Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg

Children, Young People, and Education Committee

24/03/2022

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Buffy Williams MS
Ken Skates MS
Laura Anne Jones MS
Peter Fox MS Yn dirprwyo ar ran James Evans
Substitute for James Evans
Sioned Williams MS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Ceri Reed Cyfarwyddwr, Lleisiau Rhieni yng Nghymru
Director, Parents Voices in Wales
Chris Parry Cymdeithas Genedlaethol y Prifathrawon Cymru
National Association of Head Teachers Cymru
Eithne Hughes Cyfarwyddwr, Cymdeithas Arweinwyr Ysgolion a Cholegau Cymru
Director, Association of School and College Leaders Cymru
Iestyn Wyn Rheolwr Ymgyrchoedd, Polisi ac Ymchwil, Stonewall Cymru
Campaigns, Policy and Research Manager, Stonewall Cymru
Kelly Harris Arweinydd Datblygu Busnes a Chyfranogiad Brook Cymru
Business Development and Participation Lead, Brook Cymru
Kerry-Jane Packman Cyfarwyddwr Gweithredol Rhaglenni, Aelodaeth a Gwasanaethau Elusennol ParentKind
Executive Director of Programmes, Membership and Charitable Services, ParentKind
Laura Doel Cyfarwyddwr, Cymdeithas Genedlaethol y Prifathrawon Cymru
Director, National Association of Headteachers Cymru
Lowri Jones Cyfarwyddwr yng Ngwersyll Llangrannog, Canolfan Breswyl yr Urdd
Director at Gwersyll Llangrannog, Urdd Residential Centre
Mairead Canavan Ysgrifennydd Rhanbarth yr Undeb Addysg Cenedlaethol Bro Morgannwg, ac Aelod Gweithredol yr Undeb Addysg Cenedlaethol
National Education Union District Secretary for the Vale of Glamorgan and NEU Executive member
Mary van den Heuvel Uwch Swyddog Polisi, Undeb Addysg Cenedlaethol Cymru
Senior Policy Officer, National Education Union Cymru
Professor EJ Renold Athro Astudiaethau Plentyndod, Ysgol y Gwyddorau Cymdeithasol, Prifysgol Caerdydd
Professor of Childhood Studies, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
Rebecca Williams Is-ysgrifennydd Cyffredinol a Swyddog Polisi Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru
Deputy General Secretary and Policy Officer, Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru
Sally Thomas Rheolwr Hawliau, Polisi ac Eiriolaeth Merched y DU, Plan UK International
UK Girls’ Rights Policy and Advocacy Manager, Plan UK International
Siobhan Parry Pennaeth Gwasanaethau Pobl Ifanc, Platfform
Head of Young People's Services, Platfform

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Michael Dauncey Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Naomi Stocks Clerc
Clerk
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Tom Lewis-White Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:15.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:15. 

Penodi Cadeirydd dros dro
Appointment of temporary Chair

Good morning and welcome to today's meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee. The Chair is unable to attend today's meeting, therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 17.22, I call for nominations for a temporary Chair for today's meeting. Laura.

Ken Skates. Thank you. I see that there are no other nominations. I therefore declare that Ken Skates MS has been appointed temporary Chair and I invite him to chair the meeting.

Penodwyd Ken Skates yn Gadeirydd dros dro.

Ken Skates was appointed temporary Chair.

Thank you. And first of all, thanks for electing me as your temporary Chair.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

I'd like to welcome Members and the public to today's meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee. The public items, obviously, of this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, with all participants joining via video-conference, and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. Aside from the procedural adaptations relating to conducting proceedings remotely, all other Standing Order requirements for committees remain in place. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. Jayne Bryant, as we've heard, is unable to attend today and she's sent her apologies. Laura Jones will be absent for item 4 and following her questions on item 3. Peter Fox is substituting today for James Evans, and Sioned Williams will be leaving after item 6. Are there any declarations of interest from Members? No.

2. Aflonyddu rhywiol rhwng cyfoedion ymhlith dysgwyr—sesiwn dystiolaeth 6
2. Peer-on-peer sexual harassment among learners—evidence session 6

In that case, we'll move on to item 2: peer-on-peer sexual harassment amongst learners, and this is evidence session 6. I'd like to begin by welcoming the witnesses: Laura Doel, director of the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru; also, Chris Parry from the same organisation; and Eithne Hughes, director of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru. We have a large number of questions that we'd like to ask you today. Thank you for attending. We'll begin with Sioned Williams.

Diolch, Cadeirydd, a bore da ichi i gyd. Mae gen i gwpl o gwestiynau i ddechrau jest i sefydlu hyd a lled a natur aflonyddu rhywiol gan gyfoedion. Felly, hoffwn i wybod beth yw'ch safbwynt chi, fel rhai sy'n cynrychioli arweinwyr ysgol, ar hyd a lled a natur y broblem yma rhwng dysgwyr mewn ysgolion ac unedau cyfeirio disgyblion. Ac rŷn ni hefyd fel pwyllgor yn awyddus i glywed beth rŷch chi'n meddwl am y sefyllfa yn ein hysgolion cynradd, achos, wrth gwrs, doedden nhw ddim wedi'u cynnwys yn adolygiad Estyn. Felly, os gallech chi roi sylwadau cyffredinol i ni ar yr hyn rŷch chi'n meddwl yw natur a hyd a lled y sefyllfa yma i ddechrau. Dwi ddim yn gwybod pwy sydd eisiau mynd yn gyntaf. Jest arwyddwch pwy sydd eisiau dechrau.

Thank you, Chair, and good morning to all of you. I have a few questions to begin with to establish the scale and nature of peer-on-peer sexual harassment. So, I'd like to know what your stance is, as those who represent school leaders, on the scale and nature of this issue between learners in schools and pupil referral units. And we also as a committee are eager to hear what you think about the situation in our primary schools, because they weren't covered by the Estyn review. So, could you give us some general comments on what you believe the scale and nature of the situation is to begin with, please? I don't know who wants to go first. Do put your hand up if you'd like to start.

Perhaps Laura. Would you like to begin? Is that okay? Thank you.

Yes, that's absolutely fine. And thank you to the committee for inviting NAHT to make representations today.

I think, first of all, what we'd like to say is that we recognise that there is a problem in schools across Wales. I think what the Estyn report failed to contextualise is that, actually, the report focused on what we actually knew and not what we don't know. So, the extent of the problem, I think, is very difficult to summarise. I think what we can say is that a significant amount of work is already being done to address some of these problems. I know that the committee has discussed this previously and I think what's important to recognise is that whilst schools have a huge responsibility in this area, and, indeed, a moral responsibility, as we all do, to support learners, children and young people who feel that they are victims of peer-to-peer sexual harassment, I think we need to look at this in the wider context of a societal issue. Schools have, like I say, a significant role to play and do so to the upmost of their abilities, but I think what we need to look at is what additional support can be offered for schools to do this work, and also how we are going to address the wider problems.

09:20

Again, thank you to the committee. From the perspective of the Association of School and College Leaders Wales, we're pleased to be here to discuss this extremely important issue, which I think is all-pervasive and permeates through society. Schools are clearly a microcosm of societal problems, and I think that's a fairly obvious point. I hope you've received our report on this. I'm sure you'll have had time to look at it. It was report that was jointly produced with ASCL as part of the partnership looking into detailed evidence-based research on this particular area. You ask about the scale, and I think the scale—. As Laura quite rightly said, this is societal, and, if you like, schools become a pressure cooker for some of those issues as well. I would say as well that leaders are doing their very best. There is a long way that people have travelled around this particular issue, and it is important that we keep this in our sights and that we can do better still. There is lots more that can be done with regard to this particular agenda. Thank you.

Diolch. Yn amlwg, mae'r ddwy ohonoch chi wedi sôn eich bod chi'n teimlo, ar y naill law, bod hon yn broblem eang, ac efallai ein bod ni ddim hyd yn oed yn gwybod hyd a lled y broblem yma, mor eang yw hi. Ond hefyd, Laura, roeddech chi wedi sôn eich bod chi'n teimlo bod yna gamau ar waith i fynd i'r afael â'r broblem yma. Felly, oherwydd y ddau beth yna, ydych chi'n ystyried bod hon yn broblem sydd ar gynnydd, neu ydych chi'n teimlo ein bod ni yn gwybod beth yw hyd a lled y broblem a bod yna gamau yn cael eu gwneud, yn sicr o fewn ysgolion, i fynd i'r afael â hi? Felly, efallai ei fod e ddim yn rhywbeth sy'n cynyddu ond rhywbeth sy'n cael ei reoli nawr. Rwyf jest eisiau gofyn hefyd o ran natur yr achosion efallai y byddech chi wedi clywed amdanyn nhw o ran nifer neu ddifrifoldeb yr achosion hynny. Ydy hwnna yn cynyddu neu'n gwaethygu? A hefyd, liciwn i wybod beth yw'ch safbwynt chi o ran effaith y pandemig a chyfnodau clo ar y broblem yma.

Thank you. Clearly, both of you have mentioned that you feel, on the one hand, that this is a wide-ranging issue, and perhaps we don't even yet know what the extent of the issue is, it's so widespread. But, Laura, you also said that you feel that there are steps being taken to tackle this issue. So, because of those two things, do you consider that is an increasing problem, or do you feel that we know what the extent of the issue is, and steps are now being taken, certainly within schools, to tackle it? So, perhaps it isn't something that is increasing but something that is currently being managed. I just wanted to ask in terms of the nature of the cases that you've heard about in terms of the severity of those issues or the numbers of cases. Is that increasing or is the severity worsening? And to what extent has the pandemic and the lockdowns impacted on this issue?

I'm happy to come back in and respond to that, Sioned. I think, from our perspective, we are seeing the range of behaviour evolve, I suppose I would say. So, of course, with the prevalence of social media and various different ways of communicating, a problem that was maybe a face-to-face issue previously has certainly expanded to something far beyond, I think it's fair to say, what teachers, school leaders and parents are aware of. It's extremely difficult for anyone with children to know exactly the extent of this. The Estyn report highlighted this—you know, it was, '"We don't tell our teachers"'. I think that makes it an incredibly challenging issue to tackle. I'm keen to bring my colleague Chris in on this, as a serving secondary lead.

Just to add to the conversation, really, and probably a little bit of a unique insight into the issue. I'm a serving secondary headteacher, and I'm the headteacher of a single-sex boys school, probably the last one in Wales, but we've got a mixed sixth form as well. This remains an incredibly important issue for us. In terms of identifying its importance within our day-to-day practice, I think, as a head of a school, what we often do is we respond to community, and I think, clearly, over the last year, or two or three years, this issue has increasingly risen up our agenda and is something that we need to be looking at inside school. You know, everybody's talked about the scale of the problem. I'd have no reason to contend the issues that Estyn raise, where they said around 60 per cent of girls were experiencing harassment and about 80 per cent of girls have witnessed that. I think that probably underestimates the fact that most people within schools will have experience of, or at least witnessed, or can describe, an incident where they've felt uncomfortable or saw those issues.

I think, really, the things that schools are trying to do at the minute are very much starting with two things, probably. One of them is around awareness raising and really making sure that all the tools that we've got in schools to look at issues like this are being used. An example for us would be that we work closely with the White Ribbon campaign to make sure that we support all campaigns that they're running around domestic violence particularly—we've invited them into school, we use them in assemblies, they talk to our pupils, but we also use our social media platforms to highlight the campaigns that they've got. I think that can be quite effective and it raises those issues with pupils and allows us to have those discussions. But I think one of the things that I would focus on in this as well is that all of those awareness-raising campaigns are really, really important and they do allow us to highlight the issues to pupils and to the community about what we think is important, but, ultimately, it's about providing space within the school environment for young people to have those conversations with people they trust where they're able to disclose information.

I think, in the past, what has happened, because incidents like this have been normalised—. I don't think they've been normalised, I think they were always normal, and what we're trying to do is 'unnormalise' them. What we need to be able to do is allow young people to be in trusting relationships with adults where they can begin to talk about these things and highlight why they're an issue. Because I think in other areas of school practice, around bullying and around other kinds of areas—for example, in recent years, substance misuse—pupils have become increasingly confident that they can talk about those issues. Now we are saying this is important, I think young people will find those opportunities as long as we can provide them the space and the personnel to be able to talk with them. I think that's the crucial thing, because we can talk about these issues as much as we want in assemblies and on social media, but the bulk of the work takes place in face-to-face conversations.

