UK Feminista strongly welcomes the recommendations published by the Women and Equalities Committee to tackle sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools.
Sexual harassment is an all too common experience for girls at school, yet until now there has been little concerted action from Government to confront it.
UK Feminista gave written and oral evidence to the inquiry, alongside a range of anti-violence organisations and education practitioners. Our proposals included:
- The Department for Education should ensure that tackling sexual harassment and sexual violence is a key priority and communicate this to all schools by issuing national guidance.
- During an inspection, Ofsted inspectors should request that information demonstrating how the school is effectively tackling sexual harassment and sexual violence is made available.
- Schools should be encouraged and supported to adopt a whole school approach to tackling sexism.
- Tackling sexism should be a core and compulsory element of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) courses.
We are delighted to see these proposals for tackling sexism in schools included in the inquiry report. The Women and Equalities Committee’s recommendations include:
- Ofsted and Government guidance on bullying should be amended immediately to include direct reference to sexual harassment and resources for how to deal with it.
- The Department for Education should develop, publish and publicise national guidance on adopting a whole school approach to reducing and preventing sexual harassment and sexual violence in all primary and secondary schools. This guidance should be published so schools can implement it in September 2017.
- The Government should create a statutory obligation in the forthcoming Education Bill for all schools, primary and secondary, to develop a whole school approach to preventing and tackling sexual harassment and sexual violence. We also recommend that the Department for Education remind all school Governors of their legal obligations to address sexual harassment and sexual violence in school. Guidance and support on how to achieve this most effectively should be provided to Governing Bodies.
- In order for Ofsted to successfully monitor schools’ progress in this area, it must update its training and guidance by September 2017 so all schools are inspected on how effectively they are preventing and dealing with sexual harassment and sexual violence.
- As part of its ongoing review of Initial Teacher Training, we recommend that the Government assess the most effective ways to ensure all school staff are well trained to deal with and prevent sexual harassment and sexual violence. The Government should report back to us with their findings and plan of action by March 2017.
It is crucial that Government and agencies act urgently to implement these recommendations.