COMMONS

Sexual harassment and violence in schools discussed with experts

06 June 2016

The Women and Equalities Committee holds its first public evidence session on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence in Schools in a roundtable format bringing together six experts working in schools across the country.

Witnesses

Tuesday 7 June 2016, The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House

At 10.30am

  • Jo Sharpen, Policy manager AVA—Against Violence and Abuse.
  • Dr Fiona Vera-Gray, Research Fellow, Department of Law, Durham University
  • Susie McDonald Chief Executive, Tender Education & Art
  • Sophie Bennett, Co-Director, UK Feminista
  • Lynnette Smith, Big Talk Education
  • Marai Larasi, Executive Director, Imkaan

Purpose of the session

The committee aims to address the following questions:

  • What is the scale of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools?
  • How well are schools currently tackling this issue?
  • What are the barriers to action?
  • Which policy recommendations would have the most impact on reducing levels of sexual harassment and violence in schools?

Further information

Amongst the panel is Jo Sharpen from Against Violence and Abuse, a charity who support young people through providing training resources for individuals and organisations that promote understanding and preventative measures to violence.

Also Susie McDonald from Tender Education & Art who use theatre based workshops to challenge attitudes that normalise abusive relationships. Since 2004 Tender has worked with 650 schools, youth centres and pupil referral units.

Other attendees include Lynnette Smith, who founded and runs Big Talk Education which delivers age appropriate sex and relationship education to 17,000 children and young people (aged 3–18yrs) each year across the country. Schools using the service include, academies, mainstream LEAs, Pupil Referral Units, private, faith, rural and urban. Training is also provided for hundreds of professionals and parents.

Background

In April this year, the Women and Equalities Committee launched the first parliamentary inquiry into sexual violence in schools alongside new research (PDF PDF 698 KB) that raised concerns over the scale and impact of the issue. The research highlighted changes in sexual behavior amongst young people raising fears that schools were unprepared to deal with problems of this nature and that complaints were underreported.

In a private session held last week the Committee heard from a group of students on their personal experiences of sexual harassment in school. One student told the committee:

"The thing is that they don’t see it as harassment. They just see it as being with their friends, having fun, calling girls "sluts"—stuff like that. So whereas the girl may feel upset or less confident, they see it as, "I’m just having fun with my friends if I slap a girl's bum."

As the Government's guidance on SRE is 16 years old it predates the growth of sexting and access to social media. One of the areas of focus for the committee will be the quality of SRE and how best to develop new guidelines in the face of changing sexual behaviours.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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