Thu 10 June 2021:
Schoolchildren have told Ofsted inspectors that sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are such a routine part of their daily lives they don’t see any point in challenging or reporting it.
Nine out of 10 girls said that sexist name-calling and being sent unwanted explicit pictures or videos happened “a lot,” that children no longer see the point of reporting it, the government education watchdog reported on Thursday.
“We found that children often don’t see the point of challenging or reporting this harmful behaviour because it’s seen as a normal experience. Pupils said adults often don’t realise the prevalence of sexual harassment that occurs both inside and outside school. They spoke of teachers not ‘knowing the reality’ of their lives,” the investigation by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) found.
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According to the report, children told inspectors that they did not always want to talk to adults about sexual harassment out of concerns about “reputational damage” or being socially ostracized, among other reasons.
“They also worried about not knowing what would happen next once they reported an incident, and about potential police involvement,” it said.
Meanwhile, teachers argued that they do not feel prepared to teach outside their subject specialism, or lack knowledge on topics like consent, healthy relationships and sharing of sexual images.
Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said she was “shocked” by the review, claiming that it is alarming that many children and young people, particularly girls, feel they have to accept sexual harassment as part of growing up.
“This is a cultural issue; it’s about attitudes and behaviours becoming normalised, and schools and colleges can’t solve that by themselves,” Spielman was quoted as saying.
The report called for a culture change in schools and colleges, with headteachers assuming that sexual harassment is affecting their pupils even when there are no specific reports, while the government reacted to the review by announcing more support for schools and colleges to tackle sexual abuse.
Ofsted inspectors visited 32 state and private schools and colleges and spoke to more than 900 children and young people about the prevalence of sexual harassment in their lives and the lives of their peers as part of a review commissioned by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson in March, following testimonies posted anonymously on the Everyone’s Invited website which highlighted cases of sexual abuse and harassment of children and young people.
Soma Sara, the founder of Everyone’s Invited, welcomed the report but said many of the findings had already been established in a landmark report by the Commons women and equalities committee in 2016. “Why hasn’t anything happened since then? How can we be sure that real change will come about after the Ofsted report? We’ve had reports in the past and nothing has happened. What’s different now?”
On Wednesday evening, the Everyone’s Invited website published for the first time the names of 2,962 schools in the UK mentioned among the 16,554 testimonies now posted on the website. The list includes both secondary and primary schools, from both the state and private sector, and their locations in every corner of the UK but gives no further details of the nature or number of allegations made against them.
The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: “Sexual abuse in any form is completely unacceptable. No young person should feel that this is a normal part of their daily lives – schools are places of safety, not harmful behaviours that are tolerated instead of tackled.”
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