The guidance applies to proprietors of independent schools and governing bodies of maintained schools and colleges (amongst others) and is intended to provide information, strategic guidance and advice and support to front-line professionals on FGM.
The guidance is clear that cases of FGM 'should be dealt with as part of existing structures, policies and procedures on child protection and adult safeguarding'. In relation to identifying and responding to those at risk of, or who have undergone FGM, and their parent(s) or guardians, the guidance states that 'accessible, high quality and sensitive health, education, police, social care and voluntary sector services must underpin all interventions' and 'all decisions or plans should be based on high quality assessments'.
Section 5B of the 2003 Act imposes a mandatory reporting duty on all regulated professionals working within health and social care as well as teachers in England and Wales to notify the police of FGM where, in the course of their professional duties, they either:
The duty came into force from 31 October 2015 and applies to qualified teachers or persons who are employed or engaged to carry out teaching work in schools and other institutions. Reports under the duty should be made as soon as possible after a case is discovered. The guidance contains further detail on timeframes for reporting in exceptional circumstances.
The guidance states that cases of failure to comply with the duty should be dealt with in accordance with the existing performance procedures in place for each professional. FGM is child abuse and employers and the professional regulators are expected to pay due regard to the seriousness of breaches of the duty.
The guidance also notes that whilst the duty is limited to specified professionals, non-regulated practitioners still have a general responsibility to report cases of FGM in line with wider safeguarding frameworks. If a non-regulated professional becomes aware that FGM has been carried out on a girl under 18, they should still share this information with their local safeguarding lead and follow their organisation's safeguarding procedures.
The guidance contains a section on 'Additional Considerations for Schools, Colleges and Universities' which provides suggestions on how to raise awareness of FGM within schools and what to do if a student stops attending school.
On 25 May 2016, the Department for Health published separate guidance intended to support an NHS organisation when developing or reviewing their safeguarding policies and procedures around FGM. This guidance can however also be used by health professionals from all sectors and makes specific reference to the responsibility of the school nurse to inform the GP of a family history of FGM where they identify that there is or are sisters of a girl with FGM.
As FGM is a safeguarding issue, schools must be able to demonstrate compliance with the statutory guidance at inspection. As a minimum therefore, schools should: