ASCL Cymru comment on Estyn’s publication of peer-on-peer sexual harassment leaflet

Eithne Hughes, Director of ASCL Cymru, comments on the publication by Estyn of the leaflet We don’t tell our teachers, but schools need to know – a report for learners on peer-to-peer sexual abuse.
This is a very worthy initiative for Estyn to take on but dealing with a very sensitive and complex issue like peer-on-peer sexual harassment requires a great deal of thought and expertise.

“In stepping outside its normal remit and addressing a very different audience, Estyn has unfortunately created a document that some learners may view as patronising and schools may see as finger-pointing. It is at times confusing and not easy to distinguish whether the questions being asked are directed at the young people themselves or the teachers and leaders at their schools. The overall effect is muddled and ill-conceived, concluding in a series of questions to learners but with no suggestion how their feedback should be returned or to whom.
“We had significant issues with the report to the Welsh government presented by Estyn last December after it was asked to investigate peer-on-peer sexual harassment, which implied that it was a problem for schools alone to deal with rather than a wider societal issue. This leaflet sadly picks up where that report left off and continues to direct heavy-handed criticism at schools. 
“We do not dispute that schools have an important role to play but the issue can only be dealt with by there being an open and wide-ranging national discussion that involves not only teachers and leaders, but parents, the social media platforms where so much of the abuse takes place, the Welsh government and, of course, young people themselves.
“What Estyn could, and should, have done before embarking on this initiative is talk to learners, teachers and leaders to produce a jointly constructed publication that reflects the complexity and sensitivity around the subject. This could have resulted in a much more useful and practical outcome.