MPs demand urgent action to end ‘widespread’ sexual harassment of girls in schools

MPs have called for urgent action to end “widespread” sexual harassment of girls in schools

MPs found unwanted sexual grouping, name calling and bulling is part of “everyday life” for schoolgirls in Britain. Credit: PA Images

A stark study by the Women’s and Equalities Committee found unwanted sexual groping, name calling and bullying is part of “everyday life” for schoolgirls in Britain.

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MPs also found that some of the claims of sexual harassment were dismissed as “just banter” by teachers.

They cited research by campaign group End Violence Against Women that suggested 71 per cent of all 16 to 18-year-olds had been called a “slut” or “slag” on a regular basis.

Some 29 per cent had also told of being groped, while others talked of how “slapping of bums and flicking of skirts” was common.

The MPs also saw evidence that showed around 60% of girls and young women aged between 13 and 21 said in 2014 they had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year.

Conservative committee chair Maria Miller said: “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. 

“It is difficult to explain why any school would allow girls to be subjected to sexual harassment and violent behaviour that has been outlawed in the adult workplace. The evidence shows it is undermining the confidence of young women. Failing to reinforce what is acceptable behaviour could well be fuelling the ‘Lad Culture’ that the Government has already identified as a problem in colleges and universities.

“Despite this, the Department for Education and Ofsted have no coherent plan to ensure schools tackle the causes and consequences of sexual harassment and sexual violence.”

Ms Miller said while there were some examples of prevention seen in some schools, many others were failing to adequately deal with the problem and Ofsted had no plan to deal with the issue.

She added: “The Government must take a lead and make it clear that sexual harassment in schools is completely unacceptable and support schools, teachers, parents and young people to tackle this widespread problem. Our report sets out clear recommendations for how this can be achieved and we hope that the Government will implement them immediately.” 

Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Government education policies hinder schools’ ability to tackle sexual harassment and sexual bullying effectively by leaving no time for pastoral care or personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) within the curriculum or school day.

“Support and guidance from the Department for Education about how to best mitigate the effects of sexual harassment and sexual violence is urgently required.”


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