Sexual abuse and harassment has become frequent in British schools and colleges, according to an Ofsted survey of 900 young students from 32 education institutions.
The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) has reported that sexual harassment and online sexual abuse has become “normalised” in English schools and colleges, as 92 percent of schoolgirls suggested sexist name-calling, and 90 percent said being sent explicit pictures or videos, happened “a lot” or “sometimes”.
The UK watchdog spoke to 900 children and young people from 32 schools and colleges about sexual abuse in their lives and their peers.
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said she was “shocked” by the findings.
“It’s alarming that many children and young people, particularly girls, feel they have to accept sexual harassment as part of growing up,” she said.
The survey was carried out after thousands of school children and students posted testimonies on a site called Everyone’s Invited, detailing sexual harassment, abuse and violence, including rape.
Boys share “nudes” of their school peers on communication platforms like WhatsApp or Snapchat “like a collection game,” some girls said.
In one school, inspectors reported that “some girls can be contacted by up to 10 or 11 different boys a night to be asked for nude/semi-nude images.”
Meanwhile, 64 percent of girls reported cases of unwanted touching compared to 24 percent of boys. However, since students often saw no point in reporting incidents, Ofsted said, many teachers have underestimated the extent of the problem.
The report underlined that all schools and colleges should act against sexual abuse and harassment.
It suggested improving sex education in order to identify and intervene in such issues early on. Current sex and relationship education is not considered sufficient to make clear what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
“It shouldn’t be our responsibility to educate boys,” one girl told the inspectors.
Furthermore, students also mentioned frequent rumour-spreading about their sexual activities as well as being recorded on video without their consent.
Some LGBTQ+ students were also exposed to physical assault.
Many girls said they did not want to talk about abuse for fear of being ostracised, while others feared not being believed or that they would be blamed.
Ofsted also said the government needs to take necessary precautions by developing legislation.
“This is a cultural issue; it’s about attitudes and behaviours becoming normalised,” said Spielman.
This year, more than 16,500 testimonies have been posted on the Everyone’s Invited site. A spokesperson for the website said schools should establish an anonymous reporting system.