Sexism and Harassment in Schools

1 April 2018

The NEU’s report It’s Just Everywhere showed that sexism and sexual harassment is widespread in schools. Over a third (37%) of girls at mixed-sex schools have been sexually harassed while at school. 64% of teachers in mixed-sex secondary schools hear sexist language in schools on at least a weekly basis and over a third (34%) of primary school teachers say they witness gender stereotyping in their schools on at least a weekly basis.

It is the widespread use of gender stereotypes and sexist language that lead to such prevalent levels of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment and regular sexist remarks are patterns that most girls and young women come to view as ‘normal’. This sets up expectations about peer relationships which can lead to real harm for girls’ and boys’ self-confidence and aspirations about life.

Sexual harassment also affects women teachers too. Women teachers told us that:

“I have been whistled at whilst trying to teach, and there was one extreme case where a boy pushed his crotch up against my back to intimidate me. The boy was removed from my lesson once and then I was asked to accept him back in.”  (Female secondary school teacher)

“There are no systems in place and a lack of support from SLT [School Leadership Team]. This is at an all-boys school where sexism and poor attitudes towards female staff is rampant” (Secondary school teacher)

Commenting after the debate on Motion 42, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the NUT section of the National Education Union, said:

“The NEU recognises that schools and colleges have an important role to play in breaking down stereotypes and challenging sexism. Teachers must understand what sexism is and have the confidence to challenge it.  The NEU has called for Government, alongside the profession, to develop teacher training and whole school strategies to help reduce sexism in the classroom and to use the formal and informal curriculum to make a difference for girls and boys.

“We also need to see high quality Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) delivered in all schools. RSE must be given appropriate time in the curriculum and teachers delivering RSE need to have access to high quality professional development. 

“On the 17th March, the NEU (NUT Section) ran a very successful challenging sexism in schools and colleges conference.  This is just the start of our campaign to support education professionals to develop strategies that give them confidence to address sexism and sexual harassment in school.”

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