Women's Groups urge MPs to Press Ministers on Girls' Safety in Schools

13 Jul 2016

In an open letter, leading women’s groups yesterday (12th July) drew attention to the alarming levels of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools (a third of girls have been ‘groped’ at school and police have recorded a rape on school premises on average every day of the school year) and told MPs that this is far worse than any adult woman is expected to put up with in the workplace. In the letter, they call on them to ask Home Office Minister Karen Bradley, Education Minister Edward Timpson and Equalities Minister Caroline Dinenage why current practice to prevent this behaviour is failing and to press them on commitments to compulsory Sex and Relationships Education, reviewing schools safeguarding guidance, and teacher training and school leadership in this area.

 EVAW Co-Director Rachel Krys said:
 
“The breadth of our signatories, who include 17 young women not long out of school and leading parenting community Mumsnet, shows the enormous concern and alarm about the everyday reality of harassment and much worse faced by girls in schools all over the country.
 
“We need to hear Ministers explain why current policy and practice seems unable to prevent this behaviour, and we need commitments to radical change.
 
“The new Prime Minister Theresa May has driven action to tackle violence against women and girls and we hope she will want to see this issue prioritised.”
 
The End Violence Against Women Coalition, and many of its members, have submitted evidence to the Inquiry highlighting the scale and everyday nature of the proble, and how safeguarding guidance is inadequate. Mumsnet has long campaigned for more attention to these issues and compulsory Sex and Relationships education. Girlguiding produces an annual survey of girls’ attitudes to many areas of life which commonly highlights the way sexism and harassment at school holds girls back.
 
The full text of the letter and signatories:
 
Today [12 July] Parliament’s Women and Equalities Select Committee will question Government Ministers on their approach to dealing with endemic levels of sexual assaults on and harassment of girls at school in England.
 
A YouGov poll revealed that a third of girls had experienced ‘groping’ while at school, and that most heard sexual name-calling (including “slut” and “slag”) frequently. A BBC Freedom of Information investigation last year revealed that more than 5,500 sexual assaults, including 600 rapes at schools, were recorded by the police in a three year period. There is enormous concern about young people's exposure to pornography and its impact on their attitudes to sex. Boys are also abused and bullied at school, especially those who do not conform to the straight ‘norm’, but girls are disproportionately victims of assaults and harassment.
 
Many girls at school are experiencing an environment that adult women no longer have to tolerate in decent workplaces. Too many girls drop out of school after serious sexual assaults and some never return to education. This should shock and horrify all of us.
 
We hope MPs will question Ministers today on why current measures on bullying and safeguarding are failing to deter and prevent this behaviour. They need to ask why guidance to schools, and Ofsted’s inspection regime in this area, seem to be inadequate. Ministers need to commit to using every means necessary to tackle this problem including introducing compulsory Sex and Relationships Education, reviewing safeguarding guidance to schools, improving teacher training and empowering school leaders to make eradicating this behaviour a top priority.
 
Yours,
 
Justine Roberts, Founder, Mumsnet
Rachel Krys, Co-Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition
Katie Horsburgh, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Elena Veris Reynolds, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Niamh Griffin, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Charlotte Elizabeth Forrester, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Mathilde Tranter, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Larissa Kennedy, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Ashvini  Rae, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Susanna  McGuinness, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Hannah Brisbane, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Victoria Jenkinson, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Abiee Harris, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Katherine Bradfield, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Hannah Stubbs, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Annabel Davies-Ray, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Emma Cooper, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Olivia Taylor, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Maria Angelica Fernandes, Girlguiding Advocate Panel
Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters
Dawn Thomas and Dianne Whitfield Co-Chairs, Rape Crisis England and Wales
Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid
Naomi Dickson, Chief Executive, Jewish Women's Aid
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive, Fawcett Society
David Bartlett Chief Executive Officer White Ribbon Campaign UK
Jacqui Hunt, Director, Europe office, Equality Now.
Gurpreet Virdee (Director of Operations and Development) Women and Girls Network
Vivienne Hayes MBE, CEO Women's Resource Centre
Donna Covey CBE, Director, Ava
Dr Madeline Coy, London Metropolitan University
Eleri Butler, Chief Executive, Welsh Women's Aid
Nicole Jacobs, CEO, Standing Together Against Domestic Violence 
Jo Todd, CEO, Respect
Dr Helen Mott, Bristol Fawcett & The Intervention Initiative
Sophie Bennett Co-Director UK Feminista
Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, Director, Surviving Economic Abuse
Cullagh Warnock, Regional Co-ordinator, North East End Violence Against Women and Girls Network