Over the past months, revelations about sexual harassment in the workplace have shocked society and sparked a movement for change. Unfortunately the classroom is not immune from incidents of harassment, says Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT in SecEd.
A light has been shone on the appalling nature of how some individuals abuse their power, with examples aplenty in the FTSE boardroom, the Hollywood cutting room and the House of Commons tea room.
Last year, NASUWT undertook a survey which exposed the scale of the harassment and sexual objectification being experienced by teachers.
One in five teachers said they had been sexually harassed at school by a colleague, manager, parent or pupil since becoming a teacher. Nearly a third of those had been subjected to unwanted touching, while two-thirds experienced inappropriate comments about their appearance or body.
More than half had been subjected to inappropriate comments about sex, and over a fifth had been sexually propositioned. Three per cent said they had suffered upskirting or down blousing.
Nearly half felt they had to make changes to their daily routine to avoid the harasser, while more than one in 10 changed jobs or moved to a new school. Nearly a fifth felt the incident had had a negative impact on their career progression.
What is more, nearly half did not report the incidents of sexual harassment, with the majority saying that this was because they did not feel anything would be done about it or because they felt they would be blamed. Even where harassment was reported the majority of teachers reported either no or very limited action being taken against the harasser.
We must not shirk from shining a light on the employers whose policies and practices fail to support their staff and confront these issues.
Government must also take a greater responsibility for ensuring that schools are safe environments for all staff. Statutory provisions are urgently needed to require schools to record all incidents of sexual harassment and bullying of staff and to have a robust policies to deal with such incidents.
Read more An end to sexual harassment
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