With sexual harassment so 'normal' that pupils don't bother to report it, are schools to blame?

ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger hears how the problem is in schools, and far beyond too

For any parent of primary or secondary school children in England, it’s a shocking headline. 

Sexual abuse and harassment is now so commonplace in schools that many children don’t even bother to report it. 

The chief inspector of Ofsted says she was “shocked" after finding that teachers and government alike weren’t fully prepared for the scale of sexual abuse among children.

On Wednesday, Everyone’s Invited, which has urged survivors to share their stories anonymously, shared the names of more than 2,000 schools where abuse and harassment had been reported.

It’s found that just like bullying, no school is immune. But are teachers in England failing to address it? 

'I remember his fingernails were so sharp': A teenager tells ITV News of her painful sexual assault when she was just 13 years old

Covid-19 has already placed a huge burden on our schools, leaving them with desperately limited time and resources.

As one teacher told me, many teachers, like parents, feel that without specialist training, they are struggling to catch up with a reality that’s changing so rapidly.

Many fear criminalising children unnecessarily. 

The Ofsted report also notes that although some harassment occurs on school premises, children are more likely to experience it travelling to and from school, in parks or at parties, or when using social media at home. 

On Wednesday, I met Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the police lead on child abuse, who has spent eight years grappling with the problem of sexual abuse towards and amongst children.

Chief Con Simon Bailey told ITV News "this is the next scandal" within schools

He told me schools are “overwhelmed” by the scale of a problem that mirrors what’s happening in the wider world. 

For him, the unfettered access for boys in particular to online pornography, which shapes their view of sex, is at the heart of the problem. 

He’s convinced that social media giants bear much of the blame for refusing to put children’s well-being before profits. 

Ofsted’s review calls on the government to look at the ease with which children can access pornography, along with online bullying and abuse.

Despite that, the reality is that schools and colleges do have a big role to play.

They need to maintain the right culture in their corridors and children need relationship and sex education that reflects reality. 

But the environment our children are facing is something that parents and government also need to confront.  

This problem can’t be solved by schools alone. 

Who to contact if you or someone you know needs help