Just to come back to the issue of the pandemic, that is something that we very much missed over the last two years, because we haven't had the ability to sit down with young people face to face inside school. I think we have all suffered because of that, although I would highlight that probably one of the things that secondaries are now better at is that their conversations and relationships with parents have developed and deepened because, literally, we've been in their homes in terms of giving online lessons, and we've had to invest in procedures in schools to make sure that we were contacting parents, that we were identifying pupils who are vulnerable. So, we've spent a lot of time talking to those parents over the recent two years, and I think, through that, we've learned a lot more about the things that that are going on. Sorry, that was a lot.

09:25

Na, diolch yn fawr. Eithne, ŷch chi eisiau dod i mewn?

No, thank you very much. Eithne, you wanted to come in.

Yes. I would certainly agree that this is a significant problem in schools, it's a significant problem in society. I think the idea of it being normalised is absolutely where we are at the moment, sadly, where young people probably don't even see the fact when they receive inappropriate pictures on social media, on their phones in whatever shape that takes, whether it is on Snapchat or whatever, Instagram, that, actually, there is so much of it that they just normalise it themselves and don't actually know that it is a problem and that it is inappropriate. So, it is all of those image-based abuse and harassment media platforms that I think, also, are part of the issue that needs to be addressed in schools. We need to look at media literacy, we need to unpick what is right, what is wrong, what is correct, what is normal within a healthy sexual relationship and what is not acceptable within a healthy sexual relationship.

The business of misogyny, I think, is something that does need to be pulled through all of this, and it's not to say that we need to demonise boys, because that's the last thing we need to do. We need to be working with young people, not either accusing or victimising them, but, actually, it's about raising awareness, giving them a language so that they can speak around this particular agenda so that they can have those open conversations and actually say, 'This is not right, this is not correct.' That's the big challenge that we have. I think, as a society, sometimes, we don't even see it ourselves. We walk into a shop, and we don't see that all the mannequins that are there in the women's section are a size 8 and look absolutely perfect. We walk past them and don't see that there are images that are curated on media that we see every single day that actually set us up for this particular kind of agenda.

09:30

Diolch. Jest un cwestiwn i gloi. Yn amlwg, mae'r hyn rydych chi wedi sôn amdano yn awgrymu eich bod chi'n deall bod hwn yn broblem gymdeithasol, ei fod e'n rhywbeth sy'n digwydd y tu allan i'r diwrnod ysgol, wrth gwrs, yn ogystal, efallai, ag o fewn y diwrnod ysgol, er enghraifft ar-lein, fel roeddech chi'n sôn fanna, Eithne. Pa wahaniaeth ydy hynny'n gwneud, os o gwbl, i gyfrifoldeb a chapasiti'r ysgolion a'r unedau cyfeirio disgyblion i fynd i'r afael â'r digwyddiadau yma? 

Thank you. Just one final question to conclude my section. Clearly, everything that you've talked about suggests that you understand that this is a societal problem, that it is something that's happening outside of the school day, of course, as well as during the school day itself, for example online, as you've just mentioned, Eithne. What difference does that make at all to the responsibility and capacity of schools and pupil referral units to deal with these incidents?

I'm happy to come in on that and then let Eithne come in. I think that's a really important point, because a lot of this kind of behaviour, as you would imagine, happens outside of the school gates because there's almost a restriction in place in schools when it comes to the use of mobile phones et cetera, so that schools can manage what happens within the school environment. It's incredibly hard to be able to react to things that go on outside of school. I think one of the things that we would highlight is that it is so vital to make sure that there is a whole-community, societal approach to tackling this issue, because if schools respond to what happens in schools that's one thing, but if other services—social services, police, parents, youth workers—are involved, know of these situations, it's crucial that there's that mechanism for evidence sharing and information sharing. Because what happens outside of school is very much reflected in school and vice versa, and I think that is an area that we can all explore to make sure that those policies and processes are in place so that that information is shared across the piece and we can help each other in tackling some of these issues. 

Dwi'n meddwl, Gadeirydd, roedd Eithne eisiau dod nôl mewn. Sori. 

I think, Chair, that Eithne wanted to come in. Sorry.

I think, certainly as a serving head, we dreaded a Monday morning because at the weekend there were all sorts of issues around social media that washed back into school. Schools can't be responsible for everything that happens in a home—clearly, it would be impossible. But there has to be a bit of a multi-agency approach to this particular problem. It's got to be about better resources. The diminution of resources over the last years, I think, has had an effect where you have got social workers who are thin on the ground, you've got ed psychs who are unavailable, school counsellors who are like hen's teeth, and you've got police liaison officers who, again, are brilliantly effective, but it isn't always easy to get hold of a police liaison officer when you wish to have that. It's got to be a multi-agency approach to this particular issue; schools cannot do this on their own.

Thank you, Chair. I'd like to just ask you a few questions on the causes and impact of peer-on-peer sexual harassment. As Eithne and Laura have just said, it is a societal issue, but we do know it's obviously prevalent in schools. But, unfortunately, as Laura said, this is just the tip of the iceberg—we're only seeing the evidence that is collected, and that is a major problem, as we know. So, we can just deal with what we see, and I'm sure it's a lot bigger than it is. What do you think are the main causes of the increase in peer-on-peer sexual harassment? To what extent do you think that one of the causes could possibly be accessing online and inappropriate content, pornography and that sort of thing? To what degree do you think that that's been exacerbated by the pandemic and the amount of time that children and young people spent on their computers during the lockdowns? Thank you.

I think I'm going to go back to the report that we circulated to the panel that looked specifically at this particular issue, the image sharing online that is part of the sexual harassment and part of the sexual abuse agenda that we're discussing here. The report does clearly highlight the fact that this has become more prevalent. It is normalised for females to receive pornographic images, and so many that, actually, they don't see them any more to be problematic. They're concerned about talking about it, they're concerned about actually bringing it to anybody's attention, because it is part of normal life as they see it as a young person, which is really dreadfully sad. So, I think part of that desensitisation is there as a consequence of the volume of this kind of imagery that young people are receiving at the moment. But we also have—. I go back to the comment about misogyny, about desensitisation around misogyny, about not seeing it, not knowing that it is a problem because it is so prevalent.

I think over lockdown there has been, I think, intuitively we can say, with learners not being able to interact face to face, more interaction online of this sort, possibly as a consequence, and that evidence is there in the report that we've shared with you for you to have a look at. So, it is a significant issue. The causes are societal, the causes are part of that confusion of young people, of not actually knowing that it is a problem and, of course, what we're looking at is how to actually get at fixing this or solving it or bringing it to the top of an agenda for young people to know that it just isn't right.

09:35

I would just echo the comments that Eithne's raised, and I think Chris raised it earlier—we're almost trying to de-normalise this kind of behaviour, and, while schools are doing some terrific work around this, I think we need to look more broadly at what other people and what other organisations and sectors of society can do to support this work, because it's very difficult for schools to work in isolation on this. I think we're all in agreement that this is a societal challenge, and there needs to be an approach that looks at how we tackle this on a much broader scale than just focusing on what schools can do.

Thank you. From what you've seen, and from what you've heard, how do you think that this sort of exposure to inappropriate content online, for example, is creating unhealthy attitudes towards relationships and sexuality? I think Eithne touched on it earlier. And do you think parents are taking enough responsibility in this regard, and getting enough support?  

I wouldn't want to say, as a parent myself, that parents are not taking enough responsibility. I think the challenges of the pandemic, and what we've all been through as a result, has made things incredibly difficult for families. I think we need to look at what support—. And I think it's very important, the point you just made there, about what support is available for parents. Eithne's touched on it, about the support services that were in place that are no longer in place: educational psychology, youth services, social workers, when we try and get hold of them to offer that additional support. And I think there needs to be a whole piece of work around raising awareness generally, because I think there is specific work being done for young people in schools. We know that that work's taking place, we know it's part of the new curriculum, and there's a significant focus on it, but I think, unless we can put the other pieces of the jigsaw together, go out to parents, make sure they have that information, and they are supported in those conversations—. Don't forget, they are some very difficult conversations for parents to have, and some people are just not equipped to have that. So, rather than demonising and pointing any fingers, let's look at actually what we can do to support them. Ask them what do they need. Are they comfortable in having those conversations? And coming back to Chris's point, it about making sure that there are those strong relationships with adults to have those appropriate conversations with learners, and I think there's some significant work that we can do there.

As a parent myself, I absolutely get that. Sorry, Chair, yes, Chris.

I think it's just adding, and I don't think there's any doubt at all, in terms of accessing the type of imagery and information that's available to young people, that it has a negative impact on their attitudes towards relationships. I don't think that's being questioned anywhere. I think the issue, particularly around parents, and that links back to schools, is just understanding the scale of the way in which people can access information, and the way that that has so radically shifted, even in a short period of time over a few years—so radically shifted. So, when we talk about parents being able to have conversations with young people, yes, they can around concrete issues that may emerge, but I think even if you think about a school, and the fact that myself as a parent and a headteacher at a school—I consider myself quite in touch with what young people are doing from day to day, and even I'm surprised at the pace of change.

I think when you begin to realise that young people in school literally have access to a variety of different platforms, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people will be identified as their friends. Huge amounts of those they've never met, and all of those people are sharing and exchanging information. That was in the days when we felt we were doing well because we were talking about Facebook, do you know what I mean? And then we had to deal with Snapchat, and we had to learn what that was, and I think recently, if you look at something like TikTok, which is even more of an issue in schools particularly, you haven't even got to follow anybody. It's not like you're actively looking to follow people—this is information that's just being dumped on your 'for you' page, and it's completely unvetted, and it may not be some of the more disturbing images that we see, but they undoubtedly can still influence young people in their general perceptions about women, about how people should look, about how you should act in society. And that is completely unsolicited. So, it is about media literary and how we teach people to be aware of things, but, again, just keeping pace with the change for a school is almost impossible, because there'll be a new thing next week that we have to catch up with and be able to discuss.

09:40

Can I just come in there, then, and just say that I completely agree with you? And it's also what social media has done, particularly TikTok, on algorithms as well. So, once some content is accessed, it then obviously just keeps coming up, and you can't control what comes up next. But, yes, I think Eithne wanted to come in next.

Yes, I think the gap in knowledge between social media and parents and learners and adults grows ever wider, as Chris has alluded to, and that in its own right is—. For me, it has to be a national debate. It's got to be a topic and a subject that is on a national platform where we are all working together. And who can teach us better about social media than the youngsters themselves? They're the ones that are in the know. They're the ones that are actually the solution to some of these issues, both within a school setting where peer-on-peer sexual harassment—no, they don't feel comfortable talking to adults in the school, and I think that's pretty understandable in many cases where we would encourage it. But they will talk to each other, so they are a part of the solution to this whole thing.

I wouldn't want to land this on parents in terms of saying, you know, that parents need to do more. Because parents are doing what they can with this one, but it is a bewildering forest of very, very difficult terrain that people are trying to actually navigate through at the moment. Thank you.

Thank you. Chair, just a really quick question, the last one—do you think certain groups are being targeted more than others? Have they got that targeted support that they need, for example an LGBT group? Thank you.

I think in terms of the general picture around bullying, for example, in schools or societal issues around LGBT+, I think there will be specific issues where, as a result of sexuality, there will be particular groups who will find that much more difficult and will be targeted as a consequence. So, again I think it's raising awareness and raising education and positive attitudes towards the differences and the sameness and that each of us deserves respect, and deserves kindness in who we are within society. For me that, I think, is absolutely vital and fundamental to this particular debate. It's about being kind.

Hello, good morning, all. It's great to be part of this discussion, and as a father of grown-up kids and now with seven grandchildren, I've seen many changes in societal behaviour over many years, and I recognise these changes, and it worries me that we need to get something in place, certainly, so that my little grandchildren don't get subjected to the sorts of things that, for most kids, have become normalised.

I want to really just probe a little bit more about the awareness and management of the problem within schools. Chris, I know that, as an acting head, you can very clearly see this and understand it well. Would that be the same for, generally, school leaders? Is this something that is on their radar now? I just wonder why we think that young people aren't talking to teachers about this, as was said in the Estyn report. I know you've covered that off a little bit, and it may be because for those young people it's so normalised in their lives they don't see it as a problem anymore so why would they want to talk about it to the teacher, but I wonder how is that general awareness amongst school leaders?

