Ofsted and Police questioned on sexual harassment in schools
13 June 2016
The Women and Equalities Committee question representatives from Ofsted, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Police Chiefs' Council on measures to monitor and reduce levels of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence in Schools. The Committee hears also from Welsh Women's Aid on what lessons can be learnt from the Welsh Government's new strategy on violence against women.
- Watch Parliament TV: Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools
- Inquiry: Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools
- Women and Equalities Committee
Tuesday 14 June 2016, Grimond Room, Portcullis House
- Gareth Edwards, Principal Policy and Performance Advisor, Norfolk Police/National Police Chiefs' Council
- Jane Millward, Senior HMI, Ofsted
- Rosamund McNeil, Head of Education and Equality, NUT
- Gwendolyn Sterk, National Services Development Officer, Welsh Women's Aid
Purpose of the session
The committee aims to address the following questions:
- How well are incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence currently being dealt with in schools?
- What mechanisms would be most effective in monitoring levels of sexual harassment and violence?
- What policy recommendations are likely to have the most impact on reducing sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools?
Sex and Relationships Education (SRE)
Evidence the Committee has heard so far in this inquiry has been overwhelmingly in favour of compulsory SRE in schools.
The government refers to SRE as compulsory in all maintained secondary schools, and optional for primary schools. However, the Education Committee's report on PSHE and SRE found that there was widespread confusion on this issue and called for clarification on what is statutory in different kinds of schools. For example, academies are not required to teach the National Curriculum in which science lessons include biological information about puberty, reproduction and sexually transmitted infections.
A number of submissions to the Committee have also called for updates to Government guidance on SRE and an Ofsted report on the quality of current SRE standards after Ofsted's 2013 report on PSHE (PDF 442 KB) found that 40% of primary and secondary schools required improvement or were inadequate in this area. It found that there was a "lack of high-quality, age-appropriate sex and relationships education in more than a third of schools [which] was found to be leaving children and young people vulnerable to inappropriate sexual behaviours and sexual exploitation."
MPs will ask whether Ofsted can play a role in ensuring that all schools address claims of sexual harassment and violence and how teacher training might incorporate guidance to deal with incidents of this nature, including sexting and online harassment.
On 29 April 2015, the Welsh Government passed the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Act. The Act institutes a framework for a "national strategy" to combat gender violence. All schools in Wales, under the guidance of the national strategy, will be required to implement the whole school approach to sex and relationship education. Furthermore, all local authorities will be required to consistently publish information about how their education functions are being exercised in schools to promote the purpose of the Act.
In evidence to the committee the NSPCC called on the Government to learn from whole education approaches taken by Wales and has called for a similar good practice guide across England.
The Committee will be discussing the efficacy of the Welsh model with Gwendolyn Sterk from Welsh Women's Aid, a national umbrella organisation representing local Women's Aid Groups throughout Wales. WWA has been working to promote awareness of the Act and monitoring its impact on the sector and survivors.
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