Commenting on the publication of Estyn’s report, which found that secondary schools do not realise the extent of sexual harassment between pupils, Eithne Hughes, Director of ASCL Cymru, said:
“Schools will find the criticism levelled at them in Estyn’s report both frustrating and unfair as they put huge effort into placing the wellbeing of their students at the very heart of everything they do.
“The central issue here is that many young people regard this kind of abhorrent behaviour as normal, with around half of those taking part in this study having had personal experience of peer-on-peer sexual harassment and a disturbing 82 per cent of female learners being aware of other students experiencing it.
“The report highlights the vicious circle that schools find themselves caught in, with young people wanting them to be more proactive and take preventative steps to crack down on sexual harassment but teachers and leaders being unaware of the extent of the problem because students do not report incidents to them. That is exacerbated by the fact many of the incidents take place outside of school settings, with students feeling it is inappropriate to involve their school in dealing with it.
“Schools clearly have a role to play in helping break down the barriers that currently prevent learners from reporting incidents of sexual harassment through the delivery of effective and consistent personal and social education, but they cannot be expected to do so alone.
“It is totally unreasonable for Estyn to imply this is a problem only schools should have to deal with. They are a microcosm of society and the important issues raised in this report 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, most importantly, young people.”