Sexual Harassment and Online Sexual Abuse in Schools
Following the high-profile ‘Me Too’ campaign, Beckfoot Trust welcomed the work of the Everyone’s Invited movement in exposing the extent that peer on peer sexual abuse among young people has become normalised in our society.
The extensive and often excessive use of technology, particularly mobile phones, has clearly exacerbated this. We were encouraged by how swiftly Ofsted responded and although the report is hard-hitting for parents, schools, and political leaders, we wholly accept that this is something that must be addressed by us all. We were particularly saddened to read that young girls spoke of adults ‘not knowing the reality’ of their lives.
We are proud of the fact that we are a very open and self-reflective organisation and we know there is always more we can do. We also know the influence we can have by working collectively as a group of schools to improve the experience of our 7000 plus young people.
We want to emphasise four key points that will shape what we do next as a Trust in response to this issue.
- Remain true to our values 'Enjoy Learn Succeed'. These have been our values since we formed the Trust. Our belief that you have to enjoy learning to be successful shapes all we do. You cannot enjoy learning if you do not feel safe. The society our children are growing up in is constantly evolving. If we are to remain true to our values, we have to adapt our practices accordingly.
- Continue our trust wide work on our Personal Development programme, (including within it, Relationships, Health and Sex Education) and shape our Inclusion and Diversity strategy following the recent external audit of our Trust. That will enable us to develop policy and practice that protects and empowers all our community.
- Review our Trust Online Safety and Safeguarding policies and ensure that is built into the Behaviour policies of all our schools.
- Listen to our young people and shape our policy accordingly. As evidenced by the testimonies set out by the 'Everyone's Invited' movement, they know more than anyone what is happening to them day in day out.
We are determined to do all we can to educate the children and young people in our care and to ensure our school cultures are safe places where sexual harassment and abuse are eradicated. We take seriously our personal and organisational responsibility for getting this right. If as educational leaders we have not previously listened or seen enough, we pledge to all our students ‘we hear you’.
Shirley Watson CEO Beckfoot Trust