Sexual harassment of girls is widespread in schools, researchers find

December 12, 2017, University of Warwick
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A new study carried out by University of Warwick's Institute for Employment Research for the NEU teaching union and campaign group UK Feminista has found that over a third of girls at mixed-sex schools in England and Wales have been sexually harassed while at school.

The report, "'It's just everywhere': Sexism in schools and how we tackle it," is being launched today in the Houses of Parliament.

The study was led by Dr Clare Lyonette, Gaby Atfield and Dr Erika Kispeter from the University's Institute for Employment Research. Between January and June 2017, more than 1,500 secondary school students in England and Wales completed an anonymous online or paper-based survey about in schools. Three discussion groups on this topic were also conducted with secondary school students. Between January and May 2017, over 1,600 teachers at secondary and primary schools in England and Wales also participated in an anonymous online survey about sexism in schools.

The research found that sexist language and gender stereotypes are a typical feature of school culture, contributing to a climate in which sexual harassment is commonplace.

In the light of the study's findings, the NEU and UK Feminista are calling on the Government to take urgent steps to tackle sexism and sexual harassment in schools, including issuing national guidance to schools on how to prevent and respond effectively to sexual harassment and sexual violence, and ensuring teachers receive the necessary training, resources and support to develop a whole school strategy for tackling sexism.

Commenting on the report, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary at the National Education Union, said: "As we come to the end of 2017, we've lived through a year in which sexual harassment of women and girls has been at the forefront of the public eye. This study shows us how normalised and pervasive it is for young people also.

"Schools and colleges have an important role to play in breaking down stereotypes but education policy is making it harder and not easier. Teachers tell us that barriers to tackling sexism include an overly heavy focus on academic subjects and teacher workload being too high."

Sophie Bennett, spokesperson for UK Feminista, said: "The results of our study are clear: schools, Ofsted and the Government must act urgently to tackle sexism in schools. Sexual , sexist language and gender stereotyping are rife in school settings, yet all too often it goes unreported and unaddressed.

"We need to stop schools being places where girls and boys learn that and sexism are routine, normal, accepted. It would transform life – and society as a whole."

Explore further: Covert and overt forms of sexism are equally damaging to working women

More information: "It's just everywhere": Sexism in schools and how we tackle it. ukfeminista.org.uk/wp-content/ … -just-everywhere.pdf

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julianpenrod
not rated yet Dec 12, 2017
With the emphasis on sexual harassment, these days, it's not surprising to find some money grubbers seeking to allocate money from government to address a combination of that topic and a perennial one, children. But there is no real evidence of legitimacy in this.
Among other things, sexual harassment in adults often is described as being the result of contempt for the opposite sex. It's not likely that that is at the root of such interactions between children. Pulling pigtails, poking, even shoving can be part of a kind of horseplay young males engage in with young females as an outlet for feelings of attraction they do not yet know the meaning of. It is not to say that it is not unfortunate females may be treated this way, but to equate this with behaviors that could be abusive can be unwise in the extreme.
julianpenrod
not rated yet Dec 12, 2017
It should be remembered that many who have not engaged in such behavior once they matured likely engaged in it when they were young. And to completely forbid this kind of activity can result in producing many males with unhealthy tendencies in later years. It can be said that utilizing some regular or designed activity or activities that allow expression of interest of sexes in each other without letting it get out of hand can help.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Dec 12, 2017
It should be remembered that many who have not engaged in such behavior once they matured likely engaged in it when they were young. And to completely forbid this kind of activity can result in producing many males with unhealthy tendencies in later years. It can be said that utilizing some regular or designed activity or activities that allow expression of interest of sexes in each other without letting it get out of hand can help.

JP,
Normally, I roll my eyes at some of your remarks.
This one, however, makes sound, valid sense...
We learn best, by experience. If there are no negative experiences, have we learned?
jasjax360
not rated yet Dec 13, 2017
I think that this is originally why we had gender segregated schools. Inevitably micromanagers would seek out 'problems' to fix and thereby increase bureaucracy and expenditure. Segregation was cheaper and less costly but the micromanagers promised that it would be OK just like every other group pushing integration. I'm not for hatred of race or sex and I could be considered a minority but I realize that unfortunately people will always be able to find problems with interactions between groups and so you either remove the micromanagers, severely limit micromanaging by law or you allow segregation because otherwise you get draconian policies that make everyone miserable. Today playing doctor for a child as young as 7 will get him on the sex offenders list even before he can properly even understand what all the fuss is about and popular feminists want sexual harassment pinned on the whim of the accuser without any clearly defined and reasonable rules.

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