Sexual assault, or why my school will never really be “good”.

I’ve read too much and heard too much about sexual assault of girls in our schools recently. It’s horrible. It makes me incredibly angry. Try these blogs for starters:

My life as a cynical teacher


I’m sure there are many more, but these immediately come to mind.

I went to private school (boo, hiss etc). My immediate thought when I read bigkids’ blog post was: If this had happened to me, I would have been out of that school faster than you can say “privilege“. I’m absolutely certain of that. My sister was bullied for a short while in secondary school. When my mum found out, she said “right, we are having a meeting with the Headmistress tomorrow morning, and we are digging the prospectuses out”.

For Christ’s sake. You shouldn’t have to pay to avoid sexual assault.

Meanwhile, in the school I now teach at, sexual assault has almost become part of the furniture. The Head has talked about how much of a problem it is. He sent some staff on a training day about it. He’s kept boys back after assembly and given them a bollocking. He’s kept girls back after assembly and told them he’s given the boys a bollocking. It hasn’t really helped. It’s a culture. A culture takes a lot more than an assembly to change.

It’s as if this whole issue is a pesky mosquito buzzing round his head, that he limply swats at occasionally when it bothers him too much.

When SLT talk about how good a school we are, how we’re aiming for an Outstanding Ofsted next year, how great our progress stats are, I want to shake them and say “how can you apply positive adjectives to a school where girls are just resigned to being felt up now and again? Where pupils with police reprimands and warnings for assaulting girls walk the corridors alongside the victims? Where your own pupil voice survey says that the majority of pupils do not feel safe?” The idea that we are currently an Ofsted “Good” school is laughable, not when you compare us to other Ofsted Good schools – then it actually seems reasonable – but when you think about what the word “good” means to the layperson.

I look at schools like King Solomon Academy where “no student could think of an occasion when [bullying had occurred]” (Ofsted, 2013). It can be done. But our priorities need to change. We need to stop accepting that a bit of bullying, a bit of sexual assault, a bit of fighting is normal in a secondary school. We need to stop obsessing about whether iGCSEs would add a couple of extra points to our results and start looking at ethos and values. Guess what? When students aren’t terrified of coming into school, and are allowed to work hard without taunting, those league table results have a tendency to fix themselves anyway.

9 thoughts on “Sexual assault, or why my school will never really be “good”.

  1. manyanaed

    You are right. It can be sorted but it does need a consistent and somewhat fierce programme to deal with the casual attitude shown by some of your students.

  2. merryem

    I have seen this repeatedly in ALL types of schools. When the media ask why the sexrings like in Rochdale and Oxford happen , it is this alarming culture shift that allows it. A lack of any kind of self-respect from some girls as a result of poor parenting and the kind of domestic situations described in the blogs are joining forces to turn out some very scary young men and scared young women. Meaning this will only perpetuate if nothing is done. For an SLT to accept and do something long term and positive will involve change from the top down and and wholesale cultural shifts across many of our poorer estates. And I have no idea how we make that happen.
    I worry about what my little girl will face.

  3. anon

    Sexual predators are exciting. They have exciting reasons behind their predation, they’re dangerous, they’re plausible and they’re (to a certain sort of person) rather sexy. Dealing with them will involve punishing them, and will certainly affect their lives afterwards.

    Their victims are often rather broken. They’re depressed and upset by what has happened to them, they’re sometimes rather incoherent and they certainly not sexy. Dealing with them is a matter of putting the broken back together.

    Hence why too many teachers and social workers are obsessed with the problems of the poor misunderstood abusers, and the bad things that will happen to them if they are called on it, and rather less concerned about their victims, who aren’t really very interesting at all.

  4. bt0558

    If pupils are being subjected to physical and sexual assaults in school then surely this is a child protection issue and should therefore involve the CPO. I assume also that the police are aware.

    It is the responsibility of each and every aware member of staff to raise the issue with the CPO and if the issue isn’t resolved then to follow appropriate procedures.

  5. Steve

    As a member of Staff, not an observer, you are also a contributor to your schools culture/ ethos. What steps have you taken (or would you take) to act on your information?

  6. Pingback: The Twelve Sighs of Christmas | Tabula Rasa

Go forth and opine