A report published today by the Women and Equalities Committee exposes the shocking scale of sexual harassment and sexual violence that is not being tackled effectively in British schools.
The report outlines evidence that:
• almost a third (29%) of 16-18 year old girls say they have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school,
• nearly three-quarters (71%) of all 16-18 year old boys and girls say they hear terms such as “slut” or “slag” used towards girls at schools on a regular basis and;
• 59% of girls and young women aged 13-21 said in 2014 that they had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year.
Young people told the Committee that sexual harassment has become a normal part of school life with “calling women bitches and stuff like that… a common thing that you see in school, on a daily basis really.” This view was supported by evidence from Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism Project who described sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools as “a widespread, regular and common problem [and] something that the majority of girls are experiencing.”
Today’s report finds an alarming inconsistency in how schools deal with sexual harassment and violence, which is mostly targeted at girls, a disregard for existing national and international equality obligations, and a lack of guidance and support for teachers.
MPs heard evidence that many schools are under-reporting incidents and often failing to take them seriously. The Committee was told by young people that their reports would be “forgotten about really easily and no action will be taken about what happened.” Academics and specialists working in schools warned that sexual harassment and sexual violence was too often accepted as the norm by both staff and students.
Despite calls from parents, teachers and young people for action to address sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools, the Committee found that neither OFSTED nor the Department for Education has a coherent plan to tackle this issue and to monitor the scale of the problem.
Maria Miller MP, Chair of Women and Equalities Committee said: “Our inquiry has revealed a concerning picture. We have heard girls talk about sexual bullying and abuse as an expected part of their everyday life; with teachers accepting sexual harassment as "just banter"; and parents struggling to know how they can best support their children.
"It is difficult to explain why any school would allow girls to be subjected to sexual harassment and violent behaviour that has been outlawed in the adult workplace. The evidence shows it is undermining the confidence of young women. Failing to reinforce what is acceptable behaviour could well be fuelling the 'Lad Culture' that the Government has already identified as a problem in colleges and universities.
“Despite this, the Department for Education and OFSTED have no coherent plan to ensure schools tackle the causes and consequences of sexual harassment and sexual violence. "There are some examples of excellent work being done by schools and third sector organisations to prevent sexual harassment and sexual violence. But too many schools are failing to recognise this as a problem and therefore failing to act.
“The Government must take a lead and make it clear that sexual harassment in schools is completely unacceptable and support schools, teachers, parents and young people to tackle this widespread problem. Our report sets out clear recommendations for how this can be achieved and we hope that the Government will implement them immediately.”
A national solution
The Committee urges the Government to act now to protect and empower a generation of children and young people. Key recommendations are:
• The Government must use the new Education Bill to ensure every school takes appropriate action to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and sexual violence. Schools will need support from Government to achieve this, including clear national guidance.
• Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate must assess schools on how well they are recording, monitoring, preventing and responding to incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
• Every child at primary and secondary school must have access to high quality, age-appropriate relationships and sex education delivered by well-trained individuals. This can only be achieved by making sex and relationships education (SRE) a statutory subject; investing in teacher training; and investing in local third sector specialist support.
Girlguiding’s Advocate panel, a group of 14-25 year olds who represent Girlguiding’s young members, said:
“As young women, many of us are still in school and experience or witness sexual harassment from groping to cat calling on a daily basis. It’s humiliating and frightening and affects what we wear, where we go, our body image and our confidence to speak out in class. Yet, it’s often dismissed as ‘banter’ or a ‘compliment’ and we are told we are overreacting or being over sensitive.
“It needs to stop. Schools should be safe and empowering places and we should feel able to learn without fear. That’s why we need a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment where schools take the issue seriously, sex and relationship education is compulsory, and schools are held accountable for preventing and tackling sexual harassment.
“It’s great the Women and Equalities Committee report is bringing the issue to light and proposing solutions for the Government which will have a big impact on girls’ lives.”
Kevin Courtney, National Union of Teachers (NUT) General Secretary said:
“The NUT welcomes the Women and Equalities Committee focus on the issue of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools. It is an issue that many teachers tell us needs addressing.
Government education policies hinder schools ability to tackle sexual harassment and sexual bullying effectively by leaving no time for pastoral care or Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) within the curriculum or school day.
Support and guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) about how to best mitigate the effects of sexual harassment and sexual violence is urgently required. Government needs to provide real leadership on this issue and widen their vision of the purpose of education”.
Other recommendations include:
• The Government should fund research to establish the most effective ways to support boys and young men to be part of the solution to the problem.
• All schools should collect data on reports of sexual harassment and violence. This data should be collated nationally and published annually.
• The police should record incidences of sexual harassment and violence in schools specifically.
• As part of its ongoing review of Initial Teacher Training, the Government should assess the most effective ways to ensure all school staff are well trained to deal with and prevent sexual harassment and sexual violence.
• The Government should use the homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying funding model to create a fund to support specialist sector organisations to use their expertise to help schools tackle sexual harassment and sexual violence.
To read the full report click here
IN THE PRESS
BBC News - Sep 13, 2016
As an MPs' report released on Tuesday reveals how sexual harassment has become a part of everyday life in English schools, one expert says inappropriate behaviour is often trivialised and classed as "banter". Kerry Cabbin, the founder of Tough Cookies ...
BBC News - Sep 12, 2016
The government has no coherent plan for tackling sexual harassment and sexual violence in England's schools, say MPs. Sexual harassment and abuse of girls are too often accepted as part of daily life, according to a Commons Women and Equalities ...
