Sexual harassment in Wales’ schools ‘shockingly commonplace’ finds Senedd investigation
Children as young as nine are being sexually harassed by their peers inside and outside of school, an event so common it’s considered normal behaviour, an investigation by a Senedd committee has found.
A new report from the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee also contains evidence that harassment amongst pupils is so common it is often missed or considered normal by schools.
Figures published by Estyn reveal that 61% of female pupils and 29% of male pupils in Wales said they had experienced sexual harassment.
The committee says those figures are probably a significant underestimation and is calling for the Welsh Government to launch a national campaign to to raise awareness of behaviours in school that are considered to be sexual harassment.
In total, its report makes 24 recommendations to improve protection for children and young people.
Jayne Bryant MS, chair of the Children, Young People and Education committee, said: “Sexual harassment among learners is shockingly commonplace. Many schools simply don’t know how to react to sexual harassment and in some cases don’t even recognise the signs of sexual harassment.
“We need the Welsh Government to empower teachers, parents and pupils to support and identify when sexual harassment is happening. There is an element of ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘it’s just teasing’ and frankly, this attitude needs to change. The alternative is dire.
“The impact of sexual harassment on some learners is so severe that t not only affects their learning, it can affect their relationships, mental health, life prospects and – in the most serious of cases – lead to self-harm and suicide.
“We have asked a lot of the Welsh Government in this report; our young people deserve no less.”
The committee also recommends that Estyn consider how schools record and respond to incidents, highlighting it as a key thing that should be looked at during school inspections.
The recommendations outlined by the committee do acknowledge that schools cannot be held entirely responsible for peer on peer sexual harassment.
That causes are deep-rooted in societal attitudes amplified by pornography, social media, and, in recent years, the COVD-19 pandemic. But schools hold the potential to be able to lead the fight against these societal attitudes.
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