09:45

I think very much at the minute, like I said earlier, it's an issue that has risen up the agenda in terms of our focus. I know in our professional association—. So, in Caerphilly, where I work, we meet regularly as a group of headteachers, as secondary headteachers. There are 12 of us. It has been an agenda item in several meetings in recent months. It's something that we talk about and we share practice, particularly around the systems that we run in school that allow us to identify incidents being reported and the way in which we react to them. So, I think we tend to use similar technological systems in school, and we share practice on the way in which we've amended some of those to allow us to particularly identify these issues. So, I think, yes, it is very much there, and with something like Everyone's Invited, it was a headline-grabbing situation. And I think as a consequence of that, headteachers paid very much attention to what was going on. Similarly with the recent Estyn engagement; I think they've all been important issues in raising awareness of it.

To go back to that issue of discussing things and talking, I run a boys school, and boys don't talk anyway, so getting them to say anything at all other than what happened in the rugby or the football on the weekend is usually a challenge. But it is ultimately, as Eithne said, about creating those relationships with people, where they feel that they can trust you to talk about those things and to get good advice. And sometimes that's about—it is about investment, and investment is expensive, and it's about investment, often, in non-teaching roles inside school as well. So, we're very, very lucky that we've been able to spend some money recently on pastoral support officers, as we describe them, who are non-teaching professionals with 100 per cent contact time during the school day, where they can take the time to sit down and speak to people about what they've been doing in school. So, I think those things are vital, that you provide those opportunities.

And I have to say, in terms of that multi-agency approach, yes, the other people that come in—so police liaison officers and we've got youth workers who come into school on a regular basis—at times when finance becomes difficult, those things tend to disappear. I've seen them when they're in plenty and I've seen them when they're non-existent. So, at the minute, we're in a place where we are currently served quite well, but I worry about the future, about where we're going to go with some of the financial issues and about whether we'll be able to continue in the way that we are at the minute. And I think for this particular issue, if we're trying particularly to build strong girls who are confident and are able to talk about these issues in order to stop them, then we need that network of support around them, particularly for the girls that we identify as being very vulnerable. They need those people around them to give them that help so they can express how they feel, and that is expensive, and we want to be able to do that. 

Yes, again I think it's in the report that we submitted that some of the reasons for learners not reporting is that they're embarrassed, and I think we can probably see that ourselves empathetically. They're worried that teachers will overreact if there is mention of it in the school, and that, I think, would be a concern, if there was an overreaction. But that worries them, and that stops them from disclosing. That the alleged perpetrator is also in school, that is going to be an issue, that they are in class, they are in school with them; that they might be targeted as a result of that particular person having been, basically, called out. And then it is about that idea that it is normal, that they don't report it because they just see it every single day and don't see a problem with it.

I think the other thing that I would mention as well is that the language that we all duck around—we've ducked around it in this particular meeting, some of the language that young people themselves have hold of, some of the pictures that they graphically are subjected to—we need to actually look at that intersectionality in terms of discriminatory processes and language as well and not be too shy about what we need to say to youngsters in talking with them directly. But the intersectionality, I would say, where girls are called sluts and for boys it is almost a badge of honour—we need to look at why it is that a girl is described as a slut for particular behaviours, where males are basically given the badge of honour for similar behaviours. I think that requires a lot of training, a lot of strong stomach to get at it, and it requires us to be much more forthright and much more honest in the discussions that we're having with these young people, and it might help overcome some of the embarrassment with those in terms of those discussions with these youngsters. 

09:50

That's a powerful message. Thank you, Eithne. Laura.

Yes. I just wanted to come in really briefly. When you asked the question around how—. From a union perspective, then, we have our members asking us for additional support in how we can help them to facilitate those conversations with their children and young people. And I think, as a union that represents both secondary and primary headteachers, this is a conversation that needs to be extended into primary school discussions. I know there's been some significant work, and we've played a part in those discussions with the RSE working group on development of the new RSE code, for example, on how there needs to be—. Those age-appropriate conversations need to happen, and we need to not be afraid of having those conversations with children in primary schools. Of course, I stress that they need to be age-appropriate conversations, but we can't be naive and think that this is just a secondary school issue. There are children in years 5 and 6 in primary schools with mobile phones, they have access to things. They're not maybe developmentally aware of what they are accessing, so that is another challenge. But I think this is very much on schools' radars and something that they are tackling successfully, but need that additional help and resource to do so.

Thanks for that. I'm going to wrap three questions into one a bit here, really, because I'm conscious of time. How—? Is there a deep enough awareness throughout the school staff as well? That's a role for school leaders, to make sure that everybody's on the same page. Do you think schools have the correct policies in place, or are they in the process of developing these? And would there—? Is there a lot more training that needs to be made available to school staff to help them deal with this? So, sort of three elements there, but I thought—. You've covered many of the points already, so—.

Happy to come back in on that. I think, first of all, there's certainly an awareness across all school staff, and I would go a step further and say that everybody in the school environment has a role to play in this. It's not just about leaders and teachers; it's about support staff, it's about the lunchtime supervisors, who often have those important adult relationships with learners and are sometimes the people very much that these children turn to to have those conversations.

I think there is a significant lack of funding to be able to support schools in doing this. I think our campaign activity of recent years around—. The challenges of school funding, compounded by COVID, and the fact that we are still suffering a huge staff-absence issue in schools across Wales—it's not going to help the situation. But I think there needs to be very much more of a targeted approach to how we support schools.

Like we've all said, schools know they have an important part to play in this, but they can't be the only ones to do it. They need to have that support system around them so that if something becomes apparent from a discussion that actually needs to be escalated, there are clear lines of communication, where schools know exactly where to go, who to pick up the phone, to make sure that learners get the support, and that parents are looped in all the way along the process, so that it's not schools working in isolation.

09:55

Yes. Certainly, rather than repeating what Laura's said there, which I'd wholly concur with, I would also add that there needs to be time and space for these discussions within a timetabled process, because, at the moment, the curriculum is so squeezed that you've got very little time and space to discuss these. Our report says that whole-school assemblies—. And God help us, I used to run whole-school assemblies, they're an absolute pain, but they are not the place. They're a place to deliver some messages, but they're not a place for the kind of sensitive discussion that is required around these issues. So, it needs to be in the timetable. It needs to be given space. It needs to be given time. And it needs to be with teachers who are also comfortable delivering the messages that are required for this particular topic. 

It may not be that everybody wishes to actually teach this kind of work, but I think we need to all take responsibility, as Laura has said. But I think schools are working extremely hard to try and make sure that our youngsters, as part of the safeguarding procedures, are looked after with regard to this agenda. 

So, Chris, would you concur that the policies are in place to start dealing with that safeguarding? It is a safeguarding issue, isn't it? 

Yes. I'd argue that the safeguarding policies introduced in schools tend to be very strong, and they are easily amended to pick up on particular issues that emerge. I wanted to just briefly talk about the training issue. I think one of the things that we need to acknowledge is that there's some real strength in Wales. We're lucky around some of the organisations outside the school that can provide support. I would particularly name Umbrella Cymru, which we work closely with, that has some excellent training on gender and sexuality issues, and we've used them in school; they're fab. And I mentioned earlier the White Ribbon campaign as an organisation that will work with you in school. 

I think that a key issue for me is following some of the practices that we've adopted previously, where we've worked together in a multi-agency way with local authorities, consortia, and these kinds of outside agencies, to develop resources for schools, because that's often the thing that's lacking, something you can hang your hat on. And around issues like substance misuse previously, we've seen some really good examples of resource videos, online clips that people can use then, that can be used in all schools to highlight these issues.

And I think, going forward, this is definitely one of those areas where that type of work will be really beneficial. And then 100 per cent agree with Eithne as well about making sure that we find the time within the curriculum to teach this, because it needs to be specific and kept up to date. And personal and social education teachers inside school are hugely valuable to us, and we should be celebrating the work that they do. And there is a danger with all the work that goes on at the minute that those types of lessons get squeezed in the curriculum, and we need to make sure that we preserve them and celebrate what they're doing. 

Thank you, Chair. I'd like to thank the panel for joining us this morning as well. I'm going to ask some questions on data collecting and the wider context of bullying. So, I'll start with: what's your understanding of how incidents of sexual harassment are recorded and categorised by schools? And is there a consistent approach between schools? For example, are school leaders fully clear on how they should be collecting and using data? And are schools receiving enough support in this area? Chris. 

I can probably talk about that one the most. I think it's an interesting area, in terms of data collection. So, all schools will run—and typically, now, these are based on technology—. So, schools will buy into packages that allow them to track incidents that are being reported in schools. So, in our school, we use a system called Class Charts—there are others that are out there—where teacher inside school would be able to record an incident. Many parents will be aware of Class Charts, because they're often able to link into those accounts. 

Now, Class Charts as a system, and the others, you are able to edit the topics under which incidents can be reported. So, for example, with ours, we may have a general bullying area, where a teacher could report an incident of bullying. And one of the things that we've done, when we realised this issue particularly was going to be something that was important to us, is we can amend those bullying areas to allow for the reporting on specific issues—so, gender-based bullying, bullying to do with race, whatever that would be. So, the systems that exist in school are undoubtedly able to respond to the demands of the school and the needs of the school to highlight these issues. 

The variance within schools is more about the systems that they use, and therefore that sometimes puts a limit on the way in which we can share practice. Because if, for example, a school that we work closely with uses a different system, although we can highlight issues under the same areas, maybe it's reported in a slightly different way. So, information that we receive from a different school, for example, may be provided in a different format and we can't then necessarily fit it into our systems. This is a very boring, nerdy point. I think, going forward, one of the issues for Wales generally is to be looking at the whole-school management information systems, MIS, systems in schools; we use SIMS. SIMS has got an ability to record those incidents; I'm not sure that they're exploited to the extent where they should be. SIMS is a big organisation, and I think there probably is some work going forward around how we can tailor some of that work to best suit our needs in Wales, and I think that's something that's worth looking at.

10:00

I think Chris has covered it off, as far as I'm concerned.

Local authorities are required to collect termly data from schools regarding bullying and harassment. As far as you're aware, how is this data used, and does it actually capture incidents of sexual harassment?

I'm content to come in on this one. I think the umbrella of bullying and harassment doesn't actually cover—. It doesn't get to the data set that we need in order to make sure that we understand the extent of the issue. I think we know it intuitively, but we do need an evidence base for this, and I don't think that should come as a surprise to us. And I'm quite sure that local authorities at the moment are really trying to get under the skin of this particular problem so that that is pulled through. So, I think it does need to have a much sharper focus in terms of collecting that data. But what I would say is that it's what happens with the data after that that is more important than the collection of it. It's one thing gathering it; it's another thing what you do next.

What we wouldn't want to see as an association is that that data was used to blame schools or to be punitive in any way around a volume, because there will be a volume of—. When the data collection begins to be gathered, what we don't want to see is that, when that volume comes through, there somehow is a punitive measure that is placed on schools for reporting honestly. Because there will be consequences, if you like, washing back into the system, where people will be afraid to report, they won't want to do anything with it. This has to be about intervention and prevention, not about, really, punishing schools for doing their best with this particular—. So, we don't want to see, 'There has to be a downward trend', 'There has to be this, that or the other'; we need to use the data intelligently and build a proper profile of what's going on in order that we can put those interventions in place.

Yes. Just to pick up on that point really quickly, because I think that's a very important point. We want to create a culture where schools feel confident to be able to report exactly what's going on, without the fear of any repercussions. We have had situations where schools have been challenged by local authorities' improvement partners on some of this data, and we have supported our own members in those situations. And the conversations that we want to have are the conversations that Eithne's just raised, which are: what are we going to do about it, how are we going to work together to challenge it? Because, if we don't know exactly what's happening, it's very difficult to find an answer. We need to create the space for the profession to be able to openly and honestly say, 'Look, this is a problem in our school, we need your help to work through this.'

Yes. Just, I think, on some specific issues. So, in terms of reporting, currently, we do report on incidents of bullying every month. We pick out in that report—. In my authority, we pick out incidents of homophobic bullying and race-based bullying, but currently not in terms of misogyny or bullying against girls. I think that's something authorities can look at. But I do think, again, to go back to the point, and agree with Eithne, that what we're looking at then is what you're going to do with that information. Because that's going to be a larger number, for a start, because we're talking about a larger group of pupils inside school. And I think it's also, to just develop that point about not a punitive response, but almost how we use that information to see the differences. So, we have all acknowledged there's an overall message that we're trying to deliver here, but there are also specifics within the education system, even in south Wales: the differences potentially between urban settings around Cardiff and Newport and around some of the additional issues in those areas that are linked to ethnicity and the variants of ethnicity. And there may be some specific support in areas that needs to be provided there. Whereas in my Valleys communities, where I live and where I teach, there are potentially different issues there. They are strong matriarchal societies—we deal with 'mams' every day. They're the groups that we're working with, so we should be thinking about how we can respond there as well.

