Report published by the Women and Equalities Committee about sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools

Report by the Women and Equalities Committee exposes the shocking scale of sexual harassment and sexual violence that is not being tackled effectively in English schools. 

This inquiry has uncovered the scale and impact of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools across England which, it says, must be acted upon urgently. The evidence gathered paints a concerning picture where sexual harassment and abuse of girls is being accepted as part of daily life; children of primary school age can learn about sex and relationships through exposure to hard-core pornography; teachers can accept sexual harassment as being “just banter”; and parents struggle to know how they can best support their children.

    Despite this evidence and existing legislation, the report finds that the Government has no coherent plan to ensure schools tackle the causes or consequences of sexual harassment and sexual violence. There are some examples of excellent work being done by schools and third sector organisations, mentioned in the report, but it is clear that too many schools are failing their pupils in this area. The report also says that the Government must take a lead and ensure that every school understands that sexual harassment and sexual violence is neither acceptable nor an inevitable part of school life. Schools, teachers and parents want and need better support and guidance in order to achieve this.

    Some of the sexual harassment uncovered through this inquiry may not reach the threshold for criminal activity. However, the report says, "it does create an environment for children and young people that is "deeply troubling", as "low level” sexual harassment has negative effects on the individuals involved."  The report examines the extent of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools and its impact on children and young people aged up to 18 years old. The recommendations focus on preventing harassment and violence and highlights that it is essential that schools support young people and provide safe environments for all students to learn in. 

    Young people told the Committee that sexual harassment has become a normal part of school life with "calling women bitches and stuff like that… a common thing that you see in school, on a daily basis really."

    ACP spokesperson said that "sexualised behaviour and harassment indicates a distorted view of others but also of oneself. It is concerning that many young people are losing the skills, or not being taught, to relate to each other in a normal way. Schools would benefit from having access to specialists who can address the complexity of the issue and enable both young people and staff to feel safe enough and supported to be more open and reflective about their experiences and concerns, whilst being able to challenge when necessary."

    Read more details about the report here