Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee today (11 October) questioned Equalities Ministers Nick Gibb MP and Anne Milton MP about what is being done to ensure girls are protected from abuse in schools and able to access their right to education.
It follows an extremely disturbing BBC Panorama documentary this week (9 October) which featured interviews with several girls and their families where serious assaults had taken place and schools had failed to act to protect them.
In his answers today, Nick Gibb MP said that schools should not be putting boys back in class with girls they have assaulted, but admitted that guidance to schools does not currently require this. He said there would be new and updated guidance issued soon.
Sarah Green of the End Violence Against Women Coalition said:
“We’re really pleased that the Women and Equalities Committee has finally been able to extract this position from a Government Minister today – clarity that schools must treat assaults on girls seriously and should not expect them to return to class with boys they have complained about.
“The committee’s inquiry on sexual harassment and violence in schools last year threw a spotlight on this enormous issue, showing that harassment and serious assaults including rapes are common in our schools. A national scandal. But guidance to schools on safeguarding and bullying commonly fails to mention this behaviour and does not support school leaders and teachers to take action. In the worst cases which our members come across, schools are worried about being seen to treat an “unproven” allegation seriously and girls commonly leave school. Adult women in good workplaces would never be treated this way.
“We hope the Minister’s commitment to new guidance is fulfilled without delay. And we hope schools are able to use the experience and skills of specialist sexual violence organisations to help them respond to this endemic abuse.”