Bailey Review on the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood - Consultation Response, 18 March 2011
Schools and colleges have a crucial role to play in helping to counter the sexualisation of girls across society, the NASUWT believes.
Teachers are seeing a narrowing of girls' aspirations and achievements caused by an increasing emphasis on femininity and beauty, while the "pornification" of culture sends worrying messages to boys and men about how they view girls and women.
The Union believes education is vital in raising the confidence, self-esteem and aspirations of young girls and fears the present narrow approach to the curriculum risks compromising efforts to counter sexualisation.
And in the current atmosphere of real-term cuts to per pupil funding, there is a danger that schools will increasingly find it difficult to resist advertising as a means of raising income. There is currently no regulation on advertising in this area and decisions rest entirely with heads and governors.
Because of this children could become more exposed to commercial messages in one of the few places where they have been so far relatively protected.
In its consultation response to the Government's Bailey Review on the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood, the Union called on ministers to implement its recommendations including a compulsory age rating system for so-called lads' mags and a ban on advertising jobs in the adult entertainment industry by Job Centre Plus.
A survey commissioned as part of the Bailey Review last month found that 88% of people believed that children are under pressure to grow up too quickly.
Specific areas of parental concern revealed in the survey were that clothes were not age appropriate and there was increasingly sexualised content in music videos and pre-watershed television programmes.
The Union believes sexualised images and products give girls the idea that their appearance is paramount and they are under pressure to appear sexually available at younger and younger ages.
The detrimental effects of this on society include an increase in sexism, rates of sexual violence and sexual harassment. The sexualisation of girls is not just shattering the lives of girls and women, it is preventing boys and young men from relating to girls and women as human beings, the Union believes.
Government figures show that in 2006/07 there were 3,500 temporary exclusions and 140 permanent exclusions from schools in England for sexual misconduct, including incidents such as serious sexual assaults, groping, sexually insulting nicknames and obscene graffiti.
Of the fixed-term exclusions, 280 were from primary schools and in 20 cases the child responsible was five. Sexist bullying is not just confined to pupils either; an NASUWT survey found one in six female teachers has suffered from abuse in the workplace.
The Union is therefore calling on the Coalition Government to show a clear lead in signalling that the sexualisation of children, sexual bullying and sexual harassment are unacceptable, via clear advice and guidance to schools and colleges.