Harassment: More than 90 schools in Wales named on abuse site

By Felicity Evans
Political editor, Wales

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionOfsted was told pupils were put under pressure to share sexual images of themselves

More than 90 schools in Wales have been named on a website where girls have shared allegations of sexual harassment or abuse.

A review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges in England concluded sexual harassment had become "normalised" among school-age children.

The Welsh Conservatives called on the Welsh government to find out the scale of the problem in schools across Wales.

Education Minister Jeremy Miles said the issue was a priority.

UK ministers asked English schools inspectorate Ofsted to begin a review in England after the Everyone's Invited website began publishing anonymous testimony of sexual abuse allegations in schools.

It also launched a helpline run by the NSPCC.

Schools in Wales are the responsibility of the Welsh government.

Laura Anne Jones, education spokeswoman for the Welsh Conservatives, called on ministers in Wales to act after the "troubling references to 91 schools in Wales" by asking its own schools watchdog to investigate.

She said: "It's vital the Welsh government now instructs Estyn to look at the prevalence of the problem in Wales, assess safeguarding policies and experiences in schools and colleges, and publish its findings.

"Schools must be a safe place for our children."

Mr Miles told BBC Radio Cymru's Dros Ginio the issue "is a priority for us here in Wales too".

Asked if he would commit to an inquiry by Estyn, the minister replied: "We are looking at the best way to respond to this.

"We want to make sure we take deliberate steps to ensure this doesn't happen."

Mr Miles said the Welsh government would say more "in due course".

media captionSoma Sara from Everyone's Invited: There's still a "huge gap" between incidents and reporting

The Ofsted report, which questioned 900 staff and pupils in 30 schools and colleges in England, found more than two-thirds of girls said they endured unwanted touching "a lot" or "sometimes", while eight in 10 said they had been put under pressure to share sexual images of themselves.

The report said data on children sexually harassing or abusing other children was scarce, saying: "It is hard to get an accurate picture of the scale and nature of sexual harassment and violence between children and young people in schools and colleges.

"Although anyone can experience sexual harassment and violence, research indicates that girls are disproportionately affected," the report said.

"For example, 90% of recorded offences of rape in 2018-19 of 13 to 15-year-olds were committed against girls. In the past year, girls aged between 15 and 17 reported the highest annual rates of sexual abuse for young people and children aged 25 and younger."

The report was prompted by the Everyone's Invited website, which has attracted more than 16,000 posts.

It publishes anonymous allegations which mostly refer to sexual harassment carried out against young women by young men at their school or university.

Wales' children's commissioner Professor Sally Holland said: "Whilst I would welcome Estyn's expertise in gathering more information about this, we already know that this is an issue here in Wales.

"I've been hearing harrowing experiences from children and young people for years - which we've dealt with as individual cases - and I wouldn't want to delay taking action on this now by having to wait for a review."

She called for government to make a "wider package of support and resources" available, with "high quality professional learning that gives all teachers the understanding and skills needed to prevent sexual harassment".

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