Sexual violence and harassment in the classroom being investigated

Maria Miller MP is leading the inquiry.
Maria Miller MP is leading the inquiry.

Sexual violence and harassment in school is to be investigated after youngsters in Castleford came forward with allegations from inside the classroom.

Launching the first parliamentary inquiry into the scale and impact of sexual behaviour in schools, MP Maria Miller said pupils are experiencing difficulties that are having a profound impact on their lives and education.

Castleford teens were among 300 children across the UK who have given evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee so far. They revealed that sending sexual images of themselves to others is now common-place, that girls are bullied about their virginity and one boy reported seeing fellow pupils watching porn in classrooms and on the bus to school.

Chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee,Ms Miller said: “It’s clear from the young people we’ve heard from that sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools is having a profound impact on their day to day lives. We need to address this issue now, and stop it from blighting the lives of another generation of young people – both male and female.”

Organisation Fixers worked with 16 to 25-year-olds from Castleford and eight other places in the UK and reported that school corridors and playgrounds are “sexually charged” environments. However with 24/7 access to the internet pupils are dealing with a sexualised atmosphere long after the school day ends.

Of the 300 youngsters interviewed, 18 per cent reported being sexually harassed once or more than once and 12 per cent stated they had been sexually assaulted.

Concerning information passed on during the workshops included one girl pressured into giving an older boy oral sex in school and children as young as 12 feeling pressured to have sex. One teenager from Castleford said much of the behaviour is done to get so-called “lad points”, the culture of congratulating allegedly masculine behaviour.

Establishing the nature of sex crimes in British schools is set to be another high-profile investigation undertaken by the Women and Equalities Committee since it was created after the General Election. The group recently broke new ground with its bold report on transgender rights in the UK and has also addressed Britain’s continuing gender pay gap.

Conservative politician Ms Miller said the brand new inquiry, which runs until May, will work out the extent of sexual harassment in primary and secondary schools and what can be done to tackle it.

She said: “We’re asking teachers, students, parents, youth organisations and anyone else with an interest in this subject to share their knowledge and experience with us. We’ll use this evidence to find the most effective measures to reduce levels of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools.”

Police data published in September 2015 showed that 5,500 sexual offences were recorded in UK schools over a three year period, including 600 rapes.