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

March 30, 2021

This blogpost (not written by me) first appeared on the Red Or Green Pen blog in August 2013. It is shared here with the permission of the author as I think that blog is no longer accessible.

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

Nervous

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.

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