Harrow Times - Sep 13, 2016
Urgent action must be taken to end the "widespread" sexual harassment of girls, MPs have demanded after a shocking picture of the scale of abuse in schools was laid bare. Groping, name calling and bullying is part of "everyday life" for schoolgirls but ...
Telegraph.co.uk - Sep 13, 2016
Today the Women and Equality Select Committee – of which I am chair - publishes a report into sexual harassment and violence in schools. But before you read about it, I'd like you to consider one very simple question: is it right for girls, some as ...
Huffington Post UK - Sep 13, 2016
The Women and Equalities Committee has this week published its third report since its establishment, on the issue of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools. According to the research statistics, this is our widest-reaching report yet: a 2015 ...
Huffington Post UK - Sep 12, 2016
More than half of girls and young women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at school or college, a scathing report published on Tuesday has found. Almost a third of 16 to 18-year-old girls said they have experienced unwanted sexual ...
The Sydney Morning Herald - Sep 13, 2016
More than half of girls in British schools and colleges have faced sexual harassment, according to a new report on Tuesday that called for sex education to be provided for all children in primary and secondary school. A parliamentary committee report ...
Sky News - Sep 12, 2016
A cross-party group of MPs says the unacceptable behaviour girls face in schools may be fuelling "lad culture" in universities. 09:32, UK, Tuesday 13 September 2016. MPs say teachers are wrongly accepting sexual harassment in schools as.
ChronicleLive - Sep 12, 2016
Dr Fiona Vera-Gray, a research fellow, at Durham University's Department of Law, warned that many parents didn't realise how easy it was for children to access pornography. And she called for sex and relationship education to begin as early as nursery ...
Deccan Chronicle - Sep 13, 2016
The report found evidence that almost a third of 16 to 18-year-olds had experienced unwanted sexual touching at school. A parliamentary committee report said sexual bullying had become an expected part of girls' everyday lives. (Representational Image).
The Guardian - Sep 12, 2016
Government guidance on sex and relationship teaching in English schools, last updated 16 years ago, has no reference to pornography despite “significant evidence” that its ready availability online can facilitate harassment and sexual violence, MPs say.
ITV News - Sep 12, 2016
A new report has laid bare the extent of sexual harassment experienced by girls in schools across the country. Credit: PA Wire. MPs have demanded urgent action to end "widespread" sexual harassment of girls in schools. The scale of abuse was laid bare ...
Training Journal - Sep 13, 2016
MPs found unwanted sexual grouping, name calling and bulling is part of “everyday life” for schoolgirls in Britain. Credit: PA Images. A stark study by the Women's and Equalities Committee found unwanted sexual groping, name calling and bullying is ...
The Canary - Sep 13, 2016
A report by the Women and Equalities Committee released on 13 September shows that sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools are “widespread“. Testimonials from young women and girls affected suggest that schools are failing to deal effectively ...
Metro - Sep 13, 2016
MPs have demanded that urgent action is taken to tackle the 'widespread' sexual harassment of girls, which is even affecting primary school pupils. The Women and Equalities Committee pointed to research that showed almost a third of 16 to 18-year-olds ...
iNews - Sep 13, 2016
Like thousands of girls across the UK, I left Secondary School in July this year. Throughout my seven years at the same school I felt empowered to learn and to develop in a safe environment, but I know this is a relatively unique experience. Talking ...
Mirror.co.uk - Sep 12, 2016
A pornography-fuelled “lad culture” is behind a shocking rise in sexual harassment against schoolgirls, MPs say today. A report found girls are regularly victims of sexual abuse and violence in Britain's schools. The study by the Women and Equalities ...
India Today - Sep 13, 2016
Nearly three quarters of students at the age group of 16 to 18 said they heard terms such as "slut" used towards girls on a regular basis. More than half of girls in UK schools faced sexual harassment, says a report. More than half of girls in UK ...
Schools Week - Sep 12, 2016
Schools should be legally required to tackle sexual harassment and sexual violence and inspected on their effectiveness in this area, an influential group of MPs has said. The House of Commons women and equalities committee has demanded in a report ...
iNews - Sep 12, 2016
Almost one third of girls aged 16 to 18 have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school, a parliamentary inquiry has found. The damning report, published on Tuesday by the Women and Equalities Committee, describes the “shocking” scale of sexual ...
Politics.co.uk - Sep 13, 2016
“The NASUWT submitted evidence to the inquiry based on our own research which showed that sexual harassment, including threats of sexual violence and degrading comments, is an all too frequent reality for pupils and teachers in our schools.
BuzzFeed News - Sep 12, 2016
Sexual harassment and violence are “widespread” in schools – yet the government and many teachers are doing nothing about it, a committee found. posted on Sept. 12, 2016, at 3:56 p.m.. Emily Ashton. BuzzFeed News Reporter, UK. Tweet. Tumblr. Stumble.
Basingstoke Observer - Sep 13, 2016
A Government committee chaired by Basingstoke's MP has exposed the shocking scale of sexual harassment and sexual violence currently experienced by girls in schools across the UK. The women and equalities committee's report was published today, ...
RT - Sep 13, 2016
Girls as young as 11 are being groped, sneered at and insulted with sexual slurs such as “slag” and “slut” by male pupils in school, in what's described as a daily occurrence in a new report. According to research by the Women and Equalities Committee, ...
Sunderland Echo - Sep 12, 2016
Girlguiding members have launched a petition calling on Education Ministers to end sexual harassment in schools. A petition has been set up as the organisation calls for a zero tolerance approach, compulsory relationship and sex education and a duty on ...