Last reviewed 8 July 2021

Ofsted has published updated education inspection handbooks, clarifying how inspectors will assess the way that schools and colleges confront sexual harassment, abuse and violence among children and young people.

The updates follow Ofsted’s recent “Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges” which found that sexual harassment has become “normalised” for children and young people (see “Government offers support as Ofsted calls for culture change re harassment”).

The regulator’s report recommended that school and college leaders should develop a culture where all kinds of sexual harassment are recognised and addressed, including with sanctions when appropriate.

The changes to the handbooks will take effect when routine inspection resumes in September.

Inspectors will expect schools and college leaders to assume that sexual harassment, online sexual abuse and sexual violence are happening in and around their school, even when there are no specific reports, and to have put in place a whole-school approach to address them.

The revised school inspection handbook can be found at while the handbook for Ofsted inspectors of further education and skills providers is available at

Sean Harford, Ofsted National Education Director, said: “We will expect schools and colleges to have created a culture where sexual abuse and harassment is not acceptable and never tolerated. And where pupils are supported to report any concerns about harmful sexual behaviour and can feel confident they will be taken seriously.”

Inspectors will not investigate individual allegations of harmful sexual behaviour, but will ensure that they are reported to the appropriate authority, if this has not already happened.