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Gove to provide schools with FGM guidance

27/02/2014 Joanna
Education secretary Michael Gove is to write to schools issuing guidance on protecting children from female genital mutilation (FGM).

The news follows a high-profile campaign to raise awareness of the issue. Bristol student Fahma Mohamed started a petition backed by the Guardian newspaper asking Mr Gove to send guidance to schools before the summer. Some 234,000 people signed the document.

Mr Gove described the campaign as "inspirational" and said he would send guidance to schools by Easter. Material will be sent out to those in education jobs and others who work with young people.

It will cover information on the prevalence of FGM, both in the UK and abroad; factors which put children at increased risk of the practice; indications that a child may have been a victim of FGM; and information on teachers' and other staffs' duties regarding the issue.

Expert advice from the NSPCC will also be included in the documentation. Mr Gove is to write to all headteachers to ensure all teaching staff familiarise themselves with the new guidance.

Ms Mohamed thanked everyone who had signed the petition. "I want to thank every single person who signed, without them we would never have got this meeting and Mr Gove would never have agreed to write to all schools. 

"This is a real step to helping us eradicate this issue forever. It's a huge weight off my shoulders," she commented.

The education secretary said: "Fahma and her supporters have done fantastic work in raising awareness of female genital mutilation."

Around 24,000 girls in the UK may be at risk of FGM. It is common in some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities and many girls are sent abroad during the summer to have the practice carried out.

FGM is usually performed on girls between five and 15. It can cause serious health problems for women and can sometimes result in death.

Cultural, religious and social factors play a role in FGM but it is recognised as a violation of the human rights of women.

Mr Gove has asked Ms Mohamed for more information on how education about female genital mutilation can be made age appropriate.

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