Teachers have today backed a call to challenge sexual harassment in schools after hearing how school staff were being “shouted at, cat-called or touched when they did not want to be”.
The “overwhelming levels” of sexism and sexual harassment in secondary schools were highlighted to teachers at the annual conference of the NEU teaching union this afternoon.
Delegates were not only told of a gender pay gap between male and female teachers – and that women over 50 were being “routinely hounded out of their jobs by malicious leadership” – but they also heard of a “toxic, laddish culture” pervading secondary schools.
Teacher Amy Kilpatrick, of the NEU’s Newcastle branch, said: “It is absolutely the case that we need to address the overwhelming levels of sexism and sexual harassment in our schools.
Teachers suffering sexual harassment in schools
“We certainly need to educate our girls that it is not OK and that they should speak up when it happens to them.
“We should create safe and supportive places for them to do that, but if we only talk to the girls then we are only tackling half of the problem. In order to achieve the drastic changes we want to see, we must educate our boys and our male teachers and support staff.
“First of all, I speak directly to you, my union brothers. The first thing you can do is simply believe us. Believe us when we say there is a pay gap, believe us when we tell you that women over 50 are routinely hounded out of their jobs by malicious leadership and please believe us when we say they we have been shouted at, cat-called or touched when we did not want to be.”
The emergency motion on "harassment, abuse and violence against women teachers" was backed by teachers at the conference this afternoon.
The union will now develop “a model policy” on sexual harassment in schools for students and staff before the year is out, as well as a campaign for initial teacher training to include training on anti-sexist education.
NEU joint general secretary Mary Bousted said: “This must be about supporting schools to use the whole curriculum to promote equality between girls and boys, to talk actively about sexism and women's history.
“We need to share ideas from schools where they actively challenge harmful gender stereotypes, consistently and regularly. There must be clear school policies on sexual harassment which are talked about, and referenced, regularly.
"Women and girls must be supported to speak out about what sorts of language, jokes and incidents constitute harassment and we need more training for schools and school staff.
“But schools cannot stop sexism and misogyny on their own. The government must show long-term leadership and create a strategy to use the potential of education to address sexism and sexual harassment.”
Following the vote, the union will now also take steps such as developing training for reps and branches on preventing, challenging and reporting sexual harassment and sex discrimination.
It will also ensure members know how to challenge and report any incidents that occur within the union or the movement.
Ms Kilpatrick also said there was a need for all schools to “challenge language, attitudes and expectations” and spoke of a “toxic, laddish culture that pervades our secondary schools”.