NASUWT leader Chris Keates warned today that the government's assault on state education will seriously hamper the future life chances of women and girls.
The head of the teaching union marked the start of the TUC women's conference in London by warning that the removal of important protections designed to tackle sexual bullying and harassment is leaving women and girls vulnerable in schools and wider society.
"Schools have a vital role to play in supporting young people's emotional and social development. They can help young people develop healthy attitudes and behaviours, as well as support young people experiencing abuse," she said.
"With recent research by the End Violence Against Women Coalition suggesting that sexual bullying and harassment is routine in schools and one in three 16-18 year old girls saying they have been groped or experienced other unwanted sexual touching at school, it is deeply alarming that the coalition government has seen fit to downgrade support for young people in schools."
Ms Keates added that ministers have also systematically undermined the public-sector equality duty and introduced a series of changes which are making it more difficult for people to get access to justice at work.
"The government's austerity measures are forcing the closure of vital organisations dedicated to providing support for women and girls experiencing domestic violence and rape," she said.
"Ministers have a duty of care to help protect girls and women from all forms of violence and tackle gender inequality and discrimination. This is a responsibility which they must not be allowed to shirk."