Sexual harassment misery of girls at school is revealed by Ofsted

Sexual harassment misery of girls at school is revealed as Ofsted warns the problem is so rife that pupils ‘don’t feel it’s worth reporting’

  • Shocking nine in ten girls experience sexist name-calling and unwanted pictures
  • Children often don’t report the sexual harassment because it’s so frequent 
  • Report said heads should ‘assume sexual harassment and abuse are happening’ 

Sexual harassment has become ‘normalised’ in schools, a damning review has found.

A shocking nine in ten girls experience sexist name-calling and are sent unwanted explicit pictures.

But children often do not see the point of reporting sexual harassment because it happens so frequently, the Ofsted report said. 

Instead of waiting for complaints, it said heads should ‘assume that sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are happening… even when there are no specific reports’.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, said she was ‘shocked’ at the prevalence of sexual misconduct which should ‘have no place’ in schools and colleges.

A shocking nine in ten girls experience sexist name-calling and are sent unwanted explicit pictures. Stock picture

The watchdog visited 32 state and private schools and colleges and spoke to more than 900 young people after thousands of horrific stories of harassment were shared by pupils on the website Everyone’s Invited.

Mrs Spielman said: ‘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.’ 

She added: ‘It’s about attitudes and behaviours becoming normalised, and schools and colleges can’t solve that by themselves.’

Boys share ‘nude’ photos among themselves like a ‘collection game’ while many girls have experienced ‘unwanted touching in school corridors’, inspectors were told.

They also found around nine in ten girls experienced sexist name-calling and being sent unwanted explicit pictures or videos ‘a lot’ or ‘sometimes’.

Most children also felt sex education did not give them the information they needed. Girls were frustrated at a lack of clarity over what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and many had turned to social media or their peers to educate each other.

Instead of waiting for complaints, it said heads should ‘assume that sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are happening… even when there are no specific reports’. Stock picture

One female pupil told inspectors: ‘It shouldn’t be our responsibility to educate boys.’

Another said the sharing of ‘nudes’ was so widespread that trying to stop it was like ‘playing whack-a-mole’.

Teachers also admitted they lacked knowledge on how to address topics such as consent, relationships and sharing of sexual images.

Ofsted is calling on school leaders to develop a culture where all kinds of sexual harassment are recognised and punished where appropriate.

The review also calls on ministers to consider the watchdog’s findings as the Government develops the Online Safety Bill to strengthen internet safeguards for children.

Mrs Spielman added: ‘Schools and colleges have a key role to play. They can maintain the right culture in their corridors and they can provide RSHE [relationships, sex and health education] that reflects reality and equips young people with the information they need.’

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘Ofsted’s review has made it clear that sharing unsolicited explicit pictures, online pornography and everyday sexism can be, sadly, ‘normal’ aspects of daily life for young people. This is completely unacceptable.’

It comes as a Femail poll of 2,000 young people today reveals the shocking toll of porn culture in schools.

Forty per cent of girls who have had sex say they had a sex act performed on them when asleep or unconscious, and 55 per cent of girls and boys have seen explicit clips online, with more than half of them having done so by 16.

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