Schools urged to be on FGM alert as ‘cutting season’ nears

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
At risk? Most cases of FGM take place abroad. The signs of potential FGM include at-risk pupils talking about taking a long family holiday or attending a ‘special occasion’

Teachers are being urged to stay alert to signs of pupils at-risk of undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) as the so-called “cutting season” approaches.

The season arrives with the start of the summer holidays, when thousands of girls are at risk of being flown abroad to undergo the procedure.

The warning has been issued by the National FGM Centre and comes after the release of the latest FGM prevalence figures by NHS Digital.

The figures show 1,030 newly recorded cases of FGM in England between January and March 2018 – matching the 1,045 cases recorded in the last quarter of 2017.

In total, 1,745 women and girls were reported at NHS trusts and GP practices where FGM was identified or a procedure relating to FGM was undertaken.

In 87 per cent of cases the FGM took place before the girl had reached the age of 18 and the victim was aged 10 or younger in 77 per cent of cases. Just three per cent of the cases actually took place in the UK. Overall, figures show that there are at least 137,000 girls and women affected by FGM in England and Wales.

The National FGM Centre – which is run by Barnardo’s – advises any teacher who suspects a pupil is going overseas for FGM to follow normal safeguarding procedures.
It says that signs to look out for include if the child:

  • Begins to tell her friends about FGM.
  • Confides she is going to have a “special procedure”
  • Confides she is to attend a special occasion to “become a woman”.
  • Talks about looking forward to a long holiday to a country where the practice is prevalent.

Furthermore, schools are urged to be alert to the FGM risk if parents say they are taking their child out of the country for a prolonged period of time or ask permission to take their daughter out of school during term time.

Signs that a child may have already undergone the procedure, 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or sitting down comfortably, taking a long time in the toilet, or a significant change in behaviour such as becoming withdrawn.

In 2003 the Female Genital Mutilation Act made it illegal to take a girl abroad for FGM. Since 2015 it has been mandatory for health, social care workers and teachers in England and Wales to report known cases of FGM for under 18-year-olds to the police.

Head of the National FGM Centre, Leethen Bartholomew, said: “Much more needs to be done to support survivors of FGM and protect girls who are at risk. FGM is child abuse and no girl should ever have to live with the harmful physical and emotional consequences of this practice.

“We hope our reminder of the 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.”


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