Disturbing Sexual Harassment Of Teachers In UK Schools Revealed

'Prom night, the headteacher changed the seating plan so I had to sit next to him all night.'
nito100 via Getty Images

Sexual harassment of teachers is rife in UK schools, a disturbing new survey has revealed.

One in five has been sexually harassed at school by a colleague, manager, parent or pupil, research published on Saturday by the teaching union NASUWT has shown.

Alarming first-hand accounts also paints a picture of environment in which teachers feel humiliated, depressed and powerless even if they reported their harasser.

One teacher told how her boss groped her in front of students while another said male colleagues told her to “get a man to go home to” rather than stay late at work.

Nearly a third (30%) of those who were sexually harassed were subjected to unwanted touching, while two thirds (67%) experienced inappropriate comments about their appearance or body.

Over half (51%) were subjected to inappropriate comments about sex, and 21% have been sexually propositioned. Around 3% said they had suffered upskirting or down blousing.

When bullying reports were also taken into account, more than eight in ten (81%) told the survey they had been targeted at work.

Here are some of the incidents teachers revealed to the union:

“I had a little girl sat on my lap as she was crying, the head came in and commented he wished he could sit on my lap, in front of a class of 6-year-olds."”

- Teacher V

“Being told by the headteacher that if he was younger he definitely ‘would’."”

- Teacher X

“I feel that I am bullied and sexually harassed by my head of department. He has made comments such as 'nice tits' and has used the chat up line 'you plus me, subtract your clothes, divide your legs and let’s multiply' in front of a class of 30 Year 10 boys. He has also started rumours saying that I am sleeping with other members of the department which have had a negative impact on my family life and have led to me splitting up with my husband.””

- Teacher F

“A sixth form pupil wrote a sexually explicit story about me and handed it in to me."”

- Teacher Z

“Being 'slapped’ on the backside by several male members of staff. Comments about my breasts, sex life, comments that I need to ‘go get a ride’ to calm down, comments about how I should go get a man to go home to rather than staying in work late to do marking, lesson plans, etc."”

- Teacher Y

“A pupil filmed up my skirt during lessons. It was done to another teacher too. The pupil was suspended but then returned to school."”

- Teacher D

“Prom night the headteacher changed the seating plan so I had to sit next to him all night. The following year I didn’t RSVP prom invite so I just turned up and sat with the students. That angered the head and he called me to the office next morning to belittle me and my work. He would send lewd texts to me. He would visit me often in my classroom when I was teaching and grope me in front of students.””

- Teacher C

“I was made to feel I was at fault and I was being silly. Pupil involved never reprimanded nor was the incident reported to his parents. He continued to be vulgar and openly sexual behaviour directed at me. Absolutely disgusting place to be put in. Management impotent to do anything other than say ignore it."”

- Teacher B

“Lies by obsessed married female learning assistant after politely turning down her advances. No support at all from headteacher, not even to remove her from my class. She had done this before to another male member of staff."”

- Teacher H

“I was touched in a sexual manner by a school governor. He received a six month ban and then some training and then returned to office. I was headteacher at the time and left my job. I have also suffered numerous inappropriate comments / innuendo by male parents.””

As a result of what happened to them:

  • Almost half (43%) suffered a loss of confidence

  • 38% experienced anxiety and/or depression

  • 48% made changes to their daily routine to avoid the harasser

  • 32% felt pressure to change their appearance or clothing

  • 14% changed jobs or moved to a new school

  • 18% felt their career progression was hit

A large portion of victims - 42% - did not report the sexual harassment. When asked why, 28% felt they would not be believed, while 68% felt nothing would be done, 46% were fearful or embarrassed and 46% said thought they would be blamed or face negative consequences.

skynesher via Getty Images

Of those who did report the sexual harassment, in over a fifth (21%) of incidents no action was taken against the harasser. Four in ten (41%) said the harasser was spoken to about their behaviour, but the victim did not feel this matched the seriousness of the incident.

One in ten (10%) also said they felt they were not believed and their claim was dismissed.

More than 1,200 teachers responded to the NASUWT survey.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the Government must ensure schools were safe working environments.

She said: “Whilst the scale of the sexual harassment is deeply disturbing, equally disturbing is the scale of the failure to act on the incidents that were reported.

“The NASUWT will be using this survey to empower teachers to speak out. There can be no place in our schools for sexual harassment or bullying of staff.

“Schools should be places of safety, yet research undertaken by the NASUWT is showing us that too often teachers are being exposed to sexualised comments and abuse from colleagues, managers, parents and pupils.

“The NASUWT will have no hesitation in taking action in schools where sexual harassment and bullying occur and employers fail to operate a zero-tolerance approach.

“The Government must ensure its responsibility for ensuring that schools are safe environments is taken seriously.

“The NASUWT believes that statutory provisions are urgently needed to require schools to record all incidents of sexual harassment and bullying and to have a policy to deal with such incidents.”

Before You Go