Government ministers accused of failing to take steps to tackle sexual assault in schools

Schools posters against rape culture
Support us and go ad-free

As an inquiry is launched into an increasing amount of sexual abuse allegations in schools, ministers are said to have ignored requests for greater monitoring powers.

The Guardian reported that the chief inspector of Ofsted asked for more powers to check “potential safeguarding issues” in independent schools in 2018 and 2019. The requests were ignored.

Since then, more than 14,000 allegations of sexual harassment and assault in schools and universities have been shared on the website Everyone’s Invited. There are stories from both private and state schools.

Ofsted is heading an inquiry into how sexual harassment is dealt with by schools, as MPs said ministers hadn’t taken the issue seriously enough.

14,000 stories

Everyone’s Invited is a website that aims to tackle rape culture. It encourages contributors to anonymously share their stories of sexual abuse, misogyny, and harassment, naming the institution they attend.

Since its launch in June 2020, some 14,000 testimonies have been uploaded on to the site from pupils at schools across the country. Not all stories are related to schools, but founder Soma Sara said rape culture is “endemic” within the education system.

There are stories on the website from girls as young as nine.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

As the number of testimonies shared on the site continues to grow, schools and ministers are coming under greater scrutiny.

“Potential safeguarding issues”

In 2018, chief Ofsted inspector Amanda Spielman wrote to then education secretary Damian Hinds. She said Ofsted had been unable to monitor inspections properly in private schools due to DfE restrictions.

Private schools are inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), which Spielman complained Ofsted could not oversee, leaving problems unable to be “spotted or tackled”. The ISI is responsible for schools like Dulwich College, one of the schools named in allegations.

After Spielman complained again in 2019, the DfE wrote back to tell Ofsted they would only have an ‘academic’ role in the overseeing of ISI. Lord Agnew, then education minister, wrote:

I expect that the Department of Education’s own monitoring of ISI’s reports and information provided directly by ISI, should allow the secretary of state to fulfil this role.

“Deeply troubling” environment

Several MPs called for the inquiry into how sexual harassment allegations are managed in schools. However, previous members of the Women and Equalities Committee said they warned the government had no plan for dealing with such allegations in 2016.

The report at the time called for urgent action after concluding that sexual harassment was treated as inconsequential in many schools. As a result, the government issued new guidance on dealing with peer-on-peer sexual assault.

Previous members Maria Miller, Conservative, and Jess Phillips, Labour, both said actions taken by the government since the 2016 report hadn’t resulted in real change.

Improving schools

The rising number of allegations on Everyone’s Invited has prompted widespread shock, eventually leading to the instigation of an inquiry.

Women’s Aid, a charity for supporting victims of domestic abuse, said there must be funding for schools to provide support to victims of abuse going forward as well as better sex and relationships education.

The team at Everyone’s Invited said:

We thank every brave survivor who has shared their story.

Much of the behaviour described within these testimonies is the product of a culture that normalises and trivialises these actions. Growing up, we were socialised to believe that this behaviour was acceptable. Now having read the testimonies everyone can understand the profound weight of everyone’s actions.

Featured image via YouTube/ITV News

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us