Ofsted is to undertake an immediate review of safeguarding policies after allegations of ‘rape culture’ at a Dulwich private school were published online and in an open letter.
Dulwich College has been accused of being a “breeding ground for sexual predators” in an open letter organised by a former schoolboy that contains more than 100 anonymous accounts of assault, harassment and sharing intimate photos online.
The letter written by Samuel Schulenburg, 19, contains 250 anonymous testimonies including 100 written by girls who went to neighbouring schools, such as James Allen’s Girls’ School (Jags), reported in the Sunday Times.
A large number of testimonies have also been submitted to the online platform Everyone’s Invited – a website that allows victims to share anonymous reports of misogyny, harassment, sexual abuse and assault.
Red Ribbons have been tied to the gates outside Jags in response to the allegations.
Earlier this week the Guardian reported that planned protests at the school were cancelled after students were threatened with disciplinary action.
Dulwich College’s headmaster, Dr Joe Spence, condemned the allegations as “distressing” and “entirely unacceptable”
He said: “Whilst I cannot comment on anonymous testimonies, any specific and evidenced allegations are being addressed, and we have involved external authorities to investigate where appropriate.
“We are meeting with victims to listen to their experiences and their concerns, and we will act on them.
“Our ethos is one of respect and support for others in all we do, and we are a school committed to the elimination of discrimination on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, age, disability or religious belief.
“Where we have fallen short in this regard, we will work hard to make amends.”
The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has described the allegations as “shocking” and said: “Sexual abuse in any form is abhorrent and it is vital that these allegations are dealt with properly.”
No school – whether an independent school or state school – should ever be an environment where young people feel unsafe, let alone somewhere that sexual abuse can take place.
The allegations that I have heard in recent days are shocking and abhorrent.
— Gavin Williamson (@GavinWilliamson) March 29, 2021
In response to the allegations a helpline, run by the NSPCC, will go live tomorrow (Thursday April 1) to provide both children and adults who are victims of sexual abuse in schools with support – including how to report it to the police.
The government has also asked Ofsted to undertake an immediate review of safeguarding policies in state and independent schools.
The review will conclude by end of May 2021 and will seek to establish where safeguarding arrangements and processes are good and have worked well and where improvements are needed.
A Government spokesman for the Department of Education said: “We are very concerned by the significant number of allegations recently posted on the ‘Everyone’s Invited’ website. The abuse of children and young people in all its forms is abhorrent.
“The vast majority of schools, colleges and universities take their safeguarding responsibilities very seriously, so it is particularly shocking when allegations of abuse are made in connection with a place of education where everyone should feel secure and be protected.
“Working together, the Department for Education, the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs Council are in contact with ‘Everyone’s Invited’ to provide support, protection and advice to those who are reporting abuse, including on contacting professionals or the police if they wish.
“As a Government we are determined to improve outcomes for victims and survivors of all ages and backgrounds.
“When it comes to abuse, anyone who is worried something isn’t right shouldn’t feel alone.
“We would encourage anyone in this position to raise their concerns with someone they trust, whether that’s a family member or friend, a teacher or a social worker, a helpline or the police.”
Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said: “Like everyone else, I have been deeply troubled by accounts of the sexual abuse and harassment young people have suffered at school and in the community.
“So I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement and the opportunity for Ofsted to lead this review.
“Schools have a crucial role to play in teaching young people about sexual consent and respect for women and girls.
“They must also be places where all children feel safe, and where they are able to report any incidents of abuse or harassment and be confident that what they say will be acted upon.
“We will set out the terms of the review shortly.”
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