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Inquiry into sexual violence in schools

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Teenagers said they wanted help with issues such as online bullying and sexting

An inquiry into the scale of sexual harassment and sexual violence in England’s schools is to be held by a Commons committee.

The Women and Equalities Committee will examine who is committing the offences, who is being targeted, and whether the number of cases is rising.

Research for the committee suggests sexualised behaviour among pupils is a social norm.

Heads say most schools and colleges are safe and secure environments.

In September 2015, a BBC News report based on freedom of information requests revealed there were 5,500 sexual offences recorded in UK schools between 2011 and 2014.

Within these figures, there were 4,000 alleged physical sexual assaults and more than 600 rapes, according to the information from UK police forces.

‘Profound impact’

At least a fifth of offences were carried out by children on children, but details of the rest of the assaults are not known.

The committee wants teachers, students, parents and youth organisations to share their experience and knowledge with it.

Before launching a call for evidence, the committee gathered the views and experiences of 300 UK youngsters through a series of workshops with young people’s charity Fixers.

Its report says: “In school corridors and playgrounds, sexually charged behaviour drives young people’s physical interactions and permeates through to their 24-hour-a-day life online.

“They’re feeling pressurised into sex, otherwise they’re branded ‘frigid’ by their peers.

“There is a sense that boys have an ‘entitlement’ to girls and some report ‘being bullied for being a virgin’.”

The report suggests some teachers brush off incidents of sexual assault because of the relatively young age of students.

And often schools do not recognise the pressures young people can face when dealing with sexual harassment and sexual bullying.

It also suggests many incidents are not reported because students worry victims will be punished as well as perpetrators.

‘Pressurised’

Maria Miller, who chairs the committee, said the evidence it had heard made it clear sexual harassment and sexual violence was having a “profound impact” on the lives of young people.

“We need to address this issue now, and stop it from blighting the lives of another generation of young people – both male and female,” she said.

Evidence to the committee also suggests pupils would like more support in dealing with sexting, online bullying and the normalisation of pornography.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Sexual harassment and sexual violence are completely unacceptable and are not tolerated.

“Where there are incidents, we would urge students and parents to report them immediately so that action can be taken.

“We welcome the committee’s inquiry as any information about this important issue is extremely useful in helping to tackle the problem.”

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