OVER a third of girls have been sexually harassed at school, a new study reveals today.
The scale of endemic sexism in Britain’s schools has been exposed as MPs join teachers in calling for “urgent action.”
The report, from the National Education Union (NEU) and campaign group UK Feminista, said two thirds of female students at mixed sixth forms had experienced or witnessed the use of sexist language in school buildings.
And 37 per cent of girls at mixed schools said they had been sexually harassed.
Tory MP Maria Miller, who chairs the women and equalities select committee, appeared to criticise her own party’s government for failing to act after a report uncovered similar problems last year.
“Fourteen months on from our report, schools seem no better placed to tackle the problem than they were then,” she said.
“We made many recommendations and ministers urgently need to review the guidance, support and resources made available and send a clear message to schools that girls’ safety and equality must be prioritised.”
Ms Miller called on the government to take “urgent action,” adding: “Without doubt, there is clear evidence that sexual harassment is blighting the lives of girls in our schools. It is worryingly ‘normalised’ and often goes unreported.”
The title of the report, It’s Just Everywhere, are the words of a girl who was asked about her experiences of sexism at school as part of the study.
Researchers polled 1,508 students and found that 58 per cent of girls had witnessed sexual harassment on school premises.
Almost a quarter had been subjected to “unwanted physical touching of a sexual nature” while at school.
The study also questioned 1,634 teachers. Thirty-eight per cent of those in mixed-sex secondary schools said they were aware of students being sent or exposed to pornography at school.
NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “As we come to the end of 2017, we’ve lived through a year in which sexual harassment of women and girls has been at the forefront of the public eye.
“Schools and colleges have an important role to play in breaking down stereotypes, but education policy is making it harder and not easier.
“We are not giving schools and teachers the tools, time and teaching environments they need.
“The government, alongside the profession, needs to develop teacher training about the best ways to reduce sexism in the classroom and to use the formal and informal curriculum to make a difference for girls and boys.”
UK Feminista’s Sophie Bennett added: “The solutions are clear — what has been lacking is the political will to act. All those with the power to make schools safe for girls must now step up, from Downing Street to the staff room.
“We need to stop schools being places where girls and boys learn that sexual harassment and sexism are routine, normal, accepted. It would transform school life — and society as a whole.”
The report calls for new government guidance, a “zero-tolerance” approach to harassment and training for teachers, students and Ofsted inspectors.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said the government would publish “detailed advice” on sexual harassment and launch a consultation on “updated guidance” before schools break up for Christmas.
“Schools should be safe places free from sexual violence and harassment,” the spokeswoman added. “Schools are under a legal duty to protect their children and government guidance is clear that schools must have an effective child protection policy that addresses peer-on-peer abuse.”
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