End sexual harassment in our schools - our members call on education ministers to make change

13 September 2016

A group of young Girlguiding members has today launched a petition calling on the education ministers of England, Scotland and Wales to end sexual harassment in schools

The petition - launched by Girlguiding’s Advocate panel, a group of young women aged 14 to 25 - comes as the Women and Equalities Select Committee release their report into Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence in Schools.

Hosted on change.org, the petition is addressed to Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Education (England); John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (Scotland) and Kirsty Williams AM, Cabinet Secretary for Education (Wales) and calls for:

  • all schools have a duty to prevent and tackle sexual harassment and to be held accountable  
  • national guidance to ensure schools know how to take a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment
  • compulsory, high quality Relationships and Sex Education in all schools, covering consent, online abuse, gender equality and healthy relationships.

The petition was released by our members at the launch event of the Women and Equalities Committee report - hosted at Girlguiding HQ and attended by Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, the Committee’s Chair, and equality campaigner Laura Bates. 

We have been campaigning for a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment in schools since 2014, and submitted evidence highlighting girl’s experiences to the Women and Equalities Select Committee inquiry.

Our research shows that 59% of girls have experienced sexual harassment at school and 75% say anxiety about experiencing sexual harassment negatively affects their lives in some way, including making them think twice about raising their hand in class.

Girlguiding’s Advocate panel (aged 14-25) said:

As young women, many of us are still in school and experience or witness sexual harassment from groping to cat calling on a daily basis. It’s humiliating and frightening and affects what we wear, where we go, our body image and our confidence to speak out in class. Yet, it’s often dismissed as ‘banter’ or a ‘compliment’ and we are told we are overreacting or being over sensitive.
It needs to stop. Schools should be safe and empowering places and we should feel able to learn without fear. That’s why we have launched a petition calling on our national governments to end sexual harassment in schools.   
Our petition calls for a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment where schools take the issue seriously, sex and relationship education is compulsory, and schools are held accountable for preventing and tackling sexual harassment.

Claire*, age 16, who is a Girlguiding member said:

There were a few boys in my class who were constantly creepy and inappropriate, which made all of us girls really uncomfortable. I remember boys sitting together loudly deciding which girls were wearing padded bras and which weren’t.
The worst time was in art. I had to share a table with two of the boys and the materials cupboard was behind us. One day, they approached me and talked about the dirty, disgusting things they would do to me. I started backing away because I thought they were going to touch me. ‘Yes, let’s take this into the cupboard’ they said.
Schools should incorporate education about sexual harassment into compulsory PSHE lessons for all pupils. We need to be taught where the line lies and the school needs to make it absolutely clear that there will be a zero tolerance policy towards sexual harassment. Teachers need to be trained on how to stop sexual harassment when it is happening in their classroom. With sexual harassment, prevention is key.

Susie, age 18, a Girlguiding member said:

I was groped in corridors more times than I can remember. One corridor in particular was horrendous and everyone hated it – I had so many awful experiences there. When I was 15 a guy followed me and grabbed my ass whenever my back was turned.
 I also remember one time in particular, when I was 11, walking past a group of guys and they suddenly blocked the way and grabbed me till I almost had to punch my way past them.
After I got through I started crying and remember feeling awful - it just felt so horrible. A girl followed me to ask if I was ok – I was mortified that she’d seen what happened. It was weird, as a girl you were expected just to put up with it, to admit it upset you reflected badly on you and not the boys.

Sign the petition

Support our Advocates' call to end sexual harrassment in schools.