools need to act in order to thwart sex gangs

As nine men were jailed last week for grooming and raping dozens of girls, it's vital we ask why alarm bells weren't ringing sooner.

Share
Related Topics

 

Child sex abuse, it seems, is widespread in the UK. And it isn’t just girls trafficked in from abroad either – horrifying as that is. Children under the age of 16 who have lived all their lives in the UK are being abused in their own communities. 

Nine men who systematically raped dozens of girls for many years in Rochdale were jailed in May – and a damning report  by the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board last week found that those children had been let down by just about everyone who should have been protecting them. Last week also saw eight men jailed in Derby for abusing young girls and a nationwide four-man paedophile gang imprisoned by Reading Crown Court.

And these men are not – contrary to what Jack Straw former Home Secretary and MP for Blackburn and Darwen, seems to believe - all Asian. 95 per cent of the people on Greater Manchester Police’s sex offender’s register (which includes Rochdale) are white. There is nothing marginal about this hideous problem and it certainly can’t be categorised as a racial or cultural matter.

A few thoughts. Children under 16 are supposed to be in school. Most schools these days have some sort of staff presence at their exit points to see who is picking the children up. Girls who have been plied with drink and coerced into having sex with a number of men are unlikely to be lively, pliant class members the next day. They will almost certainly be withdrawn, stroppy, sleepy or otherwise troubled. 

It is grossly unreasonable to expect schools – as some media commentators sometimes seem to believe – to be responsible for every social ill. Teachers have a job to do and they are not social workers. But, like it or not, they are in the front line. They see these young people routinely every day – or if they don’t then it sets a different sort of alarm bell ringing. Teachers know their pupils and are very well placed to spot changes in behaviour, attitude or demeanour.

Isn’t it therefore time teachers were much more systematically trained (and supported) in how to deal with these issues if they suspect them?

When I was Head of Upper School in a challenging comprehensive school I – and the team I led – had strong police contacts as well as knowing individual social workers.  Had we had the slightest worry that one of our pupils was being exploited for sex by an individual or group I would have shared my worry – off the record in the first instance probably – with our friendly local WPC as a matter of urgency. She would undoubtedly have told me to report it officially and then the ball would be rolling firmly in the right direction. And it would have happened quickly without Social Services spending months bureaucratically mulling it over and procrastinating. 

The other way in which schools and teachers could help would be by empowering the children. That means carefully and openly educating pupils – and their parents perhaps - about these gangs so that young girls are alert and better placed to spot the danger. Most schools go to a lot of trouble to warn children about drugs, smoking – even road accidents. So why not sex gangs?

It should be a major topic in personal, social and health education (PSHE) in the early years of the secondary school – with police coming in to talk, fairly graphically, to pupils about the dangers just as they do about road safety. I’d also discuss all three of the cases mentioned above in class and get the students to discuss who should have done what – perhaps with role play, drama and anything else which helps to alert them. I’d steer them towards awareness-raising fiction such as Bernard Ashley’s Smokescreen (2006), Patricia McCormick’s Sold (2006) and Melvyn Burgess’s Junk (1996) and then talk through the issues raised by their reading.

Of course enlightened schools are already doing all of this and more.  In the light of those three cases, it is something every school in the country should be doing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Primary teachers required for schools in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

£18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi where Mohammad Asghar is being held  

Mohammed Ashgar: A Briton on death row in Pakistan who the Government must act to save

David Morrisey
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs  

When most porn is packaged for men, is it any wonder women get their sexual kicks from erotica?

Justine Elyot
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style