The public testimonies on the Everyone’s Invited website, our pupils’ testimonies, and the Ofsted review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges, make clear that sexual harassment, online abuse and sexual violence are prevalent in young people’s lives.
In an intense period of just four months, our pupils, their families, their predecessors and our staff across the Pre-Prep, Junior and Senior Schools have listened to, considered and researched both the lived experience of sexism and sexual violence, and the ways in which the school can become a safe, a fair and a just place for young people of all genders, and for girls in particular, to grow up in. Our dynamic Anti-Sexism and Sexual Violence Plan is the fruit of this widespread collaboration to drive forward our mutual commitment.
Highgate’s Independent Review, led by Dame Anne Rafferty, is underway, and the review team have studied policies, referrals and testimonies, interviewed safeguarding and pastoral staff, met senior leaders and governors and held discussions with pupils and their parents and carers. The review recommendations will influence and shape our next update to the Anti-Sexism and Sexual Violence Plan in Michaelmas term.
Whilst we have been working on anti-sexism at Highgate, Ofsted has published its review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges. The conclusion of Ofsted’s review could not be more pertinent and indicates the scale of the issues facing young people and those who care for them. Its recommendations relate to Relationship, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) content and staff training, record keeping, creating a culture where sexual harassment and online abuse are not tolerated, close working with local safeguarding partners, support for Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs), staff and governors to identify the early signs of peer-on-peer sexual abuse. Many of these recommendations have been incorporated into our work so far, and others will feed into the Plan going forward.
Everyone who has contributed to this process is owed a huge debt of thanks: the desire to help, to find solutions which will work and to be part of those solutions has been inspiring. The courage of victims, the responsiveness of their friends and family, the growing understanding and support of all in our community and the commitment of staff and governors must give us confidence that we can and will make a lasting difference to our young people.