School staff on alert ahead of FGM ‘cutting season’

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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Teachers are being urged to stay alert for signs that pupils may be at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) as we enter the “cutting season”.

The summer holidays are often the time when victims are flown overseas to unwittingly undergo the procedure, which is illegal and considered in the UK as a form of child abuse.

Recent figures from the NHS show that 1,990 women and girls in England were treated for FGM during the first quarter of this year. Of these, 1,015 were newly recorded cases. FGM took place before the age of 18 in 80 per cent of the cases. Overall, it is estimated that there are at least 137,000 girls and women affected by FGM in England and Wales.

The National FGM Centre is run by Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association and offers training and advice to teachers and others. It says that any school staff worried that a child might be at risk of FGM should follow their normal safeguarding procedures.

Indications to look out for include a child confiding she is going to have a “special procedure” or attend a special occasion to “become a woman”, or a child talking about looking forward to a long holiday in a country where the practice is prevalent.

FGM is also known as female circumcision or cutting, and by other terms such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan. It is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15, most commonly before puberty starts.

Since 2015, there has been a specific legal duty on teaching staff to report to the police cases where they discover that an act of FGM appears to have been carried out. Signs that may point to this include difficulty in walking or sitting down, taking a long time in the toilet, or a becoming withdrawn.

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