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Osfted review of sexual harassment and abuse in schools is a ‘wake-up call’

10 June 2021
Media statement
10 June 2021 

Responding to today’s new report by Ofsted on sexual abuse in schools and colleges in England, the Sex Education Forum underlines its call for quality Relationships and Sex Education lessons to be delivered in a bid to tackle this. 

Sex Education Forum Chief Executive, Lucy Emmerson said, ‘The review by Ofsted is a much needed wake-up call about the appalling normalisation of sexual harassment and abuse amongst young people and the extent to which this affects every school. Young people have been telling us about the poor quality of Relationships and Sex Education lessons for years. Key information including sexual harassment, pornography and what a healthy relationship looks like, are frequently neglected or missed altogether.’

All schools in England are now required by law to deliver a robust programme of Relationships Education in primary school and Relationships and Sex Education lessons in secondary school. They must also consult with parents and carers about the subject - this is a crucial tool to address the fact relationships and sex are often seldom spoken about at home despite clear evidence of young people wanting to have more of these discussions. 

Emmerson added, ‘As schools begin to deliver these lessons, it’s vital that the curriculum is planned across all school years so that messages about acceptable behaviour are taught from the start of primary education. Opportunities can be taken from early years upwards to challenge stereotypes about the roles of girls and boys and not be saved for a one-off lesson.’

‘Ofsted’s review makes clear the need for a whole-school approach to tackling sexual harassment and abuse. What’s taught in the classroom must reflect the everyday experiences and challenges children and young people face. That means dealing head on with some of the issues raised in the report, including safety in school and reporting of incidents.  Parents and carers are right to be concerned by today’s findings and we need to see action taken.’

Calling on the Government to act, Emmerson said, ‘Ministers should take the findings of this report very seriously and urgently provide all schools with the training and resources required to deliver quality RSE lessons. Schools want to be giving pupils the best start in life but many have yet to receive adequate support from the Government to train enough teachers with the subject knowledge and skill that the subject demands.’

‘Young people are saying loud and clear that they need better RSE, which reflects the realities of their lives. We have waited too long to have concrete legislation to lever this change. Now that the opportunity is here it’s a responsibility of both Government and schools to see it through.  Conversations about what is acceptable, about healthy relationships, gender and consent need to happen in school, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to help normalise healthier attitudes and behaviour in wider society.’ 

About the Sex Education Forum

As the voice of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in England we promote and protect the physical and mental health of children and young people by improving their access to RSE.

We bring together our partners and wider stakeholders to share best practice, research, monitor the provision of RSE, explore and respond to new themes and identify gaps. Working together with our partners, members and wider stakeholders is central to everything we do. We support educators with high quality training, resources and a membership scheme, so they can be competent and confident providers of RSE, in partnership with parents, carers, children and young people.

Sex Education Forum is a Registered Charity No. 1193467, registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales.

For media enquiries

Tel: 07523 911016