Sexual Harassment in Schools


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In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday...
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How can schools do better to protect our young people from sexual harassment and sexual abuse?

Last week Ofsted published their rapid thematic Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges, including online sexual abuse. Incidents are so commonplace that [students] see no point in reporting them!

An issue for everyone!

Earlier this year, the website Everyone’s Invited exposed 16,000+ allegations of rape culture of harassment and abuse in our schools. The vast majority of testimonials were from females, with a tenth of all England’s schools and colleges being named (approximately 2,500), detailing sexual assault and sexual harassment.

This should be an important topic for everyone across British society.

Gentleman, we must do better!

For people who were sexually abused as children and are now working in education, I suspect this topic is especially sensitive. As a male survivor, it’s worth mentioning that boys are not immune to rape and sexual harassment. This is not to ignore the enormous problem we have to support all females across society.

As a survivor of male sexual abuse, for a multitude of reasons, it took me 32 years to report the event…  Could a school have spotted the signs earlier? Possibly…

Husbands, uncles and brothers, we must do better to educate our young boys.

Recommendations made five years ago

Maria Miller, Conservative MP for Basingstoke spoke up on publication day and said:

It is “shocking [that the] Ofsted report on sexual abuse in schools mirrors recommendations made 5 years ago by [the Women and Equalities Committee] enquiry, but that the new report didn’t explain why changes redefined 5 years ago include new guidance to tackle sexual harassment and changed often inspection framework to inspect schools or sexual harassment have had impact.”

Yes, 5 years ago! Quite a damning evaluation by Miller.

This Ofsted review is an important example where Ofsted does show value for money, however, it should not have taken Everyone’s Invited to expose the problem before the government took any action. We must question why nothing happened after the recommendations were made in 2016, and why Ofsted never really ‘checked in’ on these issues previously…

Ofsted report

“Over 83,000 child sex abuse offences were reported (year ending March 2020).”

Imagine the number that haven’t? An increase by 267%! One quarter of cases involve a perpetrator under 18 years old!

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There is an enormous amount of information in the Ofsted review. It is seriously worth reading. Equally,  the original recommendations by the Women and Equalities Committee (2016).

Whilst it is important to recognise that schools do play a critical role in educating and safeguarding or young people, there is a greater responsibility in society for us all to play. For example, social media, pornography, sexting, lyrics in songs etc

What can your school do?

Sexism in schoolsThis document was sent to me by the current National Education Union President, Robin Bevan.

The paper offers research data from 1,634 teachers working in secondary and primary schools in England and Wales. 26 per cent reported witnessing sexual harassment on a weekly basis.

37 per cent of female students at mixed sex schools have personally experienced some form of sexual harassment at school.

We have a growing problem, not a new problem.

 

Things the government could do to support schools?

  1.  Increase statutory RSE curriculum time
  2.  Provide in-house counsellors and therapists to every school
  3.  Increase safeguarding statutory duties for staff training E.g. more INSET time
  4. Ofsted to monitor more closely, sexual harassment
  5. Hold social media companies more to account, including online anonymity

Actions in schools and take

  1. Review RSE curriculum provision
  2. Refine ICT security and curriculum
  3. Better CPD provision for all staff
  4. Develop current tutor time, assemblies and external speakers provision
  5. Stricter and rigorous approach for dealing with sexual behaviour E.g.  mobile skirting, sexting etc

Of course, there are many many things we can do, far beyond this list. Equally, there are many brilliant websites!

Resources to use

As recommended by the Department for Education:

  1. Sexwise – honest advice about sexual wellbeing
  2. Abuse in relationships – and preventing teenage relationship abuse
  3. LGBT inclusivity – equity for everyone.
  4. Public Health England – resources to support physical and mental wellbeing.
  5. Education for a Connected World – helping children to use the Internet safely.
  6. Sexting: UKCCIS advice for schools on preventative education and managing reports of sexting
  7. Thinkuknow – online safety issues

Conclusions

Whilst I believe some these issues are increasing not reducing, parenting in the home, as well as influences from peer-culture, social media and everyday sexism must be tackled by you, myself and society at large.

There are some clear practical things that schools can do to safeguard our young people, but they will need our support and explicit long-term funding.

Ofsted’s review did not analyse whether the issues are more or less prevalent for different groups of young people, but the issues are widespread. At least this report now offers an important roadmap for ALL schools and for people like you and I…

Whilst we’re here, let’s also consider the work we need to do for females in the workplace, including schools too.

 


One thought on “Sexual Harassment in Schools

  1. Excellent article Ross. I a am big believer that online influences have a big role to play here. Yes schools have a role to play but I wish Ofsted had been braver and called on mums and dads to do more. These things do start at home and I can’t help feeling education settings are being called on to fix a much wider problem.

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