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Primary and secondary school children taught about sexism in bid to cut violence against women and girls

Pupils in Tameside are learning how to call out sexist behaviour as part of a new pilot programme to tackle violence against women and girls.

The scheme - which has been commissioned by Tameside Council and developed in partnership with safeguarding leads, commissioners, teachers, parents and young people – is being delivered by the national relationships charity TLC: Talk, Listen Change.

The pilot will run for between eight and ten weeks and will be implemented in ten schools, including five primary schools, some of which have already launched the programme, and five secondary schools aiming to join the pilot this September.

The schools already signed up include: Millbrook Primary, Holy Trinity CofE Primary school, Hurst Knoll St. James Church of England Primary, Fairfield High School for Girls and Rayner Stephens High School.

The pilot programme’s lessons will focus on a range of topics including emotional wellbeing, identifying unhealthy & abusive behaviours, online literacy & objectification and informed approaches to consent - using age appropriate content to support healthier relationships.

There will also be a section on how to spot incidents of sexism and public harassment with lessons on allyship designed to create a holistic approach to supporting safer schools for women and girls.

Outside of the classroom, the pilot – which forms part of the council’s wider Domestic abuse strategy - will also aim to build frameworks for reporting and policy, including incident recording and how to set school policy to create a supportive environment for girls across both primary and secondary education.

In 2021, Ofsted published the findings from its rapid review of sexual abuse and harassment in schools and colleges nationally. The review identified how prevalent sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are for children and young people and expressed concern “that for some children, incidents are so commonplace that they see no point in reporting them.”

Ofsted made several recommendations as a result of the report, for schools, colleges, multi-agency partners and the government, one of which was: “Leaders should take a whole-school/college approach to developing a culture where all kinds of sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are recognised and addressed.”

The schools involved in Tameside’s pilot programme have already been involved in equality programmes and see the latest pilot as a vital step to supporting the wider education sector to tackle the growing problem of sexism in the classroom.

Tameside Council Executive Member of Population Health Cllr Eleanor Wills said: “While this is a national issue, we want to be as proactive as possible at a local level in helping to tackle it. Helping to educate and support young people in challenging violence and harassment against women and girls is a huge step in starting to change behaviours now and in future years. I hope the young people come away from the sessions feeling informed, heard and empowered.”

John Hughes, Service Manager for Talk, Listen, Change said: “Ultimately, we want to create a supportive environment for girls across every school in the country. They have a right to feel safe and supported in the classroom, on the playground and throughout their lives at school, and we’re totally committed to educating both boys and girls about what constitutes violence against women and girls and what its effects are.

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