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Labour’s improvement teams will deliver misogyny training

Labour’s school improvement teams will be tasked with training older schoolboys to coach younger peers to “recognise and stop” misogyny.

The announcement comes as analysis by the House of Commons Library found a 400 per cent rise in mentions of ‘sexism’, ‘misogyny’, ‘sexual harassment’, ‘sexual abuse’ and ‘safeguarding incident’ in Ofsted reports between 2019 and 2022.

However, the inspectorate has over that period increased its focus on harmful sexual behaviour following the Everyone’s Invited scandal.

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, will announce plans tomorrow to “end the scourge of sexual harassment by young men influenced by online misogyny”.

Several of the party’s proposals are already known, such as access to mental health counsellors in every school and creating new annual safeguarding checks by Ofsted.

Labour announced last year it would create a network of new regional improvement teams to “end the scandal of ‘stuck’ schools”.

Training for older boys

The party will announce today that their roles “will include providing school mentor training for older schoolboys to coach younger boys in recognising and stopping misogyny”.

No further details have been provided.

Labour also said it would embed “digital literacy in the curriculum so that young people are given the critical tools to deal with online hate and misinformation”.

Leader Sir Keir Starmer had already pledged to introduce more digital skills to the curriculum.

And there are already elements of digital literacy in the national curriculum for computing.

It states that at key stage 1, children should be taught to “use technology safely and respectfully, keeping personal information private; identify where to go for help and support when they have concerns about content or contact on the internet or other online technologies”.

At key stage 3, they should be taught to “understand a range of ways to use technology safely, respectfully, responsibly and securely, including protecting their online identity and privacy; recognise inappropriate content, contact and conduct, and know how to report concerns”.

Labour has not said how its approach will differ to the status quo.

Ofsted references to sexual harassment soar

The party pointed to House of Commons Library research, which looked at a random sample of 18,000 Ofsted inspection reports from between 2019 and 2022.

It found the number of reports containing the terms ‘sexism’, ‘misogyny’, ‘sexual harassment’, ‘sexual abuse’ and ‘safeguarding incident’ rose from 39, or 0.9 per cent of reports in 2019 to 199, or 5.4 per cent of reports in 2022.

The most used of the phrases in 2022 was ‘sexual harassment’ (106 reports), followed by ‘safeguarding incident (87 reports) and ‘sexual abuse’ (28 reports).

However, Ofsted beefed up sections of its handbook for inspectors on dealing with harmful sexual behaviour in 2021, after admitting it did not know if its own inspections were “sufficiently assessing” the extent of sexual harassment and violence.

The watchdog was tasked with reviewing sexual abuse in schools by the government in response to allegations of abuse shared on the Everyone’s Invited website.

It accused school leaders and teachers of “consistently underestimating” the scale of sexual abuse and harassment occurring among their pupils.

‘A growing scourge’

Labour will warn tomorrow that boys are becoming exposed to a “rapid rise in material from a misogynistic online subculture”. It will point to the impact of influencers such as Andrew Tate.

Phillipson will say misogyny is a “growing scourge in our classrooms and if we fail to tackle it now, we store up huge problems for society in years to come”.  

“Female pupils and teachers deserve the right to a safe space, but it is evident that content from influencers such as Andrew Tate is having a lasting and damaging impact on boys and young men.

“Parents across the country are rightly concerned about the impact this is having on children, particularly the sexual harassment being suffered by young women and girls.”

She said Labour’s approach would “equip schools with the tools they need to rid our education system of these misogynistic views, teach our children right from wrong, and implement better safeguarding measures”.

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