A group of sixth-form students at Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School in Cheshire have launched a campaign to raise awareness of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools following a parliamentary report by the Women and Equalities Committee.
Alice Young, Francesca Dow, Monica Corrigan and Isabella Wild rallied together to educate fellow classmates, across all year groups, about the negative impact of sexualised behaviour, which is often readily dismissed as ‘banter’ or frivolous teasing.
Miss Dow said: “You do not realise until you go out and get a job and encounter people from all different walks of life how much of an issue it is.
“The more we can prepare boys and girls for this the more chance they have of dealing with it and not accepting it as a fact of life.”
— Maria_Miller (@MariaMillerUK) November 29, 2016
Tweet: Maria Miller, Chair of the Woman and Equalities select committee
The students have been presenting in assemblies, circulating thoughts for the day and have created ambassador roles to ensure the campaign’s longevity.
Sociology and psychology teacher, Laura Warren said: “The campaign has been really positive for all of our students.
“All schools should be looking at and addressing this issue and discussing it openly.”
The Department for Education was criticised recently following its response to the report in which ministers refused to make sex and relationships education (SRE) a statutory subject in schools.
The students said that the current SRE curriculum, which was last updated in 2000, had left them ill-equipped to recognise the stigmas surrounding sexualised behaviour.
Miss Wild said: “We were all surprised that sexual harassment actually included verbal.”
She added that the government needs to take greater steps to tackle sexual harassment in schools but recognised responsibility also lies with the individual.
Social media was identified as a major catalyst for harmful behaviour in the report, however the students said they want to use the platform to make a positive change and grow the campaign within the wider school community.
Miss Dow added: “Our mission statement is preparing learners for a changing world and that is what we are doing.”
The Committee is due to hold a follow up inquiry next year.