10:05

Thank you. And finally from me: how does the approach of the school and pupil referral unit to sexual harassment relate to the wider problem of bullying? And do you think it should be treated separately or as part of anti-bullying measures and procedures? Laura.

Sorry, Buffy, I missed the question. I've got a really bad internet connection. So, I'm just going to let a colleague answer and then come back in, if that's okay. Sorry.

I'm happy to come in with that one. I think it is both part of the—I'm not trying to dodge the question because it's a very good question—it's part of the problem, but it does need, I think, to be differentiated from the issue of bullying. It is also bullying, though, let's be absolutely clear. Harassment is bullying, coercion is bullying. Abuse goes further than bullying and sexual violence, of course, again, is at that point a legal issue and an issue that needs to be addressed at a further level. But the fact that it starts with bullying, if you like—and that's not to underestimate it—I think actually gives us a way in to discuss this more fully and formally, rather than saying it is something that is completely and absolutely separate until it gets to the point where it is actually, possibly, at the top end of things. And I think that's reflected in the relationships and sex education curriculum, as it's outlined at the moment—the stepped approach that's there.

So, I think it's a useful way in, but it doesn't capture the problem in its entirety. In order for us to raise awareness, we need to put a spotlight on it. But to get into that issue, we can actually look at it, as you say, as part of the issue of bullying to begin with. Thank you.

Yes, and I think that I'd agree. And I think that the systems the schools have developed to deal with bullying are effective and the kind of road map that we use is something that we should be talking about. I just wonder, in this case, where we are trying to highlight an issue that is so prevalent and can be so damaging, whether bullying is just not strong enough a word. And I think, in terms of us describing the behaviours that you've all heard about this morning, Eithne's right: we need to own that language and we need to make sure that we're not shying away from some really difficult issues by including them under an umbrella of a term like 'bullying'. It's stronger than that, it's more damaging than that. We need to be upfront about what we're describing here, and it's abuse.

Thank you, Buffy. I'm conscious of time. We've only got about seven minutes left. I'm just going to ask a few questions about multi-agency response and then briefly touch on the new curriculum. How well do you think that schools and pupil referral units work with relevant organisations, such as social services and the police? Are schools, do you think, getting all of the support they need from these organisations and is there more that the Welsh Government could be doing in terms of maintaining a strategic approach to ensure that there is effective multi-agency working taking place? Laura, I can see that you raised your hand immediately.

Yes, thank you. Yes, I think this is a really important question and I think that, as a start, I think we need to recognise that there is some absolutely fantastic best practice out there, where multi-agency working is delivering for schools and learners. However, I would go as far as to say that that is not replicated across the whole of Wales. I think there are some challenges around that. I think a key challenge, outside things that we've already mentioned, will be down to funding. I think, when we look at the support services that have had funding taken away from them, we cannot underestimate how important the role of community policing is, and the important the role of social services and social care, youth workers, ed psychs. All that support network that was still in place in schools is under-resourced in our view, and has such an important role to play in this.

I think if we are—. If you're asking the question to NAHT members, 'What can Welsh Government do in this space?', I would say, fundamentally, we need to look at the issues of school funding and how schools are funded, the inequity across local authority areas, and we need to get under the skin of that. That is something that has been a key campaign agenda of ours. In fact, it was this very committee that made a recommendation a couple of years ago to commission a report on school funding. That report was commissioned, and the report told us pretty much what we already know, that there was huge inequity amongst the system, and it's very difficult to work out how much it costs to educate and support a child. It is a very difficult conversation, absolutely, and that's why trade unions are pushing to have the conversation, but a lot of these issues come back to funding, and, going back to the point that Eithne has made, and Chris, about space within the education landscape to tackle this issue, we hear a lot at the moment from Welsh Government about priorities for education, curriculum, additional learning needs—absolute priorities that schools need to concentrate on. Then there's the other noise around the school day and school year reform. I think we need to have a clear set of objectives so schools know exactly where they're going.

10:10

Thanks, Laura. Obviously, right across the country social services are incredibly stretched as well, not least because of the impact that COVID has had on families and on young people. So, when we talk about funding issues, I guess we could equally apply it to local government social services as well. Eithne.

Yes, I'm totally concurring with what Laura has said, and I think we've been saying this from the get-go: the schools want to work with those multi-agencies. They want to make sure they are pulling in people who have got skills and the professional skill sets that are required to deal with this kind of approach. And I'll also refer to the child and adolescent mental health services—again, underfunding there—that needs to support those youngsters who are in a place where they do need to talk to an adult. School counselling services are, again, very, very thin on the ground, and it comes back to the issue of funding.

A school, running a timetable, needs a teacher in front of children. That's always going to be the priority for a school in terms of their budget: get the teacher in front of the kids so you can work through the curriculum. But those wraparound support services have been the soft underbelly of schools at the moment, where, when funding is reduced, those will be the services that will be diminished as a consequence, and actually we've seen that over the course of the pandemic, where those are exactly the services that our youngsters need in order to get back to a recovery programme. We're talking now proactively about this next stage. I don't think it's ever been more important that we have a look at this.

The other point that I don't think has come through in the discussion, which I would just draw to the committee's attention, is that sometimes these behaviours that youngsters display in schools are trauma informed. They are because something horrible is going on at home. And if we're not dealing with that in terms of what it is that's going on at home that is causing those problems to wash back into school in a way that is actually looking at safeguarding in the home and family, then once again we're missing a trick and we're not actually doing a good enough service for our youngsters. Thank you.

Just to add to that—and I'd agree with everything said—I just think that in terms of particularly that point about trauma-informed situations and the challenges that families are facing, they are likely to increase as the cost-of-living crisis bites in over the next couple of months. I think we're going to see more families struggling, more tension, more issues, and as we've identified previously, girls particularly are the group that are affected by that. So, I think it is more of a need to invest in those services. I can speak from experience: when you work with police and social services, the support that we get is excellent, and we often make a difference to young people's lives, but those services and the people in them are exhausted, as many teachers have been over the last two years, and stretched, and the support feels very thin at the minute. I think everybody's trying to do a fantastic job, but they're probably trying to do too much as well.

Will the increase in financial support for school counselling services be sufficient, do you think, to address this problem, to provide the support for traumatised young people? Or is it still going to be insufficient?

10:15

So, we've got a school-based counsellor. We're lucky that we've still got one in school, and she attends school once a week, so she gets to see five students during the course of the day. It doesn't touch the sides. 

So, the increase in funding is welcome, but I would also say as well that counselling is not the appropriate route for lots of these issues, because some of them are just better dealt with by, as we've talked about, youth workers, other professionals in schools. So, it's not just about school-based councillors, it is that wraparound support from all of those agencies that benefit young people.

Okay, thanks. Unfortunately, we're out of time. I did have a few questions regarding the new curriculum, the teaching of RSE, but we can follow that up with written questions, if that's okay. Thank you for your time this morning. It's been incredibly helpful. A transcript will be provided to you. Please come back if there are any corrections you'd like to make to that. That brings our first session to an end.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:16 a 10:27.

The meeting adjourned between 10:16 and 10:27.

10:25
3. Aflonyddu rhywiol rhwng cyfoedion ymhlith dysgwyr—sesiwn dystiolaeth 7
3. Peer-on-peer sexual harassment among learners—evidence session 7

We should now be broadcasting, so I'd like to welcome everyone to the seventh evidence session for this inquiry, the second session of today. I'd like to begin by welcoming our witnesses for this session: Mary van den Heuvel, who is a senior policy officer for the National Education Union; Mairead Canavan, who is the National Education Union's district secretary for the Vale of Glamorgan, and also the NEU executive member; and thirdly, then, Rebecca Williams, deputy general secretary and policy officer with Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru. We'll begin first of all with questions from Sioned Williams.

Bore da a diolch i chi i gyd am ddod. Mae gen i gwpwl o gwestiynau i ddechrau ynglŷn â hyd a lled y broblem, natur y broblem yma yn gyffredinol. Beth yw, o'r hyn rŷch chi wedi clywed gan eich aelodau, safbwyntiau athrawon ar hyd a lled a natur aflonyddu rhywiol rhwng dysgwyr mewn ysgolion a hefyd unedau cyfeirio disgyblion? Byddai gan y pwyllgor ddiddordeb hefyd i glywed a oes gyda chi unrhyw wybodaeth ynglŷn â'r sefyllfa mewn ysgolion cynradd, achos, wrth gwrs, doedd adolygiad Estyn ddim yn edrych ar hynny. Felly, os galla i gael eich sylwadau cyffredinol chi i ddechrau. Ie, Rebecca.

Good morning and thank you all for joining us this morning. I have a few questions initially with regard to the scale and nature of this issue in general. From what you have heard from your members, what are teachers' perspectives of the scale and nature of sexual harassment between learners in schools and also in pupil referral units? The committee would also be interested in hearing whether you have any information on the situation in primary schools, because, of course, the Estyn review didn't cover that particular issue. So, if you could give us a few general comments initially, please. Yes, Rebecca.

Diolch yn fawr. Dwi'n credu ei bod yn eithriadol o bwysig i gydnabod hyd a lled y broblem. Mae'n broblem ddifrifol mewn ysgolion, a dwi'n eithriadol o falch bod Estyn wedi gwneud y darn yma o waith sydd yn dechrau edrych yn fanylach ar y mater. Dwi'n ofni mai dim ond codi cwr y llen mae'r adroddiad, hyd yn oed, er mor ysgytwol yw rhai o'r canfyddiadau, felly dwi'n credu ei bod yn bwysig iawn ein bod ni i gyd yn derbyn ei fod yn broblem ymhob ysgol yng Nghymru, a'i bod yn sefyllfa sydd yn heriol i ysgolion fynd i'r afael â hi. Rŷn ni'n gwybod ei bod hi'n broblem sydd yn bodoli ar lefel gymdeithasol llawer ehangach, ac mae'n effeithio ar ysgolion fel y mae'n effeithio drwy'r gymdeithas. Er nad yw ysgolion yn mynd i ddatrys y broblem ar eu pennau eu hunain, mae rôl bwysig iawn gan ysgolion i'w chwarae, dwi'n credu, wrth gydnabod a gweithredu mewn perthynas â'r materion hyn. 

O ran ysgolion cynradd, dŷn ni ddim wedi gwneud yr ymchwil benodol, ond mae gyda fi deimlad cryf bod angen edrych ar y mater yng nghyd-destun ysgolion cynradd hefyd, yn enwedig efallai blynyddoedd 5 a 6. Mae ffonau symudol gan ddisgyblion, a byddwn i yn cymell y pwyllgor neu Estyn i edrych ar y sefyllfa mewn ysgolion cynradd hefyd.

Thank you very much. I think that it is exceptionally important to acknowledge the scale of the problem. It is a serious problem in schools, and I'm exceptionally pleased that Estyn had undertaken this piece of work that starts to look in greater detail at this particular issue. I'm concerned that this is only scratching the surface, even though some of the findings are so powerful, so it is very important that we do all accept that it is a problem in every school in Wales, and that it is a situation that is challenging for schools to tackle. We know that it is a problem that exists on a far wider societal level as well, and it impacts schools as it affects the whole of society. But even though schools aren't going to solve the problem on their own, schools do have a very important role to play in acknowledging and taking action with regard to these issues. 

With regard to primary schools, we haven't undertaken that specific research, but I have a strong feeling that we do need to look at this issue in the context of primary schools too, particularly years 5 and 6. Pupils have mobile phones, and I would encourage the committee or Estyn to look at the situation in primary schools too.

10:30

Diolch. Mary neu Mairead, oes gyda chi rywbeth i'w ychwanegu?

Thank you. Mary or Mairead, do you have anything to add?

Certainly. Thank you for the question. I'm able to share with you, as part of our evidence, that the NEU commissioned with UK Feminista a report in 2018. I know it is 2018, so it's a few years pre pandemic, but I think the Estyn report shows us that, actually, the issues are still the same. That report looks at sexual harassment and sexism, and it covered England and Wales. The findings from that report show that 45 per cent of primary school teachers say they're aware of sexist language being used at least on a termly basis, with 15 per cent witnessing at least on a weekly basis sexist language. Over three quarters of examples from primary schools given were sexist language heard with boys using overtly female pejorative statements such as, 'Don't be such a girl' and, 'Don't cry like a girl'. From our perspective, that may not be exactly the same as what we're seeing in secondary schools, but, of course, it feeds into the same narrative around gender being really important. And, obviously, equality is really important too, but gender is a significant issue. I hope that's helpful.

