The Education Network for Waltham Forest
Supported by Waltham Forest

Child Sexual Exploitation

Guidance for Schools & Colleges

What is Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)?

The statutory definition of CSE is as follows:

"Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology."

CSE can take place in various different forms and recent high profile reports and enquiries (e.g. Rotherham and Rochdale) have focused largely on one form of CSE where young women were groomed by older men and exploited on an organised level. It is important to bear in mind that children can also be exploited by their peers, and by family members. Young women affected by/involved in gangs are also at significant risk of being sexually exploited. Logged-in users can download a full list of vulnerability factors and risk indicators below.

CSE can be difficult to identify as children often do not recognise that they are being sexually exploited, many children will have been subjected to a grooming process whereby the person exploiting them has employed various techniques to make the child believe that they are consenting to the situation. Children who are experiencing CSE may also have a lack of distrust in authority figures or may display behavioural issues at school and all efforts should be made by professionals to explore the reasons why the child is displaying such behaviours. The Office of the Children's Commissioner identified in their enquiry into CSE that children at risk of/experiencing CSE are often described as "putting themselves at risk", "prostituting themselves" and "promiscuous", these terms suggest the child is complicit in and/or to blame for the abuse they experience and should be avoided. It has been acknowledged by the Office of the Children's Commissioner, LSCB and Ofsted that this language and prevailing attitudes have led to systematic failings to protect and safeguard children at risk of child sexual exploitation.

Download the DfE's guidance "Child sexual exploitation: definition and guide for practitioners".


Follow the links to find out more about:

How can schools raise awareness of CSE?

What to do if you are concerned that a child is at risk of/experiencing CSE

Information for parents

Primary CSE resources

Further information for schools


Was this page useful?

Last updated: 
Tuesday, 21 February, 2017
Last updated: 21 February 2017 by Barry Fong