Update (10 Sept 2021): The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, has responded to the letter. Read the response here.
A letter sent today (28 July 2021) to the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson and signed by 16 organisations including Imkaan, Women’s Aid Federation England, Refuge and Rape Crisis England & Wales has called for the creation of a taskforce that will drive the Whole Schools Approach in schools, and ensure that Relationships, Sex and Health Education is not sidelined due to catching up from Covid.
The letter is in response to the recent Ofsted review which found that sexual harassment in schools and colleges is widespread and its prevalence is underestimated by teachers. This confirms what the Violence Against Women and Girls sector has been saying for a long time and have repeatedly raised with government.
The letter draws attention to how the Ofsted approach failed to consider which young people are most likely to be targeted for sexual harassment and/or violence or to explore the impact of race, disability or other characteristics which can compound the abuse girls are subjected to on and offline.
The letter also states:
“While the Ofsted report shines a much-needed light on these longstanding issues, we cannot let this be the end of the conversation. We are therefore asking Ministers to take this issue seriously by creating a taskforce that brings together leaders across government, education, and experts on violence against women and girls to advise on next steps and drive the rollout of a whole school approach that is relevant to the daily experiences and reality of young people’s lives. This taskforce must include representation of “by and for” organisations so as to ensure the lack of intersectional analysis of the Ofsted report is addressed going forward. Sexual abuse in schools is deeply gendered in its nature and the expertise of the specialist violence against women and girls sector is vital to creating a culture where all girls can be confident that sexual abuse and harassment will not be tolerated.”
Given that the recently-published government VAWG strategy commits that “The Department for Education will better support teachers to deliver the recently introduced Relationships, Sex and Health education curriculum, as well as explore how we can use young people, such as university students, to support this” we now need information as to how this commitment will be met.
The letter is available in full here. We hope to receive a reply soon to their letter, and will publish any replies on the End Violence Against Women Coalition’s website.