Our response to the Women and Equalities Committee Report on “Attitudes towards women and girls in educational settings”, published on 5th July 2023
The Alice Ruggles Trust welcomes the promotion of RSHE to tackle the unacceptably high levels of sexual harassment and violence found in schools in the UK. We echo concerns about the time, training and funding available for teaching staff to deliver curricula effectively and consistently.
We also support the call for RSHE to be extended to post-18 educational settings to ensure that young people are able to navigate potentially harmful situations as they enter the adult world. The mismatch between the leaving age and the requirement for RSHE leaves many vulnerable and does not take full advantage of time spent in education where young people are more accessible.
However, it is concerning that the report, and many others like it, continues to omit stalking. Stalking affects 1.8 million people every year, and according to the Crime Survey of England and Wales 2020, 523,000 young people aged 16-24 experience stalking each year, of which 395,000 (75%) are women and girls.
Stalking is a misunderstood form of violence and a lack of awareness amongst young people means that it is highly dangerous. The impacts are far-reaching, including PTSD, anxiety and, in a worst-case scenario like Alice’s, murder.
Additionally, when reports focus only on ‘sexual’ violence and harassment, many victims of crimes such as stalking, are left out and at risk.
It is important to recognise and respond all forms of VAWG, in order to foster a healthier, happier generation.
Our PSHE resources are inclusive and comprehensive and can be delivered to mixed-gender groups to target both those at risk of being a victim or of perpetrating.
From the summary
The teaching of relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) can help to keep children safe. It contributes to reducing relationship violence by helping children to recognise situations that are unhealthy, abusive or harmful, and by teaching children that they have a right to ask for and to get help. However, delivery of RSHE has been inconsistent. The Government must take steps to ensure that teachers and teachers in training have the funding and time they require to learn how to deliver RSHE effectively.
RSHE is compulsory in secondary schools up to the age of 16, however young people are required to remain in some form of education until they are 18. This leaves young people making their first steps in the adult world under-supported and less equipped to navigate potentially harmful and dangerous situations and keep themselves safe and healthy in relationships. RSHE should be extended to young people in post-16 educational settings.
The Government’s review of RSHE must be evidence-led and include engagement with children, teachers, parents and specialist violence against women and girls (VAWG) organisations to ensure that any developments in policy support effectively the Government’s commitment to tackling sexual harassment and violence in schools and colleges. As part of the review, the Government should develop a specific strategy for engaging with boys and young men in primary and secondary schools on the topics of sexual harassment and gender-based violence.
You can download the full report here.