Hundreds of teachers say they regularly witness pupils sexual abuse and harass their classmates at schools in the UK.
According to a new survey carried out by the BBC and teaching union NASUWT, almost a third of teachers said they had witnessed peer-on-peer sexual harassment or abuse and almost one in 10 said they saw it on a weekly basis.
More than 1,500 teachers responded to the survey, carried out for the Radio 4’s File on 4 programme, and more than half said they did not think adequate procedures were in place in their schools to deal with abuse.
It comes after schools and universities across the country have faced increasing pressure to deal with sexual abuse in schools.
The issue hit headlines after reports of sexual harassment, abuse, misogyny and assault were published by the Everyone’s Invited website – an anti-rape movement recently set up in the UK.
The website enables students from schools and universities across the country to anonymously share their accounts of sexual abuse and harassment.
Hundreds of teachers say they regularly witness pupils sexual abuse and harass their classmates at schools in the UK according to a new study carried out by the BBC and NASUWT
In the wake of the website’s launch, the Government set up a dedicated hotline with the NSPCC for young people to seek support.
In new figures published by the charity yesterday, the NSPCC says the hotline has received hundreds of calls since launching in April.
The charity says estimates suggest around one third of all child sexual abuse is carried out by their peers.
The hotline is available for children and young people who have experienced abuse at school, and for worried adults and professionals that need support and guidance.
One parent of a 14-year-old girl told the helpline: ‘Just this week we received a visit from a police officer who told us they were investigating an incident of up-skirting by a male pupil at my daughter’s school.
‘We were told that a teacher had been searching this boy’s phone for something unrelated and discovered several pictures of up-skirting of different girls and the only girl that could be identified was my daughter.
It comes after reports of abuse, and assault published by Everyone’s Invited website – an anti-rape movement in the UK. Pictured: sign attached to London school gate in wake of movement
‘As you can imagine, this came as a huge shock to us. We have no idea who the boy is or if the images have been shared anywhere.’
From the 353 calls the hotline received, staff have made 65 referrals to external agencies like the police or social services.
Of those calls where information about the caller was known – more than half were adults or children who had experienced child sexual abuse or harassment and most were female.
The majority of cases where referrals were made involved secondary school aged children or young adults.
Kam Thandi, NSPCC Helpline Head, said: ‘It is absolutely vital that people feel comfortable to raise concerns about child abuse and harassment, including children themselves, and we thank everyone so far who has found the courage to contact the helpline.
‘Through these calls we have been able to provide much needed support, advice and, where necessary, to refer the information onto police and local authorities for further action.
In response to the BBC’s survey, the majority of the 1,500 teachers questioned said they did not feel they had had adequate training to deliver the new Sex and Relationship lessons
‘We have also heard about the devastating impact this abuse can have later in life if it’s not addressed and have been able to share our experience and expertise to help with the recovery process.’
In September 2020, the Government also introduced compulsory Sex and Relationship Education (RSE) lessons and have asked Ofsted to review safeguarding measures in schools and colleges which the Government says ‘will be published shortly’.
Children’s Minister Vicky Ford told the BBC: ‘We’ve seen these enormously worrying and very shocking allegations that have come through the Everyone’s Invited site.
‘One of the things that Ofsted will be looking at in this review is, are schools getting enough training and support?
‘Do they need, for example, third parties to come in and train elements of that curriculum?’
In response to the BBC’s survey, the majority of the 1,500 teachers questioned said they did not feel they had had adequate training to deliver the new lessons.
Flora Cooper, head teacher of Crowmarsh Primary School in Oxfordshire, where staff have just started to teach the new RSE lessons, told the corporation: ‘In terms of external training, we’ve not had any.
‘We actually haven’t seen much being offered in terms of training and it is absolutely in the training – that’s what is essential, which we don’t have.
‘Until the teachers are confident with the delivery of the content, then I don’t think any of them will be confident and fully teaching the children the full curriculum. It feels as though we are on our own.’