THREE schools in the Vale region have been named in regards to pupils experiencing sexual harassment according to the Everyone’s Invited report.
The report allowed pupils to anonymously report their experiences, with the schools all being named in a big list by the report.
The Vale schools named are St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School in Barry and two Penarth schools – Stanwell School and St Cyres School.
The Welsh Government’s minister for education and Welsh language has issued the government’s response to the reports of sexual harassment and abuse in schools.
Jeremy Miles MS said: “I am deeply concerned by recent reports of sexual harassment and abuse in schools. Any form of sexual harassment or abuse is totally unacceptable and should not be tolerated.
“All education settings have a legal duty to ensure that children and young people are shown respect and have access to a learning environment in which they feel comfortable and safe.”
He said that there is a cross-government priority to ensure that all children and young people are supported, and they are able to report any concerns.
Mr Miles also outlined the process the Welsh Government will be carrying out to find out more about the problem in Welsh schools and how they can better support people.
He said: “In recognition that there are broader cultural challenges in dealing with this issue, the minister for social justice and the deputy minister for social services and I will work together in relation to our ongoing response and we will wish to be informed by the voices of children and young people.”
He is also requesting that Estyn conduct a review into culture and processes in schools to help better protect and support young people. “While the findings of that review will play an important role in supporting settings and informing Welsh Government policy, I recognise that we cannot await the outcome of that review before we act,” he said.
“Whilst the problem is extremely unlikely to be limited to the schools named in the Everyone’s Invited report, we will write to the schools identified to offer support and advice on delivering relationships education.
“Every school and local authority should have a designated lead responsible for supporting learners with relationships and sexuality education. I have asked officials to establish whether that is currently the case and will update members in due course.”
What have the government done to provide children with the necessary information and resources?
• In December 2020, they published guidance to support settings with developing procedures to respond to incidents involving sharing nudes as part of their safeguarding arrangements. The document – which has been viewed 3,297 times and downloaded almost 1,000 times – can be viewed here: https://hwb.gov.wales/zones/keeping-safe-online/sharing-nudes-and-semi-nudes-responding-to-incidents-and-safeguarding-children-and-young-people
• They have a Keeping Safe Online area of their educational Hwb platform to support online safety in education, providing information guidance and resources. It also signposts learners, practitioners and parents and carers to report issues they experience online and provides access to dedicated support services.
• They have made the Step Up, Speak Up toolkit available for schools in partnership with Childnet International. There are a series of lesson plans and activities addressing online sexual harassment among young people.
• Provided extensive guidance on preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, including the Keeping Learners Safe statutory guidance. They have also published the violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence guidance for governors, a toolkit for education staff which provides best practice and they are supporting The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales with the development of their strategy.
What are they planning to do?
• An Estyn review into schools.
• Writing to schools named in the report to offer support.
• Establishing whether every school and local authority has a designated lead responsible for supporting learners with relationships and sexuality education.
• Develop short training module to further embed the sharing nudes and semi-nudes guidance which will be available early in the new academic year.
• Continuing to work with Childnet International which includes making the Just a Joke? Toolkit available for schools.
Mr Miles said: “The Welsh Government National Action Plan, preventing and responding to child sexual abuse has 10 objectives. This includes objective 2: Increased awareness in children of the importance of safe, equal and healthy relationships and that abusive behaviour is wrong.
“Working with regional safeguarding boards, we are implementing the plan, however, we must build on this momentum.
“I am in no doubt that new Curriculum for Wales, rolled out from 2022, will have a crucial role in this area. For the first time, health and wellbeing will have equal status in law to other important areas of the school curriculum. It has been designed to support the development of the fundamentals of health and wellbeing in learners which includes supporting them to have an understanding of harmful situations and hot to respond appropriately.
“Relationships and Sexuality Education will also be a statutory part of the curriculum for all settings. It is intended that this will have a focus on developing healthy relationships from the early years.
“As a matter of priority, we will now undertake a review of the resources available to ensure our schools and learners are fully supported with RSE. We will work with schools to ascertain how existing resources are being used and to ensure resources are as easy to find as possible on the Hwb.”
If you or anyone you know are experiencing or are concerned about sexual harassment in schools, here are some helplines you can contact.
Childline Cymru 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk/get-support/
Live Fear Free 0808 80 10 800 https://gov.wales/live-fear-free
MEIC 0808 80 23 456 https://www.meiccymru.org/
The Vale of Glamorgan Council has been contacted for comment.