Just to expand on what Mary said about the report that the NEU did in 2018, we've found that gender stereotyping is a typical feature of school culture, and it's often reinforced through mundane, everyday actions. The NEU have, as well as conducting that report, produced various resources, both for primary and secondary schools. The primary resources are called Breaking the Mould. I think they've been updated in recent years and they are targeted towards the age of children. I think there is more awareness of how much of a problem gender stereotyping is in secondary schools, and sexual harassment, and not so much awareness in primary schools, but it is definitely, as we've heard in both reports, from Estyn and from the NEU, a problem throughout. 

Diolch. Ydych chi'n meddwl bod athrawon yn teimlo bod y broblem yma yn un sydd ar gynnydd, naill ai o ran nifer yr achosion neu o ran lefel difrifoldeb y digwyddiadau maen nhw'n dod ar eu traws? Fe wnaeth Mary gyffwrdd arno fe yn fanna, ond hoffwn i wybod eich barn chi ynglŷn ag effaith y pandemig a chyfnodau clo a'r ffordd wnaeth y berthynas gyda'r disgyblion newid yn sgil hynny yn anorfod. Felly, hoffwn i gael eich safbwyntiau ar hwnna. Mary, rydych chi eisiau mynd yn gyntaf.

Thank you very much. Do you believe that teachers see that this is an increasing problem, either in terms of the numbers of cases or in terms of the level of severity of these incidents that they come across? Mary touched on it there, but I'd like to know more about your view on the impact of the pandemic and periods of lockdowns on this issue, and the way that the relationship between pupils and the schools changed as a result of that. So, I'd like to have your views on that. Mary, you wanted to go first.

I think what's really interesting, comparing our report to the Estyn report, is the extent to which the Estyn report says that online is a massive focus of peer-on-peer sexual harassment. I think we don't probably know yet the split and the effect of the pandemic. Obviously, the pandemic has had a massive impact on everybody throughout society. Schools have had to adapt and we've seen and are still seeing lessons having to be taught online because staff and pupils are poorly with COVID. I'm not quite sure that we know yet, but there is a marked difference between the two reports. Obviously, they're not directly comparable with the same cohort of people, but we seem to have seen a move towards online being the larger issue, if you like.

10:35

O ran p'un ai yw hi'n broblem sy'n cynyddu o ran nifer neu ddifrifoldeb, mae'n anodd gwybod, onid yw e? Dwi'n credu bod cymdeithas yn talu mwy o sylw i'r mater nawr yn sgil mudiadau fel #MeToo a gwahanol bethau, felly, mae hynny'n beth da, ac os yw pethau'n dod i'r golwg yn gynyddol, mae angen croesawu hynny. Ond dwi'n credu efallai mai canfyddiad ysgolion yw bod yr achosion yn cynyddu o ran nifer a difrifoldeb.

O ran yr effaith o'r pandemig, mae yna ddwy ochr, onid oes? Un yw bod ysgolion wedi cael llai o gyfle i gyflwyno gwersi addysg rhywioldeb neu addysg gymdeithasol a'r holl elfennau hyn, ac mae gwasgu mawr wedi bod ar y cwricwlwm yn sgil dysgu cyfunol a phwyslais mawr ar y pynciau craidd. Felly, mae lot o'r pethau da mae ysgolion yn eu gwneud wedi cael eu gwasgu allan dros y cyfnod. Ac ar yr un pryd, mae disgyblion, fel mae Mary'n ei ddweud, wedi bod llawer mwy ar-lein a lot fwy o bethau'n digwydd ar gudd, fel petai, ar ffonau symudol, a lot fwy o gyfathrebu yn y ffordd yna, heb y cyfathrebu wyneb yn wyneb.

In terms of whether it is a problem that has increased in terms of numbers of cases or severity, it's difficult to know, isn't it? I think that society is paying greater attention to this now as a result of the #MeToo movement and things like that, and that's a good thing in that that is coming to the fore more now and we need to welcome that. But I think that the sense in schools is that the number of cases is increasing and the severity of incidents is increasing too.

In terms of the impact from the pandemic, there are two sides, to this, aren't there? One is that schools have had fewer opportunities to present lessons on relationships and sexuality and all of these elements, and there has been major pressure on the curriculum as a result of blended learning and a greater emphasis on the core subjects. So, many of the good things that schools are doing have been squeezed out over this time. And at the same time, pupils, as Mary has said, have been spending far more time online and things are happening in a hidden way on mobile phones, and a lot of communication is happening online, without communicating face to face.

Diolch. Mairead, rŷch chi eisiau dod i mewn.

Thank you. Mairead, you wanted to come in. 

I think, looking back to 2018 and previously, it has always been a big problem. We know that everyday sexism is a problem; it's very engrained in our society and in our schools. I think in terms of the pandemic, I suppose that children had more time and more access to materials online. Sometimes, older teenagers may not have been supervised, and that's not laying any blame at anybody's door, but they may have had more opportunity to access materials that they wouldn't have been able to access in a school environment. And as Rebecca and Mary have said, they didn't have the teaching through RSE that they would've had and the guidance that they would've had at school throughout that time during the pandemic.

Diolch. Mae hynny'n cyffwrdd, mewn ffordd, ar y cwestiwn nesaf sydd gen i. Roedd disgyblion y tu allan i'r ysgol, onid oedden nhw, am gyfnodau hir, ac maen nhw'n dal i fod, rhai ohonyn nhw. Felly, i ba raddau ŷch chi'n deall bod yr aflonyddu rhywiol rŷn ni'n ei drafod yn digwydd y tu allan i'r diwrnod ysgol, er enghraifft, fel rŷn ni newydd sôn, ar-lein, a pha wahaniaeth y mae hynny'n ei wneud, os o gwbl, i gyfrifoldeb a chapasiti ysgolion ac unedau cyfeirio disgyblion i fynd i'r afael â'r digwyddiadau hynny? Rebecca, ydych chi eisiau dechrau y tro hwn?

Thank you. That touches, in a way, on the next question that I have. Pupils were outside of school for very long periods, and they continue to be, some of them. So, to what extent do you understand that the sexual harassment that we are discussing today is taking place outside of the school day, for example, as we have just mentioned, online, and what difference does that make, if any, to the responsibility and capacity of schools and pupil referral units to deal with these incidents? Rebecca, do you want to start?

Rwy'n credu ei fod yn digwydd ymhob agwedd ar fywydau pobl ifanc, mae'n drist i ddweud, yn yr ysgol a'r tu allan i'r ysgol. Wrth gwrs, mae hynny'n ei gwneud hi'n anoddach i ysgolion fynd i'r afael ag e; gall ysgolion ddim bod yn gyfrifol am ymddygiad disgyblion 24 awr y dydd. Ond, wedi dweud hynny, dyw hynny ddim yn lleihau cyfrifoldeb ysgolion i greu diwylliant ac ethos sy'n seiliedig ar barch a chydraddoldeb a sicrhau bod hynny'n dod trwy ddiwylliant yr ysgol, a thrwy'r addysg ffurfiol hefyd. Os unrhyw beth, mae'n cynyddu'r cyfrifoldeb yna, onid yw e, i geisio cael y dylanwad yna ar ddisgyblion tra'u bod nhw'n ddisgyblion ysgol a'r tu hwnt wrth fynd allan i'r byd, wedyn. Dyna'r math o gwricwlwm rŷn ni ar fin cyflwyno, sef un sydd yn ffurfio dinasyddion sydd yn hyderus ac yn hyddysg ac yn agored eu meddwl. Felly, mae'n anodd. Yr allwedd i hyn—a dwi'n siŵr bydd hyn yn dod lan sawl gwaith yn ystod y sesiwn—yw bod angen cefnogaeth ar ysgolion i wneud y gwaith pwysig yma.

I think it is happening in all aspects of young people's lives, it's sad to say, in school and outside of school. Of course, that makes it harder for schools to tackle this issue; schools can't be responsible for pupils' behaviour 24 hours of the day. But, having said that, that doesn't diminish the responsibility of schools to create a culture and ethos based on respect and equality and ensuring that that pervades through school's culture, but also in formal education as well. If anything, it increases that responsibility to try to have that influence on pupils while they are school pupils and beyond, of course, as they go out into the world afterwards. That is the kind of curriculum that we are about to introduce, namely one that creates citizens who are confident, educated and open-minded. So, it is difficult. The key to this—and I am sure that this will come up several times during today's session—is that we need support for schools to do this important work.

I think there are instances outside of school where the school could exert some influence. For instance, I've heard reports that incidents happen often on school buses and walking home from school. I think if pupils are still in school uniform, then there is a case for dealing with that within school policies. But I think the problem is that there aren't robust school policies at the moment in many schools, and it is something that needs to be dealt with specifically outside of a school bullying policy. I think that schools need to have specific policies for sexual harassment and, as I've said, we need to deal with instances, as much as we can, outside of school as well as within school.

10:40

Diolch. Ie, fe fyddwn ni'n dod nôl at hynny. Dwi'n gwybod bod gan aelodau eraill o'r pwyllgor gwestiynau penodol ynglŷn â pholisïau a chefnogaeth a'r cwricwlwm. Mary, oes gyda chi rywbeth rŷch chi eisiau ei ychwanegu cyn ein bod ni'n symud ymlaen?

Thank you. Yes, we'll come back to that. I know that my fellow committee members have specific questions on policies and support and the curriculum. Mary, did you have anything that you wanted to add before we move on?

It's just to say that, with this, but with everything that schools deal with, there's always a balance between what is school and what is home. This isn't unique in that, but obviously, this does need significant training and resources for schools, building on what Rebecca and Mairead have said. We've got opportunities within the curriculum, but that training is really important, because we've got to get this right now, and we've seen enough evidence that it's happening and it's a problem.

Diolch yn fawr. Diolch, Gadeirydd.

Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Chair. I just want to ask you about causes and impact of peer-on-peer sexual harassment. Thank you for your contributions so far, it's been really insightful. I'm just wondering what you believe are the main causes of the increase in incidents, and to what extent you think that's been driven by accessibility to harmful, inappropriate online content, like pornography or whatever. Do you think that's been exacerbated over the pandemic, due to the amount of time that children and young people spent online during lockdowns? Thank you.

I think the pandemic has had a huge impact on the increase, because of the access pupils have had. But in terms of what has influenced them, I think there is very easy access to unsuitable material, such as pornography, which is really worrying, and also, there's been a huge increase in activity, for instance, using cameras, uploading videos to TikTok. Use of social media and digital use in everyday life has impacted upon the way that pupils now—. You know, everything has been exacerbated after the pandemic. These things were prevalent before the pandemic, but I do think that perhaps children had more time and more opportunity and more access to these things during the pandemic, and that has had an effect, when pupils came back to school, on the way that they've acted and the way that everything has increased.

Thank you for that. Mary said earlier that teachers need more support. Do you think that parents need to take more responsibility and need more support, and that there needs to be more awareness, so you can work as teams for the children and young people?

Yes. I think parents do everything that they can, and it's really difficult to know how to tackle issues that come up around sexual harassment. I think that schools need to work together with parents and with outside agencies. Some schools have really good community police who come in and give sessions around sexual harassment and other topics, which are really useful. I think that agencies, parents, schools all need to work together. Schools do need to support parents, because it can be really difficult to talk about such thorny issues.

10:45

Yes, I can. So, I just wanted to say that it's not unique, is it, as was said, but we believe that a whole-school approach would be really useful in terms of tackling this. It starts, as I've already said, with sexist language as well, and, obviously, not just sexism, but we've seen instances—the Estyn report particularly highlights the issues around the LGBTQ+ community. So, it's making sure that those instances are recorded so that we're able to know what the problem is, and young people feel confident to come forward so that we know how to tackle them.

Jest yn gyflym ar y cwestiwn ynglŷn â rhieni a theuluoedd, dwi'n credu bod hwnna'n rhan bwysig iawn o'r sefyllfa gyfan, ac yn sicr mae cefnogaeth i rieni a theuluoedd yn werthfawr iawn ynghylch sut i drafod rhai o'r materion hyn gyda'u plant a sut i geisio cadw eu plant yn ddiogel ar-lein, ond hefyd y syniad yna o'r ethos a'r diwylliant yn seiliedig ar barch a chydraddoldeb. Os yn bosib, mae angen i hynny dreiddio ymhellach na'r ysgol ei hun, adref i'r teuluoedd hefyd, achos mae angen hefyd i deuluoedd wybod beth sydd yn dderbyniol a beth sydd ddim yn dderbyniol, a cheisio creu'r diwylliant a'r ethos yna adref hefyd, achos mae rhai o'r problemau yn sicr yn deillio o gartrefi. Ac yn mynd nôl i'r cwestiwn ar y cychwyn ynglŷn ag ysgolion cynradd, hynny yw, os ŷn ni'n gweld y mathau o agweddau a ieithwedd yn dod gan ddisgyblion cynradd, mae'n debygol iawn mai yn y cartref a'r gymuned y mae'r rheini wedi deillio. Felly, yn sicr, mae angen ystyried hynny fel rhan o'r pictiwr ehangach.

