Everyone’s Invited, the website on which victims of sexual harassment, abuse and misogynistic behaviour perpetrated by their peers from schools and universities can anonymously submit their experiences, has now received and shared over 14,000 testimonies. The movement has since sparked a significant debate about a culture of sexual abuse within schools.
While several high-profile independent schools have been named in the testimonies and exposed in the press, the testimonies come from both state and independent school pupils, ex-pupils and university students. This is clearly a complex and pervasive problem facing educational establishments across society.
Following Everyone’s Invited going viral, Robert Halfon, chairman of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, called for an independent inquiry. The government has asked the regulator, Ofsted, to undertake an immediate review of safeguarding policies in state and independent schools. Ofsted will work to ensure there are appropriate systems in place for reporting concerns and will look at whether the guidance for schools on dealing with these types of allegation are sufficient and whether the current inspection regimes are strong enough to address concerns and promote the welfare of children. The review will conclude by end of May 2021. Ofsted has also announced that it will visit “a sample of schools and colleges where cases have been highlighted” and will assess how well schools respond to concerns and support their pupils. The NSPCC has also launched a helpline, the Report Abuse in Education helpline, to offer support and advice to the victims of sexual abuse in schools, including how to contact the police and report crimes, if they wish.
This article will consider the responsibilities of schools to tackle a culture of sexual harassment and abuse and wider misogyny by peers, as raised in the recent Everyone’s Invited movement, outline the additional responsibilities that independent schools have as charities to protect students, and discuss how schools can protect their reputation whilst responding to serious allegations.
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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.