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Preventing domestic abuse for children report calls for a more consistent approach across all schools

22 July 2015

Rachel Atkinson

New research from Professor Nicky Stanley

  • National provision of preventative intervention is patchy and unsustainable despite a range of isolated good practice.
  • Schools must be ready to introduce preventative interventions that are supported across all aspects of school life.
  • A statutory basis for delivering these interventions would enable schools to take a longer-term view and achieve greater, and more consistent, impact.
  • Teachers must be equipped with specialist knowledge and skills and young people’s involvement in programme design a key ingredient for impact.

More needs to be done in schools to inform children about ways to prevent domestic abuse, according to a newly published study.

The research, undertaken by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in conjunction with the Personal Social Health and Economic (PSHE) Association and Women’s Aid, found that although there is a range of innovative work taking place in isolation, the national picture is patchy due mainly to lack of funding and national policy guidance.

The preventing domestic abuse for children (PEACH) study highlighted the need for schools to be ready to introduce preventative interventions and for this to be emphasised and supported not only through the curriculum, in subjects such as PSHE education, but also across all aspects of school life, and at all levels. Properly trained and equipped teachers are central to this and the involvement of young people emerged as a key ingredient in achieving impact.

“Relationships education that enables children and young people to enjoy relationships free from abuse and violence should be part of the national curriculum.”

According to the report, a statutory basis for delivering these interventions alongside more predictable funding would enable schools to take a longer-term view of programme delivery and achieve greater, and more consistent, impact.

There should also be close links between schools and services that can respond to children’s disclosures of abuse in their own or others’ relationships.

Commenting on the report Nicky Stanley, report co-author and Professor of Social Work at the University of Central Lancashire, said: “Relationships education that enables children and young people to enjoy relationships free from abuse and violence should be part of the national curriculum. Delivering this type of education in schools works to ensure that all young people develop positive attitudes to intimate relationships. It can also be a means of linking those young people at risk of harm from domestic abuse to relevant sources of help.”

The research examined existing initiatives, reviewed the research evidence and consulted young people and experts took place.

“Without policy change from Government, provision will continue to be patchy – an unsustainable position if we really care about keeping every child and young person healthy and safe.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, a research partner organisation for the report, said: “It is vital that the government considers the needs of our children when it comes to the important issue of healthy relationships education, which in turn will help protect them from abuse. A coordinated, national approach is needed - both to training teachers and to teaching children and young people - in order to ensure a consistent approach. We know that often young women don’t recognise abuse when it happens to them, and young men are not taught properly about the importance of respect and consent in relationships. In the meantime, Women’s Aid will continue to support teachers who choose to teach their students about healthy relationships through our Expect Respect resources which we have free to download available from our website for anyone who needs them.”

Joe Hayman, Chief Executive of the report research partner, PSHE Association, added: “This important research shows that teachers need specialist knowledge and skills to teach about issues like domestic abuse safely and effectively. A statutory basis for such interventions would, according to the research, enable schools to take a longer-term view and achieve a great impact – a case we continue to argue with Government. Without policy change from Government, provision will continue to be patchy – an unsustainable position if we really care about keeping every child and young person healthy and safe.”

The report, including abstract and summary, is available at
http://www.journalslibrary.nihr.ac.uk/phr/volume-3/issue-7#abstract and should be cited as:
Stanley N, Ellis J, Farrelly N, Hollinghurst S, Bailey S, Downe S. Preventing domestic abuse for children and young people (PEACH): a mixed knowledge scoping review. Public Health Res 2015;3(7).

The report presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views and opinions expressed by authors in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NHS, the NIHR, NETSCC, the PHR programme or the Department of Health.