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Highgate School has today published the report from its Independent Review, led by the Rt Hon Dame Anne Rafferty.

The review was commissioned by School Governors in response to the issues brought to light by the website ‘Everyone’s Invited’ and the Open Letter to Highgate Governors from current and former pupils. The Independent Review team worked in parallel with Haringey Council’s own safeguarding review, a summary of which has also been made available. The results of the Independent Review and Haringey Safeguarding review can be read on Highgate School’s Polices and Reports web page here.

Governors welcome and accept both sets of recommendations and their respective reports on behalf of the School in full.

Bob Rothenberg, Chair of Governors, said: “We would like to thank the review team for their recommendations, which impact all of us, leaders, teachers, pupils, parents and carers. We would also like to thank our School community for their generous input and uncompromising bravery. This has been an essential period of learning for Highgate. No school is alone in combating sexism and sexual violence, but we believe that the Independent Review’s thorough analysis of the reality at Highgate will help to change the climate for good in our own community.”

In March 2021, the ‘Everyone’s Invited’ movement, and the Highgate Testimonies letter, made explicit the extent and seriousness of peer-on-peer abuse in schools and its devastating impact. The Ofsted rapid review of sexual abuse in schools, along with other external investigations, echoed the deep-rooted problem of misogyny in our society revealed in those testimonies, to the point that sexual harassment and violence against girls are normalised.

The School has been working hard over the past year to act upon these serious issues. Highgate’s Anti-Sexism and Sexual Violence (ASSV) Plan, first drafted in March 2021, embodies the commitment to combatting misogyny, sexism and sexual violence in all their forms, and will be core to the School community’s identity and purpose. Both reviews, along with the Ofsted recommendations and those from other schools’ independent reviews, will be incorporated into the plan. Many actions are already underway. A second comprehensive update of the Anti-Sexism and Sexual Violence Plan will be available in March 2022.

Work has already taken place across the School with more actions to come, including:

  • An expanded Safeguarding team. A new Director of Safeguarding post has been created. In addition to the Director of Inclusion, Director of Pupil Wellbeing and Pupil Wellbeing Practitioner, there are more members of the DSL(Designated Safeguarding Leads) and Sixth Form Pastoral teams. There are now three safeguarding Governors who oversee this work.
  • A review and update of the PSHEE programme across the whole School. A recent addition to the programme is three custom-built workshops this term, for Y13 pupils based on their feedback, and involving external experts – on safeguarding, the law and rape myths, as well as accessing support inside and outside of school.
  • A sixth form uniform review, in consultation with pupils. During Michaelmas term, sixth formers volunteered to work with the School on an updated dress code, which they presented to Senior Management for agreement. This term they are working with a smaller group of senior leaders to roll out changes.
  • Further staff training. In August, staff received two 75-minute training sessions on responding to anti-sexism and sexual violence. All pupil-facing staff received training on sexist language and managing the classroom setting.  All Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) staff in the Senior School have received additional training from the CEO of the Sex Education Forum, focused on teaching about Gender, Power and Consent. This is in addition to the long-standing, continuing annual safeguarding training that is given to all staff.
  • A bystander intervention training programme for sixth formers began last term, looking at sexism and sexual violence as well as exploring how bystanders of any gender can intervene safely to prevent sexism, harassment and violence.  A male allyship programme for pupils in Y7 and Y8 is planned to begin later this term.
  • An anonymous peer relationships survey will be conducted with pupils in the Senior School in February.
  • A pupil-led anti-sexism forum is planned for mid-March, led by pupils from Highgate and London Academy of Excellence, Tottenham with involvement from other schools.
  • Anonymous reporting and online confidential reporting will be trialled with sixth form in Lent term.