almost a third (29%) of 16-18 year old girls say they have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school
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
600 rapes in schools were reported to police between 2012 and 2015 – that averages out as a rape in a UK school every day of the school year.
Compulsory Relationships and Sex Ed. in UK schools
After over a decade of campaigning by the women’s sector, we are delighted at the announcement by Education Secretary Justine Greening that ‘RSE’ is to be made compulsory in all schools. We look forward to working with the government, DFE experts, and schools on the development of guidance on this. More info here…
Autumn 2016: New report shows schools’ failure to prevent and respond well to sexual harassment is unlawful
‘All day, every day’ A new report shows that schools and the government could face legal challenges from girls they let down
The briefing details how school leaders and governors are exposed to legal challenges from girls who are being sexually harassed and abused and that the guidance the government gives to schools is unlawful.
We know that despite the duties placed on schools by the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act, schools are failing girls in their care. Girls and boys are learning that sexual harassment and violence is not regarded as important by adults, that perpetrators of abuse are rarely challenged, and even that it is a ‘normal’ part of relationships between adult men and women. This has long-term consequences for individual pupils and the whole school community.
Our report finds that:
- Schools responding to allegations of sexual assault by saying they will wait or take no action until the police investigate is unlawful
- The Government’s key guidance in this area – KCSE – does not recognise the very disproportionate risk of sexual harassment and assault faced by girls nor set out how schools should respond and as such is unlawful
- Schools’ duty of care to pupils, already recognised and insured against for situations of personal injury, extends to taking reasonable steps to ensure children are safe from injurious behaviour by other pupils; failure in this area could result in a personal injury claim.
We know there is endemic levels of abuse of girls in school
The Women and Equalities Select Committee reported in September 2016 on its inquiry into sexual violence and harassment in schools.
The report outlined 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
- 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
- 600 rapes in schools were reported to police between 2012 and 2015 – that averages out as a rape in a UK school every day of the school year.
“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”
Maria Miller MP, Chair Women & Equalities Select Committee, September 2016
Despite calls from parents, teachers and young people for action, 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.
“Incidents are rarely recorded and rarely reported. Teachers are reluctant to record it unless it reaches a level at which it is ‘serious’ or affects school’s absentee targets. A girl who had reported incidents of sexual violence at school did not receive any interventions until she stopped coming to school.”
Evidence to the inquiry
Making schools safe for girls – action schools can take now
Urgent changes are needed to the way schools prevent sexual harassment and abuse, and how they handle it when it does happen. This means they should:
- Introduce high quality, age appropriate sex and relationships education (SRE)
- Investigate what’s going on in the school – develop an understanding about sexual harassment and find out if sexual violence is happening
- Introduce a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment, get staff training and review existing policies (including bullying and safeguarding) to ensure they include explicit reference to sexual harassment and abuse by peers
- Build links with local women and girls support services to help girls if they experience abuse
- Involve girls and boys in the schools’ ongoing response to abuse
The government should urgently provide clear leadership and guidance for schools and school governors. This includes:
- Legislate to make high quality, age appropriate sex and relationships education (SRE) compulsory in all schools.
- Revise the key statutory guidance on safeguarding – ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ – to ensure it highlights the prevalence and risk of sexual harassment and abuse of girls in school and appropriate responses.
- The Department for Education should also make clear to schools, in ‘KCSE’ and directly, that schools failing to respond appropriately to reports of sexual assault is unlawful and constitutes discrimination against girls.
- Consult on how teacher training can be improved so that teachers and all school workers respond appropriately to sexual harassment.
Ofsted must ensure schools are meeting the needs of girls by:
- Examining the way schools respond to sexual harassment and assaults against girls.
Schools Safe 4 Girls
EVAW’s Schools Safe 4 Girls campaign was launched in 2012 just as the Savile revelations were breaking. The campaign, funded by Comic Relief, helps parents, students and local women’s groups to work with their schools to promote girls’ safety. In the light of police figures showing more then 5,500 sexual offences were recorded in UK schools over the last three years, including 600 rapes, it is needed more than ever.
The campaign has helped create a huge shift across the political spectrum. Before the 2015 General Election, the Greens, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all expressed their commitment to statutory Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) as part of Personal Social Health and Economic (PSHE) education.
What we are calling for:
- Giving children the information they need about sexual consent and respectful relationships, including through compulsory SRE and ongoing teacher training as part of a ‘whole school approach’ to violence against women and girls
- Long term investment in public campaigns to change harmful attitudes and behaviours, learning from the THINK! road safety campaign
- Tackle misogynistic images of women in the media that condone and normalise abuse
- A law to ensure that all survivors of abuse have specialist support, whether or not they report
EVAW Schools Guide
We’ve published a Schools Guide to address Violence Against Women and Girls. The guide includes a Factsheet setting out the different forms of abuse women and girls disproportionately experience; a Gold Standard SRE document explaining what good teaching in this area looks like; and a Whole School Approach template model showing how to get a whole school working towards ending abuse.
The guide sets out the different forms of abuse and warning signs to look for, what good teaching in this area looks like, and how to get your whole school working towards ending abuse. The guide contains three documents:
Violence Against Women and Girls Factsheet: Key information for education staff to understand violence and abuse of girls (available to download separately here)
Gold Standard Sex and Relationship Education: Principles and practices to prevent violence and abuse of girls (available to download separately here)
A Whole School Approach: A template model for education establishments to prevent violence and abuse of girls (available to download separately here)