8th December, 2021 3:09 pm
Pupils are pressured regularly to send nude photos and girls harassed over the length of their skirts, a school inspection report has found.
About half of secondary pupils said they had experienced sexual harassment from fellow students.
Estyn’s study found many pupils would not tell their teachers, as incidents had become “normalised” and teachers often dismissed them as “trivial”. The Welsh government said it showed an “uncomfortable truth” pupils faced. Children told inspectors that harassment happened in the classroom but was more common outside school and online. Inspectors said this meant schools did not realise the extent of the problem.
Estyn said there were “inconsistencies” when teachers were alerted and, in the worst cases, staff ignored incidents of “verbal sexual harassment” between pupils, and often responded with statements like “boys will be boys”.
Twice as many girls said they had faced sexual harassment than boys, while 46% of those who had experienced it decided not to tell anyone else. Inspectors said most older girls reported being regularly pressured by boys to send nude photos.
“Boys ask for nudes or keep spamming your phone,” one girl told inspectors.
Some said it was common to have unknown men, as well as classmates, “begging” them to send naked images on social media.
Other issues raised by children were concerns about the “length and fit” of school skirts.
“If you are wearing a short skirt, boys will use that as a way of consent – you are asking for it,” one pupil told the review.
Some girls felt they had to wear shorts under their skirts “to stop boys from looking”.
Meanwhile, others said they picked deliberately tight skirts because they were more difficult for boys to lift up.
About 1,300 secondary school children in Wales took part in the study which found pupils’ experiences of sexual harassment increased as they got older. Nearly all Year 13 pupils (95%) reported seeing sexual harassment, with 72% claiming to have seen it happening in school.
“The report is called We Don’t Tell Our Teachers – and that is what we’ve found,” said report author Delyth Gray.
“There is a sharp polarisation between what pupils tell us is happening and what staff in schools actually know.
“They [the pupils] don’t think that these things are important enough to report to their teachers, although they tend to happen every day.”
Ms Gray said teachers had told inspectors they wanted to see more training opportunities to help them deal with issues, while children wanted to see teachers being more proactive and aware of the problems.
Her review recommended that schools recognise sexual harassment was “highly prevalent” among young people and “provide sufficient, cumulative and beneficial learning opportunities”.
Many children highlighted a lack of sex education, with “older pupils in many schools” reporting they had “no sex education at all”.
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