Yesterday Emma Hardy MP and Jess Phillips MP released a video on Twitter about peer-on-peer sexual assault between children from the same school.
Why do two busy Labour MPs feel the need to make a video, and to write to every MP about this issue?
Simple. Because the Department for Education isn’t taking effective action to ensure that all schools know how to protect children in our schools from and after sexual harassment and sexual violence.
The chronology of DfE failure in this area is truly shocking.
In July 2016, the Commons Women and Equalities Committee revealed that there is one rape in school for every school day, countless sexual assaults and widespread sexual harassment.
Nothing, quite literally nothing, was achieved in the 15 months that followed. Let’s be brutal: fifteen months of inaction translates into 200 more school rapes.
Then a 16-year-old victim started legal action against the education secretary, then Justine Greening, for her failure to protect girls at school. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first draft of the new statutory guidance appeared at speed after that. One could take from this series of events that protecting politicians from legal action is a priority whereas protecting children from rape isn’t.
Protecting pupils from sex attacks
This guidance eventually came into effect in September 2018, 27 months after the rape stats were revealed. That’s more than 400 school rapes later.
The new guidance came with no funding at all, no training, no helpline, no resources, nothing. So it is no surprise to learn from Emma Hardy and Jess Phillips that, six months after the new guidance came into force, a third of teachers don’t even know that there is new guidance and only 20 per cent have had any training.
Meanwhile, rates of sexual assault in school continue to soar, according to official data. The government insists that it is acting – but progress is too slow. Action is needed. Now.
The author is a parent of school-age children