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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Thu 21-Jun-18 17:12:29

National FGM Centre issues warning to teachers

In the first quarter of 2018 there were over a thousand newly reported cases of female genital mutilation in England. With 'cutting season' approaching, teachers are being urged to help with safeguarding vulnerable girls.

Leethen Bartholomew

National FGM Centre issues warning to teachers

Posted on: Thu 21-Jun-18 17:12:29

(6 comments )

Lead photo

Teachers are urged to look out for signs that girls might be at risk

The first time I heard of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was in 2005, seven years after I qualified as a social worker. I was looking for something to watch on television and by chance I started to watch a documentary on FGM called 'The day I will never forget' and for me it was truly a day I will never forget.

There was a scene involving a little girl in the process of being cut and the wailing sound she made penetrated my heart. I sat in my living room crying and I said to myself that I would do anything in my power to make sure the practice ends. That is why I became the Head of the National FGM Centre and why its work to prevent girls from suffering FGM in England is so vital.

A big part of our work is training professionals, like teachers and social workers, about the signs that indicate a girl may be at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM). Armed with this knowledge, they can help us protect more girls. And as 'cutting season' approaches we are publicly issuing this advice so it gets to more teachers and other professionals.

The so-called 'season' arrives at the start of the summer holidays, when potentially thousands of UK girls could be flown abroad to endure the procedure. The National FGM Centre says any teacher who suspects a pupil is going overseas for this purpose should follow normal safeguarding procedures - but these professionals can only help protect children by knowing what to look out for.

Some indications may come from the child, including beginning to tell her friends about FGM and confiding in them that she is going to have a 'special procedure' or attending a special occasion to 'become a woman'. They may also talk about looking forward to a long holiday to a country where the practice is prevalent, or the girl may approach a teacher or another adult if she's aware or suspects she's at immediate risk.

I sat in my living room crying and I said to myself that I would do anything in my power to make sure the practice ends


It is illegal for a girl or woman to have FGM in the UK and it is also illegal for them to be flown abroad to have it done, but the child's parents may unwittingly give clues that they are planning for their daughter to have FGM.

These clues could include saying they are taking their child out of the country for a prolonged period of time, asking their child’s head teacher for permission to take their daughter out of school during term time, or mentioning they are visiting a destination where the practice is prevalent.

Some of these indicators on their own won't necessarily mean a girl is at risk of FGM, but they may require further exploration by the teacher. At the National FGM Centre, which is run by Barnardo's and the Local Government Association, we also train professionals to spot signs that may suggest girls have had FGM.

These include difficulty in walking or sitting down comfortably, taking a long time in the toilet, or a significant change in behaviour such as becoming withdrawn. Under the mandatory reporting guidelines, a teacher, and other mandated professionals, must report known cases of FGM in under 18s to the police.

Our 'cutting season' warning comes as figures published by NHS Digital show we still have a long way to go before new cases are stopped. There were 1,030 newly recorded cases of female genital mutilation in England between January and March 2018, according to figures published recently (on June 7) by NHS Digital. This is compared to 1,045 newly recorded cases for the last quarter of 2017.

In all, for the first quarter of this year, there were 1,745 women and girls reported at NHS trusts and GP practices where FGM was identified or a procedure related to FGM was undertaken. Of these 1,745, the FGM took place before the girl had reached her 10th birthday in 77% of the cases, and before she was 18 in 87% of cases. 3% of the cases happened here in the UK.

And in the most recent annual children in need and child protection statistics, published by the Department for Education, it was reported that there were 970 referrals to children's social care where FGM was identified as a factor for the referral.

Our target is to end new cases of FGM in the UK by 2030. I hope our reminder of the warning signs will help not just teachers but all agencies to prevent FGM from happening by identifying girls at risk and helping to prosecute those who fail to protect girls from this type of abuse.

By Leethen Bartholomew

Twitter: @FGMCentre

sleepingdragons Fri 22-Jun-18 08:45:38

It's so desperately wrong that little girls are subjected to this kind of barbarity.

I had no idea it was so many though in this country though - over a thousand a quarter - that's truly shocking.

Seasawride Mon 06-Aug-18 19:02:55

Why so few prosecutions? No punishment means this will continue. We need to get a hell of a lot tougher and stop dancing around bloody cultural sensitivity bollocks.

TheGoldenWolfFleece Mon 06-Aug-18 19:10:08

The numbers are horrifying. Those little girls sad

missnevermind Mon 06-Aug-18 19:11:57

A thousand a quarter are only the ones we know about. Imagine what the true number might be.

gendercritter Thu 09-Aug-18 14:18:06

I despair that so many girls are still being cut and no ones has had charges brought against them

Alpacanorange Fri 14-Sep-18 12:48:29

My heart aches for women and girls effected. Education is the way forward, it’s barbaric and cruel. Cultural differences is absolutely no defence.

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