Reducing the risk of peer-on-peer abuse

The Key
The Key
Last week The TES reported on a DfE minister's concern at the lack of awareness about new guidance on how schools should deal with incidents of peer-on-peer abuse. Below we outline just a few of the steps that schools can take to reduce the risk of peer-on-peer abuse taking place.

Provide appropriate and regularly updated staff training

Knowing what to look for is vital to early identification of peer-on-peer abuse and preventing it from escalating. Provide staff with regularly updated and appropriate safeguarding training that enables them to understand:

  • How to identify the indicators of abuse
  • What to do if they have a concern about a child
  • How to respond to a report of abuse
  • How to offer support to children
  • Where to go if they need support

Challenge inappropriate behaviours

You’re required to have a behaviour policy and measures in place to prevent all forms of bullying, and your child protection policy should also include the procedures you have in place to minimise the risk of peer-on-peer abuse.

As part of enforcing these policies and measures, ensure staff challenge inappropriate behaviours by, for example:

  • Making clear that sexual violence and sexual harassment is not accepted, will never be tolerated and is not an inevitable part of growing up
  • Not tolerating or dismissing sexual violence or sexual harassment as ‘banter’, ‘part of growing up’, ‘just having a laugh’ or ‘boys being boys’

Dismissing inappropriate behaviours risks normalising them. You should have clear sanctions in place to respond effectively to incidents.

Provide a preventative curriculum programme

Your curriculum should ensure that children are taught about safeguarding, including how to stay safe online. However, make sure your curriculum also tackles issues such as:

  • Healthy and respectful relationships
  • What respectful behaviour looks like
  • Consent
  • Gender roles, stereotyping and equality
  • Body confidence and self-esteem
  • Prejudiced behaviour
  • Sexual violence and sexual harassment

These issues should be addressed in an age-appropriate and inclusive way, and could be explored through your computing, relationships and sex education (RSE), and personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) provision.


Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Command has developed resources to help you support young people with developing confident, healthy approaches to relationships and the internet. These include videos, toolkits and activities that can be used in lessons, assemblies, or shared with parents.

Childnet International has an online safety PSHE toolkit with films and lesson plans exploring issues such as:

  • Cyber-bullying
  • Sexting
  • Peer pressure
  • Self-esteem

You can also find assembly ideas on the theme of bullying on

Members of The Key can download a useful staff fact sheet on peer-on-peer abuse available as part of our Safeguarding Training Centre. They can also access and adapt our model behaviour and child protection policies on The Key for School Leaders

Leave a Reply