Skip to main content

Violence against Women and Girls

Volume 620: debated on Thursday 2 February 2017

Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools is totally unacceptable and should not be tolerated, and I pay tribute to the fantastic work of Girlguiding UK, which is tackling this important issue. We are working with it as we take forward the commitment we made in response to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry on sexual violence and sexual harassment in schools to review existing guidance and then to look at what further support we can put in place for schools.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. How much training and emotional support is given to girl guides and other young girls who are bullied online?

Tackling all forms of bullying, including cyber-bullying, is a priority for us. We are investing £1.6 million over two years directly in anti-bullying initiatives, including via the Diana award project, which has a focus on digital resilience for young people. The Government have also funded the UK Safer Internet Centre to develop new cyber-bullying guidance for schools and an associated online safety toolkit. My hon. Friend’s question highlights the fact that the world is a very different place for our young people these days, and our guidance, laws and teaching need to stay up to date.

Will the Government support Girlguiding’s “Girls Matter” campaign to update the school curriculum to include sexual consent, online safety, tackling violence against women and girls, and LGBT and healthy relationships?

I have set out my feeling that it is time we look at the guidance that is in place and how we can improve the teaching. That is the right thing to do. We will set out our next steps at the next stage of the Children and Social Work Bill, but we are already doing other things, too. We have already held our first advisory group on looking at updating our guidance on tackling bullying. Through that and the frameworks we have in place, we hope that we can help schools to develop improved codes of practice to combat bullying, too.

Will the Minister confirm that there is co-operation at a comprehensive level, particularly with uniformed organisations such as the Girls Brigade, as well as Girlguiding, to combat this pernicious aspect of the 21st century?

Those sorts of organisations can be vital and incredibly powerful in changing attitudes and helping young girls in particular to understand that they do have a voice and should not accept this sort of behaviour. When I was at the Department for International Development, we worked very closely with Girlguiding on gender equality more generally, and I am pleased that that relationship can continue now that I am at the Department for Education.

A vital part of fulfilling the aims of Girlguiding’s campaign to end violence against women and girls is challenging the attitudes and behaviour of the perpetrators of these crimes. What are the Government doing to ensure there is national coverage for high-quality, accredited, community-based perpetrator programmes, such as the ones I was involved in—I declare an interest—before I became an MP and came to this place?

The work that the DFE does is part of a cross-Government programme on tackling harassment, bullying and intimidation. It is about not only supporting people—particularly young people, in the case of the DFE—who are bearing the brunt of that behaviour, but understanding what is driving it and tackling the root causes.

The Girlguiding survey found that 20% of 13 to 21-year-olds have had unwanted pornographic imagery sent to them, and 5% have had indecent images shared without their consent. If the Government really do want to support the Girlguiding campaign, why is the Department cutting the funding to the revenge porn helpline, which has taken more than 2,500 calls in the past year? How will the Minister ensure that victims of revenge porn have access to bespoke support, as promised in the Government’s violence against women and girls strategy, when she is shutting the only helpline in March?

I do not think the hon. Lady has the right information; in fact, we have not made any announcements in relation to that effect yet. Alongside all the comments made by hon. Members today, it is worth reflecting on the fact that another thing we can do is improve the evidence base in this area, which is why we have included specific questions on sexist and racist bullying in the next wave of the National Foundation for Educational Research Teacher Voice survey. We hope that some of the findings from those questions will be available later this year.