Female teachers and students worry about walking down school corridors alone due to “misogyny and sexism” issues, a union has suggested.
Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said teachers have experienced “upskirting, down-blousing” and “inappropriate” touching at school – and he fears these are only the “the tip of the iceberg”.
His comments came as more than 13,700 testimonies have been posted on the Everyone’s Invited website, with some students accusing their establishments of not tackling a “rape culture”.
Addressing allegations of sexual abuse in schools, Dr Roach said: “I don’t want to get into the realms of demonising boys, but there is definitely a situation in which some boys are engaging in practices which frankly are not acceptable.”
He added: “It disappoints me, it concerns me, but it doesn’t surprise me, that if teachers are subject to sexist and misogynist behaviour by some pupils within a school context, that may also be impacting on female students as well, and vice versa.”
The NASUWT general secretary called on teachers to “speak up” and contact the union with their concerns on the issue.
Speaking at the union’s annual virtual conference, Dr Roach said: “If there is a toxic culture in any school, it’s not just toxic for students, it’ll be toxic as well for teachers, for our members.”
He added: “Misogyny and sexism is all too real, all too apparent, whether it’s on the streets, and whether women can walk safely at night, or in our schools, and whether female teachers, female students, can feel that they are safe to walk along the corridors without thinking – having to think about how they’re dressed, whether they’re walking alone and how they’re going to be treated by pupils, or indeed by fellow colleagues, and by parents as well.”
When asked by reporters whether things were so bad in schools that teachers have to think about their clothing and walking down a corridor alone, Dr Roach said: “What I am saying is that no teacher should feel that, no student should feel that. And yet we do hear that teachers and students do feel that.
“That has been part and parcel of the casework that we supported our members with. And that’s part of the testimonies that some teachers had given to us. That shouldn’t be happening.”
He added: “Effective sexual relationships education, very clear disciplinary policies and boundaries around what is acceptable, and non-acceptable behaviour, these things matter and they make a difference to the kind of environment that exists within any school, both for the workforce, for teachers, but also for students.”
Over the Easter weekend, the union conference heard how teachers are being subjected to “derogatory sexualised” terms by pupils in schools.
A motion passed at the conference on Sunday accused the Government of failing to take effective steps to tackle “sexual harassment and misogyny”.
It warned that bullying behaviours in schools were “damaging” the mental health of teachers and “driving committed teachers out of the profession”.
Dr Roach said: “We are seeing – whether it’s so-called banter, sexist name-calling, the use of derogatory terms, both in class and online to talk about your teachers, the posting of sexist comments on social media, the belittling of teachers because of their sex or gender.
“We’re seeing this also with regards to our trans members – female trans members – who are particularly experiencing problems around discriminatory behaviour and unacceptable comments.
“Through to some of the extremes that we’ve pointed to before – cases of upskirting, down-blousing, inappropriate touching, and we fear that that’s probably representing, to some degree, the tip of the iceberg.
“So it is very concerning, and certainly we will be committed to working with the government, with Ofsted, the NSPCC, and with others to address those issues.”
A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman said: “In no circumstances should teachers be subjected to abuse simply for doing their jobs.
“We are taking forward ambitious plans to improve behaviour and discipline in schools, including our £10 million behaviour hubs programme designed to model and share exemplary practice, making behaviour management a core part of early teacher training and improving our guidance for schools to ensure it is clear and consistent.”