Pupils' harrowing accounts in damning Ofsted report on harassment

Girls contacted by 10 boys a night asking for nudes photos, ‘rape jokes’ on the bus and being ‘touched up’ in crowded corridors: Pupils’ harrowing accounts in damning Ofsted report on sexual harassment in schools

  • Shocking nine in ten girls experience sexist name-calling and unwanted pictures
  • Children often don’t report the sexual harassment because it’s so frequent 
  • Report said heads should ‘assume sexual harassment and abuse are happening’ 

Pupils’ harrowing accounts of ‘rape jokes’ on the bus, being ‘touched up’ in corridors and dealing with up to 11 messages asking for nudes each night have been revealed in a damning Ofsted report.

The schools inspectorate spoke to more than 800 children and young people aged 13 and above about sexual harassment and violence.

Shocking experiences of catcalling on the school bus, women avoiding certain areas of school for fear of abuse and inappropriate compliments from male teachers emerged in the report calling for better sex education.

Its conclusions said heads should ‘assume that sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are happening… even when there are no specific reports’.

Some 92 per cent of students surveyed said they had experienced catcalling, while 81 per cent suffered from rumours about their sexual activity being spread around school.

The schools inspectorate spoke to more than 800 children and young people aged 13 and above about sexual harassment and violence (file image)

Pupils in one unnamed schools said sharing of ‘nudes’ – sexual images – was widespread and ‘body shaming’ and ‘slut shaming’ were common.

In another school, girls said they were ‘touched up’ regularly in crowded corridors. 

Girls revealed they felt uncomfortable when boys walked behind them up stairs and in stairwells where people can see up their skirts from below. 

‘Some named the areas of the college or school where they felt wary of being – either because they were out of sight of staff or because they felt uncomfortable with the people who “hang around” there,’ the report reads. 

In another school boys shared the nudes they had received from their peers, and treated it like a ‘collection game’.

Some girls said they had up to 11 boys messaging them to ask for nudes each night.

A shocking nine in ten girls experience sexist name-calling and are sent unwanted explicit pictures. Stock picture

If girls told boys they would not send them a naked picture they would ‘just create multiple accounts to harass you’, pupils told Ofsted inspectors.

‘Girls talked about boys being very persistent when asking for images – “they just won’t take no for an answer”, the report read.

In one school children as young as 10 were sending nude images, the report revealed.

Often the harassment happened on the bus as students travelled to and from schools and colleges.

One women told how her younger sister’s leg was ‘deliberately’ brushed by a man, only for another girl to tell her ‘to get used to it as “this is what happens”‘.

‘We heard cases of boys’ toilets with no locks, a swimming pool changing room where a single door meant that girls believed people could see them naked as they walked by, and a male teacher who gave girls compliments about their appearance,’ the report added. 

A Year 12 boy told inspectors many of his peers came from wealthy backgrounds and have never been told no before.

The boy said ‘they don’t know how to handle’ suddenly meeting girls at parties after being educated in single-sex schools.

The report added: ‘In another school, girls similarly told inspectors that some of the boys had a sense of entitlement and had never “been told no”. 

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, said she was ‘shocked’ at the prevalence of sexual misconduct which should ‘have no place’ in schools and colleges.

The watchdog visited 32 state and private schools and colleges and spoke to more than 900 young people after thousands of horrific stories of harassment were shared by pupils on the website Everyone’s Invited.

Instead of waiting for complaints, it said heads should ‘assume that sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are happening… even when there are no specific reports’. Stock picture

Mrs Spielman said: ‘It’s alarming that many children and young people, particularly girls, feel they have to accept sexual harassment as part of growing up. Whether it’s happening at school or in their social life, they simply don’t feel it’s worth reporting.’ 

She added: ‘It’s about attitudes and behaviours becoming normalised, and schools and colleges can’t solve that by themselves.’

Most children also felt sex education did not give them the information they needed. Girls were frustrated at a lack of clarity over what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and many had turned to social media or their peers to educate each other.

One female pupil told inspectors: ‘It shouldn’t be our responsibility to educate boys.’

Another said the sharing of ‘nudes’ was so widespread that trying to stop it was like ‘playing whack-a-mole’.

Teachers also admitted they lacked knowledge on how to address topics such as consent, relationships and sharing of sexual images.

Ofsted is calling on school leaders to develop a culture where all kinds of sexual harassment are recognised and punished where appropriate.

The review also calls on ministers to consider the watchdog’s findings as the Government develops the Online Safety Bill to strengthen internet safeguards for children.

Mrs Spielman added: ‘Schools and colleges have a key role to play. They can maintain the right culture in their corridors and they can provide RSHE [relationships, sex and health education] that reflects reality and equips young people with the information they need.’

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘Ofsted’s review has made it clear that sharing unsolicited explicit pictures, online pornography and everyday sexism can be, sadly, ‘normal’ aspects of daily life for young people. This is completely unacceptable.’

It comes as a Femail poll of 2,000 young people revealed the shocking toll of porn culture in schools.

Forty per cent of girls who have had sex say they had a sex act performed on them when asleep or unconscious, and 55 per cent of girls and boys have seen explicit clips online, with more than half of them having done so by 16.

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