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Statement to parents about sexual harassment

Headteacher's statement in a letter to parents:

You will be aware of the media attention that schools have received regarding sexual harassment in response to the tragic death of Sarah Everard.  I am very grateful that we have been in school during this period because we have been able to discuss these vital issues with our students in a safe environment. The heightened national awareness has given students, particularly girls and young women, a renewed voice to speak out and a chance for us all to expose and condemn all forms of sexual harassment. The ‘banter’ that spreads so easily on social media and from there into conversations, shaping attitudes and eventually influencing behaviour - the national debate has brought all of these aspects into sharp focus for us, both as parents and as teachers and we know there are ways to improve how we educate and influence our children in a school environment.

I am proud of our safeguarding systems and our focus on wellbeing for which we received national recognition in the Wellbeing Award for Schools last year. My first responsibility as a headteacher is to keep your children safe. Our staff have regular training with careful monitoring and we educate our students about healthy relationships, respect and consent. We regularly review and update our safeguarding policy and associated policies which are all available here on our website. I encourage you to read these and the regular safeguarding items and PSHCE updates in our newsletters and remind your children of these sources of information. But there is always more to do, and our students, especially in the sixth form, are leading that drive.

A group of students met recently to generate and coordinate ideas to help us, as a school, review our current practices and look for ways to improve what we do. It is so easy in emotive situations like this to demand immediate change with a poorly planned knee-jerk reaction. But I have been so impressed, yet again, by the thoughtful and sensitive approach that students have taken; our Head Prefect summarised their discussions in a beautifully worded, mature document which is forming the backbone of our response. We need to create more time in the curriculum to educate students about what constitutes sexual harassment and to identify and stop enabling behaviours. We are reviewing our behaviour policy in this light and will ensure that students are fully aware of the consequences of all forms of harassment. And we will explore new ways to support and encourage students to report incidents, in addition to the existing systems which we advertise to students. 

My new prefect team in year 12 takes over from my outgoing year 13 team after Easter and they will continue to work with me on these areas in the months ahead.