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ANOTHER generation of children must not be left to suffer sexual harassment due to government inaction, Labour said today following the publication of an Ofsted report on the issue.
Schoolchildren told inspectors that sexual harassment and online sexual abuse had become so commonplace that they did not see any point in challenging or reporting it.
The education watchdog’s report, published today, found that boys are sharing nude pictures like a “collection game” and that teachers “consistently underestimate” the scale of the problem.
Inspectors stressed that the problem is so widespread that all schools should assume that sexual harassment is affecting their pupils, even if they receive no complaints.
Chief inspector of schools in England Amanda Spielman said that she was shocked to learn that many young people “feel they have to accept sexual harassment as part of growing up.”
But campaigners highlighted that the findings were similar to those identified in a report by the Commons women and equalities committee in 2016.
Soma Sara, founder of Everyone’s Invited, a website on which thousands of schoolchildren posted harrowing testimonies of sexual abuse earlier this year, questioned why no action had been taken since then.
“How can we be sure that real change will come about after the Ofsted report? We’ve had reports in the past and nothing has happened. What’s different now?” she asked.
Javed Khan, chief executive of children’s charity Barnardo’s, said that students had been “appallingly let down by many educational institutions.”
“Five years ago, Barnardo’s warned the government about the scale of sexual abuse and harassment taking place in schools, but unfortunately little action was taken.”
Mr Khan insisted that the report must be a “catalyst for change.”
Shadow schools minister Peter Kyle said that the Tories had known for “years” about rife sexual harassment and abuse in schools.
“Action is needed now. Another generation of children and young people cannot be left to suffer due to government inaction,” he said.
Ofsted found that, of the 900 pupils they spoke to across 32 schools, nine in 10 girls and half of the boys said that they were “sometimes” or “often” sent unsolicited explicit photos or videos by their peers.
Teaching unions also called for immediate action and urged ministers to support schools to tackle the problem.
Responding to the Ofsted report, the Department for Education promised more support for schools to tackle sexual abuse and a strengthening of safeguarding guidance.
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