In recent years government guidance for schools in England, Keeping Children Safe in Education, has placed increasing emphasis on the role of schools in addressing behaviours described as peer-on-peer abuse – both working to prevent it and dealing with it effectively when it happens. The behaviours include bullying of all kinds, physical abuse and a range of harmful sexual behaviours that occur within school settings and beyond.

As school staff you will be aware of your role in safeguarding children and young people, including the contribution you make in creating an environment which seeks to minimise bullying behaviour. However, you may be less aware of, and feel less confident about, identifying and addressing sexual behaviours that adversely affect the children and young people you work with or come into contact with. This course aims to build on what you already know and to develop your awareness of harmful behaviours that are collectively termed peer-on-peer abuse and the role of school staff in ensuring the children and young people you work with stay safe.

The course is suitable for all staff in a setting with pupils from 11 to 18 years, including further education colleges and pupil referral units as well as schools. Although much of the material and the issues raised are relevant across the UK, it’s important to be aware that the legislation and government guidance covered are primarily for staff working in education settings in England. It’s essential to familiarise yourself with the legislation and guidance that apply where you work as well as the policies and procedures of your setting.

You could undertake the course on your own or as part of a small group. The advantage of doing it in a group is that you can share your experience, ideas and questions. If that’s not possible, you might be able to make a more informal arrangement with one or two colleagues who are working through the course at the same time as you to talk through from time to time – e.g. at the end of each unit – what you have learnt and questions you may have.

It’s important to identify colleagues in your setting who will have received more specialist training –i.e. a designated safeguarding lead (DSL), to discuss questions you have that arise from completing the course, particularly on issues relating to your specific setting.

Aims and outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Explain what is meant by peer-on-peer abuse
  • Describe what can make children and young people vulnerable to peer-on-peer abuse in the school setting and outside
  • Outline the impact that peer-on-peer abuse can have in the short and longer term
  • Identify possible signs of peer-on-peer abuse and know what to do.

Course content

  • Unit 1: Peer-on-peer abuse in context
  • Unit 2: Bullying
  • Unit 3: Peer-on-peer sexual abuse


After a career in education and as Head of Child Protection Publishing and Film at the NSPCC, William now works as a freelance specialist editor in the fields of child development, child protection and safeguarding, and other issues affecting...