The End Violence Against Women Coalition welcomed the authoritative and far reaching report into sexual violence in schools, but the Government’s response shows it is not prepared to take the action required to tackle this urgent problem.
The Women and Equalities Select Committee report made shocking reading as it laid out the devastating extent to which girls experience sexual violence and harassment in schools. The far-reaching recommendations in the report included urgent action to introduce high quality sex and relationships education and an urgent review of the guidance given to schools on how to prevent and respond to sexual violence and harassment.
In publishing the report, Maria Miller Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee said “the evidence of the endemic nature of this abuse is overwhelming. The report’s findings should horrify every reader, and the recommendations should be no less than top of the political agenda.”
Rachel Krys, Co-Director of the End Violence Against Women said:
“The evidence given to this inquiry showed the risk girls and young women face in our schools and the committee made strong recommendations to Government on action it can and should take urgently. That is why we are so disappointed that the response by the Government is so weak. They are refusing to instruct schools to take urgent action, leaving it to individual schools to set up their own codes of practice and amend policies.
“The Government has committed to creating a new group to advise the Department of Education on these issues which is welcome. But unless we also see a commitment to take action, there is a risk this will simply be a talking shop.
EVAW published a report on obligations schools have under the Equality Act and Human Rights Act, and the Government’s response acknowledges that schools should do more to meet their obligations. But we know that schools are failing to meet the needs of girls and young women. Their failure to create an atmosphere free from discrimination and harassment is holding girls back and making it hard for some to complete their education. EVAW’s submission to the inquiry showed schools must introduce policies which tackle sexual violence and harassment, they should monitor and report on incidents and Ofsted should inspect to ensure schools are meeting their obligations.
The Government has admitted that the guidance schools are getting is outdated and the response by schools to growing levels of sexual violence and harassment is patchy at best. Our children are being bombarded with hard core porn on their smart phones before breakfast, the police have recorded hundreds of rapes in schools every year and thousands of girls across the country are being exposed to extreme levels of sexual harassment, the like of which we have mostly eradicated in decent workplaces. And all the time girls are being told its ‘just banter’. What more evidence does the Government need to make it take action?
We want Justine Greening and the Government to urgently consider its response to this inquiry and commit to implementing all of the recommendations by the committee. Anything less is letting our girls down and leaving young people to handle the changing world alone.”