Teaching union says 'laddish culture' is rife in Britain's schools

Teaching union says ‘toxic laddish culture’ is rife in Britain’s secondary schools where male staff and boys must be taught about sexism to help girls facing ‘overwhelming levels’ of sexual harassment and abuse

  • National Education Union’s conference heard ‘toxic laddish culture’ exists in UK
  • Motion passed said that schools should have ‘robust sexual harassment policies’
  • Everyone’s Invited website saw thousands of testimonials posted by students 

Male teachers and boys must be taught about sexism to support women and girls facing ‘overwhelming levels’ of sexual harassment and abuse, a union conference was told today.

The National Education Union’s (NEU) annual conference heard that a ‘toxic laddish culture’ pervades the country’s secondary schools and sexism ‘stalks the corridors and classrooms’.

A motion passed at the conference said schools should have ‘robust sexual harassment and abuse policies’ in place so teachers and students feel safe.

It noted the thousands of testimonials posted anonymously by students on the Everyone’s Invited website, documenting sexual harassment and assault in schools and colleges. 

Male teachers and boys must be taught about sexism to support women and girls facing ‘overwhelming levels’ of sexual harassment and abuse, a union conference was told today. Pictured: Dr Mary Bousted

Earlier, Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman suggested that sexual abuse among pupils could be ‘happening outside of school’ rather than being caused by a culture problem within institutions.  

She said testimonials posted on Everyone’s Invited show a ‘crossover very often between things happening outside of school bleeding into children’s lives within school’.

Ms Spielman added the widespread issues cannot solely be put down to internal culture problems within individual institutions after many were accused of harbouring a ‘rape culture’.  

The Department for Education (DfE) ordered Ofsted to launch a probe following concerns about widespread sexual abuse after more than 10,000 allegations were posted on the Everyone’s Invited website.

The National Education Union’s (NEU) annual conference heard that a ‘toxic laddish culture’ pervades the country’s secondary schools and sexism ‘stalks the corridors and classrooms’

Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman suggested that sexual abuse among pupils could be ‘happening outside of school’ rather than being caused by a culture problem within institutions

Students anonymously sharing their experiences of misogyny, harassment, abuse and assault have so far named top public schools including Eton College.

Ms Spielman told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: ‘It is clear that a lot of what’s reported concerns incidents that happen outside of school, but they then bleed over into the school, for example because images or videos are brought in on mobile phones. 

‘I think we’re seeing a blurring of in and out of school – we can’t see them as separate.’

At the National Education Union’s (NEU) annual conference, Amy Kilpatrick, from Newcastle, said it is ‘absolutely the case’ that the ‘overwhelming levels of sexism and sexual harassment’ in schools need to be addressed.   

She added: ‘In order to achieve the drastic changes we want to see, then we must educate our boys, our male teachers and support staff.’

A sign reading ‘Educate Your Sons’ is attached to a gate outside James Allen’s School. The school was protesting rape culture at nearby Dulwich College Boys School 

Pupils staged a protest against rape culture at Highgate School in London on March 25. The school, has been named in allegations among others including Eton and Dulwich College

She warned the conference of a ‘toxic laddish culture that pervades’ secondary schools.

Ms Kilpatrick added: ‘We need to ensure that no boy growing up now can say ‘but it was just banter’ and that starts with education and having men as allies.’

She said: ‘Let’s all work together to tackle this crisis in our society.’ 

Ofsted said it would be visiting a sample of schools and carrying out a review into whether institutions had effective safeguarding measures in place. 

Delegates voted for male teachers and boys to learn about sexism and its roots – and to develop methods to challenge their peers – in order to ‘proactively support women and girls’.

Richard Rieser, from Hackney in east London, called on men to ‘own up and take responsibility’ for sexism.

Ofsted will conduct  a review into safeguarding policies and practices at state and independent schools following concerns about widespread sexual abuse. Pictured: James Allen’s Girls School in Dulwich which has been hit by the scandal

A woman and child walk past placards saying ‘it’s sexual harassment’, ‘she is someone’ and ‘educate your sons’ attached to the fence outside James Allen’s Girls’ School last week

He told the conference: ‘It isn’t something where you can sit on the sidelines. You are either anti-sexist, anti-misogynist and do it as part of your professional work. Or, if you are silent, you are acquiescing to the dominant sexism that stalks the corridors and classrooms of our schools throughout this country.’

Mr Rieser added: ‘We have to make sure that the response in our schools is not just the women and the girls. It has to be the men challenging sexism and standing shoulder to shoulder with our sisters.’

Delegates called on the union’s executive to campaign for Initial Teacher Training to include learning about anti-sexist education.

They also called on the NEU to develop a model policy on sexual harassment in schools for students and staff before the end of 2021. 

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: ‘It is overwhelmingly clear that sexual harassment and sexual violence is still normalised and widespread in our society and that it’s therefore commonplace in schools.

‘We’ve got to find better ways to listen to girls’ voices and to talk actively in schools about sexism, because boys don’t ‘grow out of’ the sexist stereotypes pushed onto them.

More than 11,000 testimonies have now been uploaded to the Everyone’s Invited website

‘Sexism has real negative consequences for girls and for female staff, who disproportionately experience sexual violence and harassment. If we want different outcomes for girls, we need to start doing things differently.’