Yes, just briefly on the question with regard to parents and families, I think that that is an important part of this situation as a whole, and certainly support for parents and families is very valuable with regard to how to discuss some of these issues with their children and how to try to keep their children safe online, but also that idea of an ethos and culture based on respect and equality. If possible, that needs to spread further than just the school itself, home to the families, because families also need to know what's acceptable and what isn't acceptable, and try to create that culture and ethos at home too, because some of these problems certainly emanate from home. And going back to that question at the outset on primary schools, if we see these kinds of attitudes and language from primary school pupils, it's very likely that it is from the home and the community that that has stemmed. So, certainly, we need to consider that as part of the wider picture.

Thank you. Following on from what Mary just said, I was going to ask you what certain groups you think have been particularly affected by this. Mary highlighted the LGBT group. Do you think there's enough targeted support for those groups? Or who do you think is being most affected? Thank you. Mary.

Our research found that it's girls particularly, obviously, overall, and we think it's really important that if it is a question of gender, that needs to be addressed and recorded. Obviously, inclusion is really important, so we've got to make sure that—. The findings of the Estyn report, as well, showed that, as I said, the LGBTQ+ community also suffer from homophobic bullying, so we've got to make sure that the recording systems are capturing any intersectionality, because every group is going to have significant differences in terms of the way in which they experience sexual harassment, but our report found, particularly, sexism being a problem.

Good morning, and it's great to be with you. I want to push a little further about awareness and management of this problem, and just to try and get a flavour from you as to how you believe—. Do you believe that schools really understand, are fully aware of this situation of peer-to-peer sexual harassment? Why would you think that the pupils aren't coming to the teachers and talking about this sort of situation? Is there something missing here? Yes, sorry, Mairead.

I think it's something that is very insidious. It's become normalised, and it is accepted as a part of everyday life, really, within schools and within society. So, I suppose, up until recently, perhaps, many teachers and parents weren't aware of the exact impact and the extent of what was going on, but I think it is something that is becoming very obvious. I think there's far more awareness in schools now of how widespread it is and how much we need to tackle it and really begin to deal with it.

10:50

Thanks, Mairead. Anybody—Rebecca, Mary, any observations? Rebecca.

Mewn ffordd, mae'r cwestiwn hefyd yn pwysleisio pam fod angen ymagwedd ysgol gyfan at y broblem, achos dwi'n credu bod angen i bob un o aelodau o staff yr ysgol ddeall beth yw aflonyddu rhywiol pan maen nhw'n ei weld e neu pan maen nhw'n cael gwybod amdano fe, ac mae eisiau'r holl ystod o opsiynau ar ddisgyblion hefyd o bobl i droi atyn nhw, y bobl maen nhw'n teimlo'n gyfforddus i drafod y mater gyda nhw, yn cynnwys athrawon, ond holl staff yr ysgol hefyd. Mae'n rhan o greu'r ethos yna a chreu gofod diogel i'r disgyblion. Mae'n rhaid taclo hynny ar lefel ysgol gyfan i bawb fod yn hyddysg ac yn hyderus ynghylch adnabod ac ymateb i achosion o aflonyddu rhywiol.

In a way, the question also emphasises why we need a whole-school approach to this problem, because I think all members of school staff need to understand what sexual harassment is and to recognise it when they see it and when it's reported to them, and what needs to be available to pupils is a whole range of options of people that they can turn to, of those people that they feel comfortable discussing these issues with, including teachers, but all school staff also. It's a part of creating that ethos and creating a safe space for pupils. We have to tackle that on a whole-school level so that everyone is aware and confident about identifying and responding to cases of sexual harassment.

Yes. So, just to add really that this is key, isn't it, that we've got the training in place so that everybody understands how to deal with any disclosures that young people make, any reports of incidents of sexual harassment. We need to make sure that everybody understands and that it's not just one person, but that they're able to speak to the adult or the person that they feel most comfortable with when reporting this, because this isn't easy stuff. This is very difficult and, as we've spoken about, society doesn't always react well to all of these things. So, the things that they're hearing online particularly are going to be challenging. So, a whole-school approach, I totally agree.

Thank you for that. Would there be a consistency across schools in their understanding of this? I mean, Mairead, you talked earlier about the inadequacy of school policies, perhaps, around this as well. How would you sum up that picture? Is it variable?

I'm not aware of any school that has a policy directly about sexual harassment, and I think that is very important, because if we only have policies that come under an umbrella of bullying, then it doesn't give enough importance to the topic and how much we want pupils to feel that they can come forward and report these incidents. There's a lot of evidence that they haven't been reported in the past, so we do need to be very much putting the word out there that, actually, we know it goes on, we want pupils to feel comfortable coming forward, we want teachers to be aware that they should be reporting things that they see happening as well. So, I don't think that the policies are necessarily there.

Training is a huge issue as well; teachers need specific training in this area, and that comes down to funding. Schools need to have the funding to be able to provide this training. And I would say as well that some schools may think that just going for an equalities training is enough, but, actually, again, it needs to be very specific; it needs to be about sexual harassment and how to deal with that. I think it does need to be specific.

So, on that consistency perspective, then, would it be variable across schools, so some schools are doing well on this? I suppose there are challenges for LEAs—different LEAs take different approaches to lead on this sort of thing. I'm trying to really understand how variable that situation is as well. Yes, sorry, Rebecca.

Ie, dwi'n cytuno â phopeth mae Mairead newydd ei ddweud, a dwi'n credu bod hwn yn enghraifft o ble byddai, efallai, templed o bolisi ar lefel genedlaethol yn ddefnyddiol iawn, iawn i ysgolion, hynny yw, gyda'r hawl i addasu yn ôl eu hanghenion nhw ond bod yna o leiaf templed o bolisi sy'n cynnwys yr holl elfennau y byddai pawb yn cytuno sydd eu hangen mewn polisi o'r fath, ac wedyn hyfforddiant ar lefel leol neu ranbarthol a fyddai'n cydfynd â'r holl elfennau yn y polisi wedyn o ran adnabod, cofnodi, adrodd, ymateb a hefyd natur y gwasanaethau cefnogol a ddylai fod ar gael i ysgolion i'w helpu nhw i ddelio ag achosion penodol a rhoi cefnogaeth a chymorth i ddisgyblion ac i staff.

Yes, I agree with everything that Mairead has just said, and I think this is an example of where, perhaps, a template of a policy on a national level would be very, very useful for schools, with the right, of course, to adapt it to their requirements, but there would at least be a template of a policy that would include all of the elements that everyone would agree are required in a policy of this kind, and then training on a local or regional level that would align with all of those policy elements in terms of identifying, recording, reporting, responding and also the nature of the support services that should be provided to schools to help them deal with specific cases and to provide support to pupils and staff.

10:55

Yes. Anybody else want to add on that? No. I get the point on the training element, so I won't push any further on that. I think there's a gap there—that whole-school approach and that need to have a consistent approach right across the whole local government family, really, is really important. But back to individual schools, do you think school leaders are supporting and guiding enough your members—the actual teachers? Are teachers getting enough support? Mary.

Thanks. So, it's worth saying we've got members, and I believe UCAC does too, that are school leaders, so it's about everybody, though, isn't it? And I think it's really important to acknowledge, yes, training is absolutely critical and a whole-school approach is absolutely critical if we're going to seriously tackle these issues, but I think it's worth thinking about what schools are doing at the moment. We've got secondary schools now fast approaching exams, with young people who have seen the previous two cohorts not have to sit exams, and so there's the struggle of trying to make sure there's enough work there if exams don't happen because we get a different variant of COVID. So, COVID is still very much in our schools, we're struggling right across Wales to find sufficient supply teachers to cover classes because people are poorly. It's still an absolute pressure cooker.

Then we've got primary schools who are fast preparing for—and most secondary schools too—the new curriculum in September. So, we've got to make sure that we are realistic in terms of our expectations about asking the whole school staff, and pupils as well actually, to come onboard with this. We think it's really important, but if we're going to prioritise it, we need to consider the workload of everybody, including school leaders. But certainly we wouldn't want to put so much pressure on school leaders that it gets passed down through other members of the education workforce as well. So, it's just really important that support is there.

We've talked about training, but, actually, if there is money for training, and there is some at the moment, actually, the challenge, as I've said, is finding the supply cover to backfill people who need to go on the training. So, it's a really difficult situation in schools at the moment. So, I think there's a lot of noise, and trying to make this the most import priority needs to come with the realistic idea that there is a lot going on in our schools.

That's really helpful, Mary. Thank you. Does anybody else want to contribute on that before I finish? Yes, Rebecca.

Ie, o ran hynny, mewn ffordd, beth fyddai'n hwyluso fyddai gwneud yn siŵr bod yr holl gefnogaeth yn dod drwy systemau sy'n bodoli'n barod. Felly, hynny yw, byddai eisiau helpu ysgolion drwy ddarparu adnoddau ychwanegol, arbenigol, cefnogaeth allanol, siaradwyr i ddod i mewn i ysgolion. Mae adroddiad Estyn wedi bod yn glir am hynny. Efallai fod drama mewn addysg yn un ffordd hefyd o godi lot o'r problemau hyn. Hynny yw, nid rhoi'r baich cyfan ar yr ysgolion eu hunain, ond gwneud yn siŵr bod yna gapasiti ychwanegol tu mewn i ysgolion ac o gwmpas ysgolion i'w helpu nhw i fynd i'r afael â hyn. Felly, hyfforddiant, ie, ond pethau eraill hefyd, fel adnoddau a gwasanaethau. Dyw hyn ddim wir yn rhywbeth mae modd ei ohirio, ond eto mae ysgolion dan bwysau eithriadol, fel mae Mary newydd esbonio am y rhesymau hynny.

Yes, in that regard, in a way, what would facilitate this would be ensuring that all of the support comes through systems that already exist. So, there should be help provided to schools by providing additional resources, specialist resources, external support, speakers and so on to come into schools. The Estyn report has been clear about that. Perhaps drama in education is another way of raising many of these issues. So, it's about not placing the whole burden on the schools themselves, but ensuring that there is an additional capacity within schools and surrounding schools, wrapped around them, to help them to get to grips with this. So, training, yes, but other things too, such as resources and services. This isn't really something that can be delayed or postponed, but schools are already under huge pressure, as Mary has already explained.

Thank you, Chair, and I'd like to thank the panel for joining us this morning. I have some questions on data collection and the wider context of bullying. And my first question is: what's your understanding of how incidents of sexual harassment are recorded and categorised by schools, and do you think teachers know how they should be recorded consistently? Mairead.

11:00

I don't think, from what I hear is going on with reporting, that sexual harassment incidents are necessarily recorded separately, or that they are recorded as a particular type of bullying. I think that's a big issue. I think that everybody needs to be a lot more open about the fact that sexual harassment is a huge problem in schools, and then maybe we will—. Perhaps it's to do with—. Maybe pupils aren't reporting it in the way that we would report it as sexual harassment, and I think that perhaps that is around the fact that it's not discussed openly in schools, or it hasn't been in the past, and so perhaps there's some sort of sense of shame in speaking about it. I think just being open about the topic, and being clear that it is separate from bullying, would encourage reporting of it in a much better way. 

I was just going to say that this leads on to talking about—sorry if I'm going to cut off the question you were going to ask—. I think that the opportunities we've got, really, with the new curriculum—. Yes, the reporting at the moment isn't necessarily capturing all of the incidents, but we think it's really important that, as I've said, if it's sexism, call it sexism. That should empower young people to come forward if it's being recognised, because otherwise we're in a situation where, if young people aren't seeing that their concerns are being recorded appropriately, then there's a risk that they're not coming forward. So, seek opportunities with the new curriculum as well to ensure that those ideas, and obviously ideas of consent and development-appropriate teaching of anything to do with sexism, sexual harassment—it all kind of comes as a package that we need to unpick in the recording to make sure that we're capturing, when it is, as I've said, intersectionality between gender or LGBTQ+ people, or any other protected characteristics. Because it will have a disproportionate impact on some groups.

