Yet, according to a poll we recently commissioned compulsory sex and relationships education is favoured by eight out of ten Britons. Our 2016 report on girls’ rights concluded that the UK is failing girls. Schools should be safe environments free from violence, abuse and discrimination. However, in reality they can be part of the problem.
Girls in particular report that they don’t feel safe at school due to unwanted sexual contact such as groping. Earlier this year, we revealed that one in five schoolgirls have experienced this, in or around school.
If anything the picture is potentially getting worse with reports of sexual offences in and around school more than doubling in the past four years.
A problem of this scale and severity needs urgent action from the government. Evidence shows that quality sex and relationships education can help to tackle sexual harassment in schools, by educating young people about what healthy relationships are and what consent is. The government is right in calling for a holistic approach – but without a clear foundation in legislation for mandatory and up-to-date sex and relationships education this serious problem will not be addressed.
Head of Girls Rights and Youth, Plan International UK, Cranwood Street
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