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Sexual harassment is a rising epidemic in the UK, with 1 in 2 women experiencing sexual harassment at work, rising to 2 in 3 amongst lesbian and trans women.

Schools and colleges are workplaces too, and members’ experiences show that they are not immune to sexual assault & violence with shocking evidence daily of assaults against women & girls.

In a recent NASUWT survey, 54% of teachers said they had witnessed sexual harassment or abuse of girls by male pupils. Nearly half of teachers told the NASUWT that they themselves had experienced sexual harassment or witnessed it against colleagues in their school.

Addressing politicians and Education Sector leaders and workers at the Westminster Education Forum, Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said, “Too often, these reports are not taken seriously or are simply brushed under the carpet. The response to such unacceptable behaviour is slow or the burden of responsibility is pushed back onto women and girls to learn to be more resilient.”

“Recently, we have heard warm words from the Government on the issue of violence against women and girls, but warm words provide cold comfort to women and girls who live daily with the reality and the threat of sexual violence in their homes, in their communities, in their workplaces or in their schools.”

“Part of the problem is the Government’s longstanding view - that on many matters, the individual school is best placed to devise its own approach”, Dr Patrick Roach highlighted

Schools benefit from clear and unequivocal guidance in terms of their practice on child protection. Mandatory child safeguarding practice requirements and compliance, national standards for the provision of training in effective safeguarding and a national procedural framework for the conduct of child protection investigations will all help to minimise the scope for misunderstandings to arise.

Alongside this, teachers need better resourcing and support, and pupils deserve guaranteed access to counselling support in every school.

Relationships and Sex Education is key to breaking the cycle of generations of gender inequality and violence against women and girls. To make this necessary change, schools need better funding to support the work of teachers in the classroom.

Ending sexual abuse and harassment in schools is an institutional challenge. Schools have a duty under the Equality Act to eliminate discrimination, advance equality and ensure good relations between individuals or groups with protected characteristics.

“That includes a duty to take action to tackle gender inequality, discrimination and gender-based violence – regardless of whether directed at staff or pupils,” said Dr Patrick Roach.

“There has to be leadership from the very top – across schools and from the government – as well as greater transparency and openness on this issue. We need support from the government to the sector to meet their statutory equalities obligations,” he added.

“We must do whatever it takes to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls wherever it exists.”
 

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