‘Understanding the sexual exploitation of children and young people’: a five day short course

Here Fiona Factor charts the development of our highly popular short course on CSE which was first developed in 2010 and describes the learning derived for both participants and tutors.

In 2009 I was responsible for the development of an MA in Applied Public Policy: Children and Young People’s Services and also an MA in Youth Work and Social Disadvantage with the Universities of Tartu, Estonia and HUMAK, Finland. This gave us the opportunity to develop a completely new curriculum targeted at professionals who would return to university post qualifying as part of their continuing professional development, as well as learn from colleagues in Europe.
Research-informed teaching underpins the work of the Institute of Applied Social Research, and within the International Centre we began to explore what our newly generated research knowledge would mean for our teaching and learning activity. A new course combining our learning from CSE and trafficking was approved as a masters level unit within the MAs and, accompanied by a range of online resources, was delivered to students both here in Bedfordshire and to those in our partner institutions in Estonia and Finland. It was very well received.
In 2011, staff at the International Centre published What’s going on to safeguard children and young people from sexual exploitation? How local partnerships respond to child sexual exploitation’ which highlighted the need for statutory agencies in particular to review the appropriateness of their child protection systems in light of the complexities that were becoming apparent when responding to young people affected by child sexual exploitation. The emerging recognition of the need to consider a different professional response to adolescents requiring safeguarding support and protection was undisputed.

Following the publication of OCC CSEGG inquiry in 2013, attention was focussed on how professionals were equipped to respond to the new challenges that increased knowledge of CSE was making apparent. A number of organisations approached us directly to develop bespoke training and consequently, a new, standalone masters level short course was approved in 2014 which focussed specifically on CSE. The course learning outcomes are:

  • To demonstrate a critical appreciation of the complex nature of CSE and the challenges associated with identifying and responding to it.
  • To synthesise current learning on CSE, in an accessible format, for other professionals who are less familiar with the issue.

It has now been delivered six times as a commissioned course for local authority children’s services and has, on three occasions, been taught here at the university alongside the masters students, and once to a police-only cohort.

We’ve learnt a lot as a teaching team by being able to engage directly with practitioners who are grappling with these issues in their daily work. It has helped us reconsider and review the way we present the key areas of learning from our research to make it applicable in a real world practice setting. The assessment is a ‘professional briefing’ which helpfully enables participants to cascade their learning to colleagues back in the workplace. Each time the teaching team adjust the curriculum to ensure its appropriateness for the audience and include new and relevant research findings as they become available.

In 2015 we changed it from a four to a five day course as the willingness amongst participants to engage in valuable class based discussions meant we were in danger of not delivering the entire curriculum. In particular, the recognition of the significant value of bringing together different professionals into multi-agency learning environments is recognised by both participants and tutors. For the team at the International Centre, it has also allowed for some of our researchers, who are less experienced teachers, to shadow colleagues and to put their toe in the water by devising new and creative methods to convey key research messages. This has helped several to achieve their Higher Education Academy (HEA) recognition, important for their own professional development.

This is what previous participants have said about the course:

The course itself was detailed, taught by interesting and knowledgeable staff and generally very well run. I left the course with a greater confidence in my ability to identify and appropriately deal with CSE within my work. It also gave the opportunity to speak with other professionals about their experiences and talk about best working practice. I would recommend this course to anyone whose work involves CSE. Simon Abery, CSE Point of Contact, Police

I found the CSE short course a very valuable learning experience and particularly appreciated the setting, the variety of students (multi-agency professionals and MA students), the structure of the course and the variety of teaching staff. The current content and unpicking of tricky concepts such as the overlap between victimhood and agency and where CSE fits within a broader spectrum of sexual violence were helpful and very relevant to my work.   CSE Education Officer (Voluntary Sector)

I attended the Child Sexual Exploitation course and would recommend it to anyone involved in CSE work. On a personal note I really enjoyed myself and got so much out of it and made friends on the way. The lecturers really know their stuff and gave us lots of room for discussion alongside the course content. On a professional level it helped me implement changes and develop new approaches and strategies in the work place.   Anneliese Fay, Dorset Children’s Services

The course has consistently received extremely good feedback and we have a waiting list of practitioners who want to come on the next course. As a teaching team we are committed to ensuring the course remains relevant for practitioners as policy and guidance continues to develop, shape and inform the support offered to young people.

For more information, please contact Fiona.factor@beds.ac.uk, or helen.beckett@beds.ac.uk