29 September 2021
Responding to a BBC Wales news piece on sexual harassment, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales said:
“The Everyone’s Invited website reflects concerns I’ve heard from young people over many years. Unfortunately sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact and abuse are likely to be present in every secondary school setting, as it is also present elsewhere, including online. We need to remember that this is a much wider societal problem and not just the responsibility of schools to fix, our young people spend many hours a week in schools and there are steps schools must be supported to take.
“All pupils must learn about their rights including gender equity, safety and freedom from bullying and harassment as part as the new curriculum. The new compulsory Relationships and Sexuality Education curriculum will play an important part in this and all children need this learning. That’s why it’s so important that it will now be compulsory for all children.
“Young people need space to actually talk and reflect on their experiences, as the pupils in Ysgol Friars did so eloquently in the BBC report today. Young people tell me they are not always given the opportunity to that.
“Children’s learning is supported by their wider experience in school – the whole school needs to have a shared understanding and a consistent approach to preventing and to responding to sexual harassment and abuse. Sadly, I do hear from young people who feel that their experiences are not always taken seriously and that some of the wider school culture, for example comments about girls’ skirt lengths encouraging harassment, or a ‘boys will be boys’ message, often said to younger children, doesn’t support this agenda.
“Any young person who is experiencing this should feel able to speak out and get support. And adults need to be ready to listen and take action. In order for this to happen all staff offered high quality training to deal with issues of sexism, harassment and abuse. My team and I have alerted the Minister to the need for high quality training and support for staff on dealing with incidents and promoting a safe and inclusive culture in all parts of school life. There is also a need for a national programme of Professional Learning on RSE for all education staff in Wales so it can be delivered consistently and with confidence.
“I welcome the Estyn review, which needs to offer a safe space for young people to share their experiences. My team have advised Estyn inspectors about methods they can use to create a safe emotional experience for young people participating in their review.”