1/3 of 16-18 year old girls say they have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school
59% of young women aged 13-21 say 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 – an average of a rape every day of the school year.
Nearly three-quarters (71%) of all 16-18 year olds say they hear terms like “slut” or “slag” used towards girls at school on a regular basis
24% 16-18-year-olds say that their teachers never said unwanted sexual touching, sharing of sexual pictures or sexual name calling are unacceptable
Sex and relationship education is still not compulsory in all schools and plans to introduce it give faith schools an opt-out
Government plans for sex education far too squeamish
Despite growing recognition that high quality, relevant and age appropriate sex and relationships education is incredibly important if we are to tackle rising reports of sexual violence and harassment, in and outside school, the Department for Education plans to let many schools simply opt out. Proposals consulted on this Autumn:
- permit faith schools to teach marriage only
- include repeated references to “self-control”, “managing peer pressure” and “resisting pressure to have sex”
- lack clarity on teaching the law on abuse and on equality (and make FGM and forced marriage optional areas of teaching only)
- make only single references to pornography and menstruation
- fail to make a strong enough link with the likelihood of young people disclosing abuse after lessons and being prepared for this in school
- continue to permit parents to withdraw children (up to the age of 15) from ‘sex education’
EVAW and our members have responded to the consultation and asked the Secretary of State for Education to think again and put in place guidance which will help ALL schools teach children what they need to know to end VAWG. Hear EVAW co-director Sarah Green describe the problems on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
Sexual violence and harassment in school is a national crisis
Reports by MPs and debates in parliament have highlighted the crisis of sexual violence in schools but the government has been slow to react and there are still too many schools which haven’t put in place policies to prevent and respond violence against girls.
Often parents are reassured that Ofsted will ensure schools are safe places for children. But reports have repeatedly shown that Ofsted too often just look at the policies on paper and does not understand the causes of sexual violence and sexual harassment in school, and that schools’ responses to it are reinforcing a really unhelpful and negative culture.
EVAW’s briefing on the human rights and equality obligations on schools to keep girls safe has lead to human rights challenges, including significant compensation paid to a girl forced back into the classroom with the boy who raped her.
We were able to force the DfE to re-write safeguarding guidance and tell all schools what they should do to prevent and respond to sexual violence and sexual harassment. But this is not enough to ensure children are safe. Teachers and leaders need training, support and links with local women’s groups so they can help girls who’ve experienced rape and sexual violence. And sex ed is essential to tackle the culture allows sexual violence to thrive.
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.
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
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)