Sexual harassment ‘normalised’ in schools and colleges

Sad schoolgirl sitting alone in basketball court at school gym, sexual harassment in school

Sexual harassment has been ‘normalised’ for children in schools and colleges, according to a new report.

According to a review by Ofsted, around nine in ten of the girls asked said that sexist name calling and being sent unwanted explicit pictures or videos happened ‘a lot’ or ‘sometimes.

Ofsted’s 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.

Inspectors were also told that boys talk about whose ‘nudes’ they have and share them among themselves like a ‘collection game’, typically on platforms like WhatsApp or Snapchat.

Shockingly, the review 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.

Children told inspectors that they didn’t always want to talk to adults about sexual harassment for a variety of reasons, including concerns about ‘reputational damage’ or being socially ostracised. They also worried about not knowing what would happen next once they reported an incident, and about potential police involvement.

The review is now recommending that school and college leaders act on the assumption that sexual harassment is affecting their pupils, and take a whole-school approach to addressing these issues, creating a culture where sexual harassment is not tolerated.

Speaking about the report, Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said, “This review shocked me.”

“It’s alarming that many children and young people, particularly girls, feel they have to accept sexual harassment as part of growing up.”

“Whether it’s happening at school or in their social life, they simply don’t feel it’s worth reporting.”

This is a cultural issue; it’s about attitudes and behaviours becoming normalised, and schools and colleges can’t solve that by themselves.”

“The government needs to look at online bullying and abuse, and the ease with which children can access pornography.”

“But schools and colleges have a key role to play.”

“They can maintain the right culture in their corridors and they can provide RSHE that reflects reality and equips young people with the information they need.”

“I hope policymakers, teachers, parents and young people will read the report and work together to change attitudes and put a stop to harmful behaviour.”

“Sexual harassment should never be considered normal and it should have no place in our schools and colleges.”

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About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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