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One in five teachers has been sexually harassed, survey says

Unions urges victims to speak out and highlights 'disturbing scale of failure to act' by schools

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Unions urges victims to speak out and highlights 'disturbing scale of failure to act' by schools

Sexual harassment against teachers is taking place on a scale which is "deeply disturbing," a teaching union is warning.

The NASUWT teaching union conducted a survey in which one in five teachers said they had been sexually harassed at school by a colleague, manager, parent or pupil since becoming a teacher.

Nearly a third (30 per cent) of them had been subjected to unwanted touching, while two-thirds had experienced inappropriate comments about their appearance or body.

One teacher told the survey: “I feel that I am bullied and sexually harassed by my HoD. He has made comments such as 'nice tits' and has used the chat up line 'you plus me, subtract your clothes, divide your legs and let's multiply' in front of a class of 30 Year 10 boys.

"He has also started rumours saying that I am sleeping with other members of the department, which have had a negative impact on my family life and have led to me splitting up with my husband.”

More than half (51 per cent) of victims said they had been subjected to inappropriate comments about sex, more than a fifth (21 per cent) had been sexually propositioned, and 3 per cent said they had suffered “upskirting” or “downblousing” (photos taken up their skirts or down their tops), according to the union.

'Failure to act'

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Whilst the scale of the sexual harassment is deeply disturbing, equally disturbing is the scale of the failure to act on the incidents that were reported.

“The NASUWT will be using this survey to empower teachers to speak out. There can be no place in our schools for sexual harassment or bullying of staff.

“The NASUWT will have no hesitation in taking action in schools where sexual harassment and bullying occur and employers fail to operate a zero-tolerance approach.

“The government must ensure its responsibility for ensuring that schools are safe environments is taken seriously.

“The NASUWT believes that statutory provisions are urgently needed to require schools to record all incidents of sexual harassment and bullying and to have a policy to deal with such incidents.”

The survey found that as a result of incidents, 43 per cent of victims said they had suffered a loss of confidence and 38 per cent had experienced anxiety and/or depression. Just under half had made changes to their daily routine to avoid the harasser, while nearly a third felt pressure to change their appearance or style of clothing to seek to avoid further harassment.

A total of 14 per cent changed jobs or moved to a new school, and 18 per cent felt the incident had had a negative impact on their career progression.

A headteacher said: “I was touched in a sexual manner by a school governor. He received a six-month ban and then some training and then returned to office. I left my job. I have also suffered numerous inappropriate comments or innuendo from male parents.”

Unreported incidents

The survey, based on the responses of 1,290 teachers was conducted earlier this month, ahead of the union's annual conference in Birmingham.

It found that 42 per cent of victims did not report the incidents of sexual harassment. When asked why, 28 per cent said they didn’t think they would be believed, while 68 per cent said they didn’t feel anything would be done about it. Nearly half (46 per cent) were fearful or embarrassed and the same proportion said they thought they would be blamed or face negative consequences.

Another teacher said she was a victim of “lascivious flirting”. She said: “I was married, with young children and doing my best to be professional and develop my career. The final remark came when I was sitting at a table, marking, in the middle of the staffroom, when he came in, and in front of my colleagues, across the room, called out 'Hung like a stallion, M, (my first name), hung like a stallion.'”

A male teacher said: "Lies by obsessed married female learning assistant after politely turning down her advances. No support at all from headteacher, not even to remove her from my class. She had done this before to another male member of staff.”

Of those who did report the sexual harassment, in 21 per cent of incidents no action was taken against the harasser. Four in 10 victims said the harasser was spoken to about their behaviour, but the victim did not feel this matched the seriousness of the incident.

Ten per cent said they felt they were not believed and their claim was dismissed.

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