Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1138/32652
Schools need resources to tackle 'routine' sexual harassment
Hannah Davies, Black Country Socialist Party
As a student support worker in a secondary school, when I read the reports that Ofsted has found that sexual harassment and abuse is "routine" for school students, I was disgusted, but not surprised.
The review found that sexual harassment has become normalised both in person and online. Actions such as 'upskirting', rape jokes, unwanted touching, and sharing indecent images are all reported as issues experienced in school and on social media. The review also found that girls, in particular, thought that this treatment was just something they had to live with, and that there wasn't much use in reporting it.
I know through my role at work, and personal experiences in secondary school that, unlike the review seems to suggest, this is not something that has just started to happen over the past few years. It has been present for generations. It is a deep systematic failure that Ofsted has only just conducted this review.
I was also appalled to read that the blame is being pinned on teachers saying they "consistently underestimate" the scale of the problem. As we know, the cuts that schools have had to endure over years have left teachers with unmanageable workloads. Specialised safeguarding, SEND and support staff have been reduced to threadbare numbers, which ultimately puts more of that workload onto remaining staff. The fact that the chief inspector of schools in England finds this news alarming just shows how out of touch these bodies are with the reality of the state of our education system.
Ofsted also included in this review an investigation into the site 'Everyone's Invited', where school students anonymously post about incidents of sexual harassment, assault and abuse they have experienced. (See 'Sexism in Education: It shouldn't be like this' at socialistparty.org.uk)
As it stands, our schools simply do not have the resources and support required to adequately meet these children's needs. Training all school staff is one thing, but we need the time and funding necessary to take action. We need the resources required to properly educate school students rather than just be instructed to refer them to helplines or websites for advice. That isn't good enough.
We call for
- A trade union and student-led inquiry into the true extent of sexual harassment and violence in schools, colleges and universities
- An urgent overhaul and funding of relationship and sex education, with training for all education workers, including in primary schools
- Students to be able to discuss and learn about sexism, to report incidents, and to challenge inaction
- An increase in funding for all support services, including local councils, to ensure that victims receive support.
- Where allegations are made, ensure a system is in place so that they are properly investigated and action taken. This should involve committees involving representatives of both staff and students
- A socialist alternative to the inequality, sexism and violence of the capitalist profit system
In The Socialist 16 June 2021:
Trade unions and workplace
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