Dwi'n credu bod hwn yn dod nôl at y cwestiwn blaenorol ynghylch polisïau, achos dwi'n credu bod yna le mewn polisïau i fod yn glir ynghylch sut i gofnodi a beth yw'r categorïau sydd angen eu cofnodi, ac wedyn bod gyda ni gysondeb cenedlaethol. Achos mae casglu'r data yn hollbwysig, achos heb y data, allwn ni ddim dadansoddi'r sefyllfa a'r broblem yn gywir, a gallwn ni ddim gweld a yw pethau'n gwella neu'n gwaethygu. Mae'n hollol allweddol, a dwi'n credu mai'r lle ar gyfer hynny yw polisïau ysgolion, ond ar sail templed cenedlaethol, ac wedyn mae modd gwneud i systemau rheoli gwybodaeth mewn ysgolion ffitio'r gofynion hynny. 

I think that this comes back to the previous question with regard to policy, because I think there is scope in policies to be clear about how to record incidents, and what categories need to be recorded, and then we would have national consistency. Because gathering the data is hugely important, because without the data we can't analyse the situation and the problem, and we can't see whether things are improving or deteriorating. It's vital, and I think that the place for that is in schools' policies, but on the basis of a national template, and then we can make information management systems in schools fit those requirements. 

Thank you. I think you've just touched on this, but local authorities are required to collect termly data from schools regarding bullying and harassment. As far as you're aware, how is the data used, and does it actually capture incidents of sexual harassment?

We don't believe it's fully capturing the picture at the moment. We think there's an opportunity missed if it isn't, so as I've said, it's really important, if we're going to encourage young people to come forward, if we're going to tackle this, if we're going to create those confident and ambitious young people that the new curriculum wants to, then we're going to have to make sure that that's right.

Anybody else on the panel? No. Finally from me, how does the approach of schools and pupil referral units to sexual harassment relate to the wider problem of bullying, and do you think it should be treated separately or as part of anti-bullying measures and procedures? Mary. 

I've touched on this already. We actually think there does need to be some separate tackling of this, as I've said, to make sure that, if it is a problem, then we're naming that problem and that people are encouraged to come forward, because it's going to be difficult to encourage young people to come forward if we're—and I don't want to say the word 'just', but if we include—. All bullying is a problem, but if we're going to tackle this specifically, then we're going to have to name it and make sure that young people are able to name it too. 

11:05

Dwi'n cytuno'n gryf iawn â hynny. Yn amlwg, mae yna orgyffwrdd, onid oes, rhwng bwlio ac aflonyddu rhywiol, ond mae yna bethau sydd ddim yn gorgyffwrdd hefyd ac mae angen delio â nhw ar wahân. Ac yn sicr, mae angen bod yn onest ac adnabod yn union beth sydd yn digwydd. Hynny yw, o ran bwlio erbyn hyn dydyn ni ddim yn delio â bwlio mewn ysgolion o dan un pennawd—mae yna lot o is-benawdau i'r mathau o fwlio. Ond dwi'n credu bod eisiau yn sicr ymdrin â hyn yn wahanol ac ar wahân.

I agree very strongly with that. There is overlap, isn't there, between bullying and sexual harassment, but there are things that don't overlap too and we need to deal with those things separately. And certainly we have to be honest and to acknowledge, recognise and identify exactly what's going on. With regard to bullying, at the moment we don't deal with bullying in schools under one heading—there are many subheadings in terms of the kinds of bullying. But certainly I think we need to tackle this differently. 

I was just going to say—it goes back to what I said a moment ago that, if schools don't have a process of reporting it that actually names the bullying as sexual harassment and sexism, then maybe that's why there's a perception that those incidents aren't being reported, because they're obviously being normalised and pupils don't feel that there is anything to report if there isn't a process for reporting it. So, yes, I don't think we're giving the message to young people that we think that is a serious issue and that they should be reporting these incidents, no matter how trivial. 

Thank you, Buffy. I'm going to ask some questions now regarding the multi-agency response that we see across Wales, and begin with a question about your understanding of how well schools and pupil referral units work with relevant organisations, such as social services and the police, in dealing with individual cases of sexual harassment. Are schools getting the support that they need? Is there a consistent approach in terms of the severity of incidents that are escalated to social services and the police? Rebecca.

Ydy, mae e'n digwydd, ond dwi ddim yn credu bod yna gysondeb ynghylch sut mae'n digwydd, pryd a ble ac ar ba drothwy o ddifrifoldeb. Dwi'n credu ei fod e braidd yn fympwyol ac yn dibynnu ar arweinyddiaeth ysgolion ac efallai natur cefnogaeth awdurdodau lleol hefyd. A dwi'n credu bod hwn yn faes mae gwir angen edrych arno fe.

Mae'r syniad sydd yn dod trwyddo nawr o ysgolion cymunedol yn un diddorol iawn, dwi'n credu, o safbwynt hyn, achos yn ddelfrydol mi fyddai gennych chi ysgol gyda'r holl asiantaethau eraill yn ei hamgylchynu hi, a bod yna fynediad parod iawn i weithwyr cymdeithasol arbenigol, i wasanaethau cwnsela a thrawma a gwasanaethau CAMHS—iechyd meddwl. Hynny yw, dyna'r math o fodel sydd ei angen, yn wir. Mae ysgolion yn gallu delio â hyn a hyn o'r broblem o ran ceisio osgoi'r problemau a cheisio mynd i'r afael â'r problemau sy'n codi, ond mae pwynt yn dod lle mae gwir, gwir angen y gwasanaethau arbenigol hynny i fod yn gweithio law yn llaw ag ysgolion, heb restrau aros hir neu heb rwystrau i fynediad at y gwasanaethau hynny.  

Yes, it is happening, but I don't think that there is consistency in terms of how it's happening, where and when and at what level of seriousness and severity. I think it depends on school leadership and the nature of support from local authorities too. And I think this is an issue that we need to look at.

The idea that is coming through of community schools is a very interesting one from this point of view, because ideally you would have a school with all of the other agencies wrapping around that school, and there would be access for social workers, for counselling services and trauma counselling services, CAMHS services—mental health. That's the kind of model that we need, truth be told. Schools can deal with so much of the problem in terms of trying to prevent the problems and also trying to tackle the problems that arise, but there comes a point where they genuinely, genuinely do need those specialist services to be working hand in hand with the school, without long waiting lists and without barriers to access to those services. 

I don't know if Mairead put her hand up first, but—[Interruption.] Yes, so I was just going to say we're seeing those services come under pressure too, and I think that's really important to recognise, that actually schools can't do this by themselves. The minute you start talking about the police—at the moment, I recognise it's not in Wales, but the case of child Q comes to front of mind, and I think it's really important that all of those services are able to respond in an appropriate way to children and young people and that, as we've already said, sexual harassment isn't just about incidents of bullying, it's about a whole-school approach to talking—talking about sexism as well—and making sure that even if these aren't instances we're technically calling bullying, that aren't meeting that threshold, that we're able to encourage young people to call out any inappropriate behaviour and language.

11:10

I didn't really have anything to add to that. Yes, I just agree with what Mary and Rebecca said. 

Okay. How effective is the Wales schools police programme? Could it play a greater role, do you think? No particular view on that. No. Okay. To what extent is there a suitable balance between the responsibilities of schools and parents? I know that this is something that we've already heard quite a bit about today—concerns about potentially some parents not taking responsibility as teaching unions would wish in addressing pupils' actions? Are parents and carers engaging, do you think, sufficiently with and supporting schools? Could parents be doing more? 

I think there is a need for more communication between parents and schools on this issue. I'm not sure it's a topic that schools are comfortable with talking to parents about, and it is something we need to be open about. And as Rebecca has talked about earlier, in some homes there are certain behaviours that possibly would exacerbate the situation in the way that pupils behave. Yes, I would say, possibly, there isn't a suitable balance at the moment. It's something that we could make improvements on. 

Okay, thank you. And is there any more you think Welsh Government itself could be doing to provide a vital strategic approach and also co-ordination to ensure effective multi-agency working? Yes, Mary.

So, yes. Any opportunities, you know—. I think here specifically, as I said, we've got the opportunity to think about this more widely. So, we've got the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015, haven't we? So, that specifically looks at the gendered nature of violence against women. I think we've probably got to think quite seriously about how gender is—. A high number of these incidents are gender related, and we've got to look at that in schools, and I think if the Welsh Government is able to provide resources for that—. I've seen some resources from the Welsh Government on online sexual harassment, but I think it's really important that it's not all just online. And as we move back, we presume more time in school. Online continues to be important, but it's important that we're calling out any kind of behaviour.

So, I think a real inclusive environment for everybody is going to be really important, and Welsh Government can do a lot to support that. And then there's also the training and resources that we've already touched on. As NEU, we support the AGENDA resources, and I believe you're speaking to EJ Renold later today, from Cardiff University. They'll be able to describe to you how to best use those resources. So, that's going to be really important, but, yes, absolutely. I think I might have misunderstood your question, Ken, and it was meant to be about multi-agency working, so sorry. 

No, not at all. That's really helpful. I'll move on now just to touch on the new curriculum, if I may, and to ask whether any of you have a view on whether the teaching of relationships, sexuality and sexual education under the new curriculum will help in terms of both preventing sexual harassment, and also in dealing with the consequences of it? Okay, first Rebecca and then Mary. 

Dwi'n credu bod potensial anferth gyda'r cwricwlwm newydd i helpu gyda hyn i gyd. Rŷn ni'n ymwybodol o natur a lefel y gwaith sydd wedi mynd mewn i ddatblygu'r cwricwlwm ar gyfer addysg cydberthynas a rhywioldeb yn arbennig, ac mae Mary newydd gyfeirio at yr Athro EJ Renold a'r gwaith maen nhw wedi ei wneud. Felly, dwi'n credu bod yna ganllaw a map gyda ni fanna, o'r plant ifancaf yn ein hysgolion ni a reit drwyddo, i agor y sgwrs ynglŷn â'r holl faterion, a symud bant o'r model yma o ddysgu ynglŷn â mechanics rhyw yn unig i beth yw natur perthynas, yr holl faterion sy'n ymwneud â rhywioldeb. Felly, dwi'n credu ein bod ni ar drothwy cyfnod cyffrous a phositif o ran hynny. 

Mae angen y gefnogaeth ar athrawon iddyn nhw wybod sut yn union i ddelio â hynny ac i wneud yn siŵr eu bod nhw'n hyderus i wneud e yn effeithiol, a dwi'n credu hefyd i ddarganfod sut i wneud hynny ar draws y cwricwlwm, ar draws y meysydd dysgu a phrofiad, sut i ddod â'r materion hynny i sylw disgyblion ac ar gyfer trafodaeth ar draws y cwricwlwm, ond hefyd mewn ffordd eithriadol o sensitif. Achos, wrth gwrs, mae crybwyll pethau fel hyn, pan ŷch chi'n delio â phlant sydd efallai eisoes wedi cael profiadau gwael a thrawmatig o aflonyddu rhywiol—wrth gwrs mae angen gwybod sut i gamu yn ofalus iawn yn yr ystafell ddosbarth, achos efallai byddwch chi yn crybwyll rhywbeth sydd yn mynd i fod yn trigger i ddisgybl neu ddisgyblion yn yr ystafell. Felly, dyw e ddim yn fater rhwydd; mae'n eithriadol o gymhleth a sensitif. Ond dwi'n credu bod y cwricwlwm newydd yn mynd i fod yn cynnig cyfleoedd eithriadol o werthfawr.  

I think that there is huge potential with the new curriculum to help with all of this. We are aware of the nature and level of work that has gone into developing the curriculum for relationships and sexuality education in particular. Mary has just referred to Professor EJ Renold and the work that they've done on this. So, I think there is now guidance and a map for us in that regard, from the youngest children in our schools right through, to open up the discussion with regard to all of these issues, and moving away from this model of teaching about the mechanics of sex only to what the nature of a relationship should be, all of these issues related to sexuality too. So, we're on the threshold of a very exciting time in that regard, I think.

We need the support for teachers to know how exactly to deal with all of these issues and to ensure that they are confident in doing that effectively, and I think also to find out how to do that across the curriculum, across all of the areas of learning and experience, how to bring in those issues to pupils' attention for discussion across the curriculum, but also in an exceptionally sensitive way. Because, of course, talking about these things, when you're dealing with children who perhaps have already had poor experiences and traumatic experiences of sexual harassment—you need to know how to tread very carefully in the classroom, because perhaps you would be mentioning something that would be triggering for pupils in the classroom. So, it's not an easy thing; it's very complex and sensitive. But I do think that the new curriculum is going to provide exceptionally valuable opportunities. 

