Last October, we summarised the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee, aimed at combating sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools. The recommendations in the report included giving all schools a statutory duty to take appropriate action to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and sexual violence, and making Personal, Social and Health Education and Sex and Relationships Education compulsory subjects. The Government has now responded to the Committee's report.
To the disappointment of a number of groups that work with girls, the Government has rejected most of the recommendations. It accepts that a problem exists, but points out that schools already have a range of duties that "frame the positive action that they can and should be taking to build environments where all young people are supported to engage fully", such as:
- the anti-discrimination duties in the Equality Act 2010;
- the Public Sector Equality Duty and
- the requirement to have behaviour and bullying policies.
The Government says that it will help schools build on these duties by:
- supporting them to produce their own codes of practice setting out the principles for a whole school approach to inclusion and tolerance to combat bullying, harassment and abuse;
- building the evidence base to better understand the scale and scope of the problem, as well as providing best practice of examples of effective ways to promote gender equality and both to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and sexual violence; and
- setting up an advisory committee to consider how the issues and recommendations from the Committee's report can best be reflected in existing guidance, such as Keeping Children Safe in Education.
You can read the full report here.
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© Farrer & Co LLP, January 2017