Sheffield teachers demand action to tackle rising sexual harassment in schools

Teachers in Sheffield have accused the Government of failing to address the growing problem of sexual harassment and violence against women in schools.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 3:27 pm

Sheffield' s National Education Union (NEU) spoke out following a recent poll conducted by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), which indicated that one in ten employees feel 'not safe' or 'concerned and anxious' about their workplace safety.

Meanwhile, almost half (49 per cent) said they are not aware of any policies or processes in their workplaces to address the problem of increasing sexual harassment and violence in schools.

The poll also found that one-fifth (20 per cent) said they feel 'not safe' outside of work or 'concerned and anxious about my safety outside of work'.

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This sign saying 'Women's Rights are Human Rights' was put up by a group of feminist activists earlier this year in Sheffield in wake of Sarah Everard's brutal murder.

Simon Murch, Sheffield National Education Union secretary, said the NEU has been concerned about prevalent attitudes to women for some time.

He said in 2017, they produced a report with feminist pressure group UK Feminista that called on the Department for Education (DfE) to make urgent action to tackle sexism and sexual harassment in schools.

Among other things include issuing guidance to all schools on how to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and sexual violence.

The guidance, they said, should be developed in consultation with sexual violence specialists, education professionals and education unions.

The union also called the government to create a fund to support specialist sector organisations to provide capacity-building support to schools on tackling sexism and sexual harassment.

Additionally, the government also needs to ensure the curriculum for relationships and sex education (RSE), across all key stages, is designed to prevent sexism and sexual harassment among children and young people and that RSE teachers have access to high quality professional development.

But to date, this has not happened, said Mr Murch, adding: "We have a duty to educate young people that sexism is completely wrong and that sexual harassment and violence has no place in society.

"Unfortunately the current government only pays lip service to these problems and the recent comments by Dominic Raab about misogyny show that they are ill-informed about even the most basic concepts."

The justice secretary came under fire last week for his ‘callous remarks’ about misogyny after he said a woman too could be misogynistic towards a man.

However, the word applies specifically to hatred or prejudice towards women.

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT said the data confirms a 'growing body of evidence' that sexual harassment and violence against women is increasing, both in schools and colleges and in wider society.

He said: "In the last few days, we've heard warm words from the Government on the issue of violence against women and girls.

“But warm words provide cold comfort to women who live daily with the reality and the threat of sexual violence in their homes, in their workplaces, in their schools and in their communities.

“We demand more than a show of sympathy and that is why we are calling on the Government to ratify the ILO Convention 190 on Eliminating Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.

“We don’t want more warm words from the Government. Teachers want action to end violence against women.”