Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, spoke at a briefing in advance of the ATL conference on Tuesday, about the issue of sexist bullying and harassment in schools.
Girls Staying Silent
At the briefing Bousted emphasised the unspoken problem of sexist bullying for girls:
“For girls, there’s a very, very fine line – if you are swotty and clever and answer too many questions, you are not attractive. There’s a big pressure in many schools for girls to keep quiet and listen to the boys talking.”
She added that this issue is not isolated to schools as,
“Adolescents today have more access to highly sexualised films and content, on social media, than ever before. It’s very difficult for teachers to police that .You can’t just confiscate everybody’s mobile phone.’’
In response to this public discourse, a spokesperson for the Department of Education stated:
“We should be celebrating the achievements and talents of women and girls rather than focusing on outdated notions. Girls are outperforming boys academically and we know that good schools support all their pupils to feel empowered to be themselves in class.
In addition, we’re ensuring all children are better educated about the dangers of the internet, with children learning about internet safety as part of the new National Curriculum.”
Social Media Abuse Survey
This debate echoes last week’s published findings on social media abuse by the NASWUT, the largest teacher’s union in the UK. NASWUT conducted a survey in which over 1,300 teachers gave their responses to various questions about social media abuse in schools.
More than half of the teachers responded that they were aware of students using social media to insult or bully others in a sexist manner, while over half of the teachers were aware of messages including racist or homophobic content. The results also indicate that the majority of cases of social media abuse are found in the age group of 13 to 16 years old.
Nick Harrop, our Media and Campaigns Manager, further commented:
“We tend to think of bullying as a series of throwaway incidents in a child's life, but the consequences can be devastating and life-changing.With the advent of social media, bullying doesn't stop when school ends - it continues 24 hours a day.
YoungMinds is concerned that this online environment is having a devastating effect on the lives of thousands of teenage girls. We need to fully support young people to deal with the challenges both on and offline, enabling them to recover and flourish.”