School inspections: do they tell us about sexual bullying in schools?

Ofsted published a thematic review on 19 June that looks at what schools can do to create a positive school culture and to prevent and tackle bullying. 37 primary schools and 19 secondary schools were included. One aspect of the survey, ‘No place for bullying’, was inspectors’ focus on pupils’ own experiences and understanding of bullying and its effects. Inspectors asked pupils what they would do if they were bullied, whether they had been bullied while at their current school and how well they thought their school dealt with bullying.

The thematic review found that training for staff was an important aspect of the schools’ work to prevent and tackle bullying. The training that the majority of schools had provided on bullying tended to be general and did not always focus on the different types of bullying that could occur, such as homophobic bullying. This led to some staff not feeling wholly confident to tackle types of incidents. It is clear from research from teacher unions that teachers do not feel confident about tackling bullying which is sexist or sexual in nature.

Pupils in all schools included in the review could give a range of examples of disparaging language that they heard in schools. The most common were reported by Ofsted to be examples of language related to perceived ability, race, religion, sexuality, appearance or family circumstance. Homophobic language was frequently mentioned. In contrast, staff often said that they did not hear any of this type of language in a typical week. This sheds an interesting light on the degree to which children and young peoples’ experience is witnessed by teachers.

‘No Place for Bullying’ barely mentions gender. It does not reference, or recognise, the existing research about sexual bullying and the impact of sexist language and attitudes on girls and boys.

A YouGov survey for the End Violence Against Women collation (EVAW) in 2010 showed around a third of girls experience unwanted sexual touching at school and that name-calling including “slut” and “slag” is common parlance in our schools.

No Place for Bullying gives an interesting picture of what school behaviour policies cover and the recommendations are sensible and practical. The silence around gender and sexism is, however, problematic, and it is a significant omission. In the wrong hands, this report could be used to suggest that sexual harassment and bullying need not be a priority in schools.

Rdm 11, GEA Member. 

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One thought on “School inspections: do they tell us about sexual bullying in schools?

  1. I have a six year old daughter who was sexually assaulted by 6 class mates (male). The teachers and headmaster would not take the attacks seriously, prefering to call the 4 months of sexist attacks ‘rough play’. The bullying procedure was not followed and instead, my daughter was put into a special needs class and the headmaster sought to have me barred from the school premises for speaking to members of the governors. Sexist attacks in school are huge and completely ignored by all of the child protection agencies – God knows – I tried them all. I got her into a new school but our schools suffer institutional sexism on a massive scale with boys accessing violent sexist material from 10 upwards, tolerated largely by a society that thinks calling females female dogs and wh*res is cool. Feels like being a black person in the 60s in this country.

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