She added: ‘But schools cannot stop sexism and misogyny on their own. The Government must show long-term leadership and create a strategy to use the potential of education to address sexism and sexual harassment.

‘Bringing in Ofsted to review safeguarding policies is not the answer, because high-stakes, tick-box pressure on schools is precisely what teachers say is squeezing out all the time and space for curriculum work on sexism, pastoral work and social skills.’

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has condemned the alleged assaults listed on Everyone’s Invited as ‘shocking’ and suggested any schools implicated could face government measures.  

Accusations of sexual assault have so far named top public schools including Eton College, Hampton and Charterhouse, with both girls and boys among the alleged victims. 

Last week, shocked head teachers of girls’ private schools said they were talking to current and former students over sex allegations at neighbouring schools.

The Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), which represents more than 100 top British girls’ private schools, said that in some cases they are referring incidents to the police.

GSA schools include James Allen’s Girls’ School (JAGS) – attended by some of the girls making accusations about Dulwich College boys.

Last Monday, GSA chief executive Donna Stevens released a statement saying the ‘deeply troubling’ allegations ‘must not be ignored’.

She said: ‘Our schools are taking this issue seriously and talking with current and former students as well as parents to bring about positive change.’

Her words came as a former pupil at JAGS revealed herself to be the co-author of a letter making allegations against Dulwich College pupils.

But some schools have been accused of trivialising sexual violence by boys, with official figures showing the number of pupils suspended for it has almost halved in a decade.

 Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (above) has condemned the alleged assaults listed on Everyone’s Invited as ‘shocking’ and suggested any schools implicated could face government measures

There were 1,866 suspensions for sexual misconduct last year – a 44 per cent decrease on the 3,350 of ten years ago. Exclusions also fell.

Jane Lunnon, the new head of the £20,000-a-year Alleyn’s School in Dulwich, south-east London, suggested the solution should see young men become ‘part of the conversation’.

‘A gender war helps no one, and pitting girls against boys or ‘othering’ the opposite gender is no solution,’ she told The Times.

‘Our young people must learn how to tackle these things head on; how to listen to each other generously and with respect, and how to ex-press their concerns and their hopes openly together.’

An investigation by the Mail also found that boys at some private schools embroiled in the sex abuse scandal were having to change out of uniform to avoid street attacks and verbal abuse. 

Some of the male pupils also fear including their school name on CVs in case they are turned away by potential employers because of the negative associations.

Others – aged as young as 13 – have faced abuse from members of the public and have been branded rapists in the street, prompting some to change out of uniform for journeys to and from school.

One boy at a London independent school told The Mail on Sunday: ‘A lot of us are worried our association with the school is going to damage our job prospects. People will just look at us and see a rapist.’ 

A 46-year-old mother of boys aged 12 and 17 told The Daily Telegraph: ‘This is scaring me. What if it’s a case of two different perspectives of an event? What if the accusations are false, or exaggerated? How does a young man get his reputation back?

‘I know of boys being ‘cancelled’ by friends they’ve had since primary school because nobody wants to associate with them in the wake of allegations. They are being branded as rapists without any opportunity to share their perspective – it’s frankly terrifying.’

‘It’s really worrying,’ another mother added. ‘Very little is said about false allegations and protecting the alleged perpetrator.’

A teenager who on arrival at sixth-form college allegedly had girls screaming at him after a story had circulated has not returned since. None of his friends have been in contact with him, fearing they will be ‘cancelled’ if they break ranks. 

Union bosses say female STAFF are also victims of schools sex abuse scandal

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of NASUWT

Female teachers worry about walking corridors alone, union leaders warned as the schools sex scandal widened last night.

The NASUWT, which has 314,000 members in both private and state schools, said many women staff have reported sex assaults and harassment by male pupils.

Female teachers have also been victims of unwanted advances and behaviour, including ‘upskirting’ and ‘down-blousing’ – where pupils secretly film under their clothes and circulate footage online.

Last week, Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of NASUWT, said female teachers are suffering from the same ‘sexist and misogynist behaviour’ as girls have complained of and even have to constantly ‘think about how they are dressed’ to ward off attacks.

One teacher told the union her face was superimposed onto porn and then shared online widely.

Others have been inappropriately touched or been the subject of sexist name-calling and ‘derogatory language’ in class as well as online, Dr Roach said.

He told the union’s annual conference yesterday: ‘Misogyny and sexism are all too real, all too apparent – whether it’s on the streets… or in our schools.

‘And [the question is] whether female teachers and female students can feel that they are safe to walk along the corridors without having to think about how they’re dressed or whether they’re walking alone and how they’re going to be treated by pupils.

‘No teacher should feel that, no student should feel that. And yet we do hear that teachers and students do.’

He said the problem was related to the Everyone’s Invited testimonies, with the abuse that female pupils suffer ‘impacting’ on teachers, and ‘vice versa’.

He said: ‘We are seeing… so-called banter, sexist name-calling, the use of derogatory terms – both in class and online – to talk about teachers, the posting of sexist comments on social media, the belittling of teachers because of their sex.’

He said the most ‘extreme’ behaviour included ‘cases of upskirting, down-blousing, inappropriate touching’, and it probably represented ‘the tip of the iceberg’. 

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