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.