11:15

Yes. Thanks. So, basically, I couldn't agree more. I think there's a real opportunity, isn't there, with the developmentally appropriate way in which the curriculum is structured, or can be structured or should be structured, to make sure that we are having—that teachers in schools are having—the appropriate conversations right from the beginning of school, that young children are able to understand all of the different things about being kind to each to other, as well as about having those healthy relationships, and so the way that curriculum is meant to work is that it's completely developmentally appropriate. So, it's not introducing—. It's not sexualised language to young children; it's about looking at what we can do for young children to make sure they are understanding healthy relationships and friendships with each other, of course, at that age. So, I absolutely agree with Rebecca: it is challenging. So, making sure that everyone's had that access, the trauma informed training as well, to make sure that everyone is being taught appropriately, is going to be really critical and also a real challenge too. We've mentioned gender and the work of Professor Renold. So, yes, absolutely endorse all of those. So, I can't say more—it's an absolute opportunity. 

Great, thank you. Yes, EJ will be joining us this afternoon. We're looking forward to taking their evidence. Mairead, anything to add? 

I echo what Mary and Rebecca said. I just think that the new curriculum and RSE are going to provide us with a really good opportunity to promote gender equality through challenging gender stereotypes and sexism and sexual harassment in schools. I think it's a really big opportunity.   

Is enough professional learning being offered at the moment to teachers who will be expected to deliver RSE in line with the statutory code? Is the training of sufficient quality as well? Okay, Mary. 

I mean—. Oh, sorry, Mary.   

No, no, Mairead, go for it. It's fine. 

Well, I was just going to say that, with the new curriculum and the ALN Bill and everything that's happening in schools and coming in so quickly, the main problem is having the time to do any training around this particular issue. 

That's basically the point I was going to make. I've already answered in response to Peter's question. There are a number of challenges in schools and making sure that everyone has the time is going to be really important, I think. There was a Welsh Government survey that came out—a report that's come out on the new curriculum earlier in the academic year. I think it's around two thirds of practitioners and leaders said they needed more support in order to deliver that curriculum, so it's going to be really important. 

11:20

I ychwanegu un peth ynglŷn â'r cwricwlwm ac addysg cydberthynas a rhywioldeb yn benodol, dwi'n credu ei fod e'n werth i ni nodi diolch, mewn ffordd, i Lywodraeth Cymru, a nodi pa mor gryf buodd y Gweinidog cynt yn mynnu bod pob plentyn yn mynd i gael mynediad at yr addysg cydberthynas a rhywioldeb. Rŷn ni'n gwybod y daeth hi dan bwysau anferth o sawl cyfeiriad i roi hawl i deuluoedd optio allan, ac fe wnaeth hi sefyll yn gadarn iawn, a dwi'n credu bod eisiau cydnabod hynny, achos nawr rŷn ni mewn sefyllfa lle bydd pob un plentyn yn derbyn yr addysg hon, ac mi fydd hi'n addysg gwbl briodol a hollbwysig iddyn nhw. 

Just to add one thing with regard to the curriculum and RSE in particular, I think it's worth us noting our thanks, in a way, to the Welsh Government, and noting how robust the previous Minister was in insisting that every child should have access to this relationships and sexuality education. We know that she came under huge pressure from several directions to give the right for families to opt out, and she stood her ground, and I think we need to acknowledge that, because now we're in a situation where every single child will receive this education, and it will be an entirely appropriate and relevant education to them. 

Diolch. Okay, just finally, do you have an idea of what proportion of schools currently have a designated RSE lead in place? It was something the children's commissioner was particularly concerned about—ensuring that an RSE lead is established in every school by this September. Do you have any idea of the proportion of schools that currently have one? Rebecca.

Does gen i ddim syniad o ran niferoedd, ond dwi'n credu ei bod hi hefyd yn ddiddorol i nodi bod llawer o ysgolion wedi gweld gwerth a budd y cwricwlwm newydd yn y maes hwn, ac wedi symud, efallai, i gyflwyno'r addysg cydberthynas a rhywioldeb hyd yn oed cyn cyflwyno'r cwricwlwm yn ffurfiol, oherwydd maen nhw wedi gweld yr angen difrifol amdano fe. 

I have no idea in terms of numbers, but I think it's also interesting to note that a number of schools have seen the value and benefit of the new curriculum in this area, and have perhaps moved towards introducing RSE even before the introduction of the curriculum formally, because they have seen the serious need for it. 

I can't specifically answer your question either, I'm afraid, but what I would say is that it's really important, obviously, that schools use this opportunity, but I would say as well we've got to be really careful with regard to the way that the new curriculum works in terms of bringing together different disciplines, because I think, if we're not careful, we might lose some really experienced expertise in terms of teachers who do have subject-specific knowledge, and so we've got to get to a place where we're not losing it. So, training is therefore really important—it's important here, it's important across lots of different topics—that we are keeping our workforce trained and ready and not losing out to those who have brilliant pedagogic experience, but may not have experience in specific areas of the new curriculum.

Excellent, thank you. That brings the session to a close. Thanks for your time today. We are incredibly grateful. A transcript will be provided to you in due course. Please do check it and make any corrections if there are any to be made. That brings this session to an end, and the public broadcast will temporarily be halted. 

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:23 ac 11:37.

The meeting adjourned between 11:23 and 11:37.

11:35
4. Aflonyddu rhywiol rhwng cyfoedion ymhlith dysgwyr—sesiwn dystiolaeth 8
4. Peer-on-peer sexual harassment among learners—evidence session 8

Welcome back for the eighth evidence session today. If, for any reason, my internet fails me, I nominate Buffy Williams to step in as temporary chair, unless any Member objects. No. Okay, great.

Well, I'd like to begin by welcoming both Kelly Harris, who is the business development and participation lead at Brook Cymru, and also Iestyn Wyn, campaigns, policy and research manager. Thanks so much for joining us today to talk about this very important issue. We have quite a few questions that we're hoping to get through, and I'll begin, first of all, just by asking if you can just very briefly outline your organisation's role in tackling peer-on-peer sexual harassment amongst learners. How is this relevant to what you do? Kelly, can I begin with you, please?

Yes, of course. Thank you and thank you to the committee for having Brook come today and give evidence. We're really delighted to be here. So, in terms of who Brook are, Brook are the UK's leading sexual health, well-being and relationships charity. So, Brook were established back in 1964, and what we do across the UK is we provide education for children and young people relating to all things relating to sexual health, well-being and relationships. We talk about things like consent, sexually transmitted infections, contraception, healthy relationships. It's a really, really wide spectrum of what we do, and in England we also offer sexual health services for young people under 25. However, we don't offer that here in Wales.

And in terms of linking to the inquiry and what we do, so here in Wales the work that I undertake is going into schools and youth organisations across Wales and providing support, education and information for young people, all on topics relating to consent, so really, really important—understanding what it is, the parameters of it, how it affects them, discussing healthy relationships. And also we do a huge amount of professional training—so, trying to upskill teachers, youth workers, social workers, anyone who has direct contact with children and young people, around all things relating to this topic. So, we provide professional training on consent and disclosures of sexual harassment. We also offer our recognised traffic-light tool training, which is around looking at sexualised harmful behaviours of children and young people. So, we do a wide, wide range of things. That's kind of how we relate into it; it's that we're trying to provide the front-line information and support, so people can make healthy and informed choices for themselves relating to the issue.

11:40

Yes. I'll just briefly introduce our organisation and go into a bit about our position and the work we're doing on the subject.

Dwi am siarad yn Gymraeg. Iestyn Wyn ydw i. Dwi'n gweithio fel rheolwr ymgyrchoedd, polisi ac ymchwil efo Stonewall Cymru, sef yr elusen LHDTC+ yma yng Nghymru. Rydyn ni'n cydnabod ac yn gweld y pwysigrwydd anferthol mae'r cwricwlwm newydd i Gymru yn ei gynnig, trwy sicrhau bod addysg cydberthynas a rhywioldeb cynhwysol LHDTC+ ar gael ar gyfer pobl ifanc yn y dyfodol. Felly, rydyn ni wedi bod yn gwneud cryn dipyn o waith yn paratoi ar gyfer y cwricwlwm newydd hwnnw.

Yn benodol ar gyfer yr ymchwiliad yma, rydyn ni'n cydnabod bod yna dystiolaeth yn dangos bod pobl LHDTC+ a phobl ifanc a phlant yn benodol yn gallu profi cyfraddau uwch o aflonyddu rhywiol o'u cymharu â'u cyfoedion sydd ddim yn LHDTC+. Felly, gobeithio drwy'r sesiwn heddiw, fe allwn ni roi ychydig bach o esboniad o'n safbwynt ni o ran efallai pam bod hynny yn benodol yn digwydd o fewn ein hysgolion ni yma yng Nghymru.

Hefyd, Gadeirydd, dwi eisiau dweud ar y cychwyn fel hyn ein bod ni yn cydnabod bod yna ddiffyg dealltwriaeth a thystiolaeth yn y maes yma yn benodol yn ymwneud â phobl ifanc LHDTC+ a pha mor aml mae o yn digwydd ar gyfer ein plant a'n pobl ifanc LHDTC+ ni yma yng Nghymru. Felly, dwi'n meddwl bod hwnna'n rhywbeth hoffwn i bwysleisio ar y cychwyn fel hyn.

I am going to speak in Welsh. I'm Iestyn Wyn. I work as campaigns, policy and research manager at Stonewall Cymru, which is the LGBTQ+ charity here in Wales. We do acknowledge and see the huge importance that the new curriculum for Wales offers through ensuring that relationships and sexuality education that is inclusive for LGBTQ+ pupils is available to young people in the future. So, we've been doing a great deal of work in preparing for this new curriculum.

Specifically for this inquiry, we acknowledge that there is evidence that does demonstrate that LGBTQ+ people, and young people and children in particular, can experience higher rates of sexual harassment as compared with their contemporaries who don't identify as LGBTQ+. So, hopefully, throughout this session today, we can give a little bit more of an explanation of our stance in terms of why that is happening specifically within our schools here in Wales.

Also, Chair, I want to say in this forum that we do acknowledge that there is a lack of understanding and evidence in this area, specifically with regard to young people who are LGBTQ+ and how often it happens for our LGBTQ+ people here in Wales. So, I think that is something that I would like to emphasise at the outset.

Diolch, Gadeirydd, a diolch yn fawr i'r ddau ohonoch chi am ddod ger ein bron y prynhawn yma, neu y bore yma; mae hi'n dal yn fore. Mae hi'n teimlo fel prynhawn. Mae'r ddau ohonoch chi wedi cyffwrdd ar hyn i raddau, ond o'r gwaith ymgysylltu a pholisi rydych chi wedi ei wneud, a'r grwpiau rŷch chi wedi bod yn ymwneud â nhw, beth yw eich dealltwriaeth chi o raddau a natur aflonyddu rhywiol rhwng dysgwyr mewn lleoliadau addysg yn benodol? Felly, jest ateb cyffredinol, efallai, i ddechrau, ynglŷn â beth ŷch chi'n teimlo yw natur a graddfa'r broblem yma.

Thank you, Chair, and thank you very much to the two of you for joining us this afternoon, or this morning; it's still morning. It feels like afternoon. Both of you have touched on this to some extent already, but from the engagement and policy work that you do and the kinds of groups that you have been involved in, what is your understanding of the scale and nature of sexual harassment between learners in educational settings specifically? So, just a general response to begin with, with regard to what you feel is the scale and nature of this issue.

I would say that I think if we're being honest about it, we probably don't actually know what the full scale is around it in schools, because of a lack of really concise data around it. However, we do know in the School Health Research Network report of 2019—and again, we're waiting for the most updated SHRN data—50 per cent of secondary school students across Wales did report being called sexually offensive names. Particularly that was something experienced in a high number by people who identify as female, and that increased with age. But in terms of exactly how we're facing today in 2022, it's still not, in terms of data, really easy to prove. But what we do know is that anecdotally, when I work with young people, they frequently will explain and say that they do experience this and that it is something that they have seen and something that they potentially have either witnessed as a bystander or something that they have been subjected to themselves as an individual.

I know later on you're going to have someone from Plan International, and I'm sure they'll talk at length about their report and experiences of young people, but the statistics in their reports show again really high rates of young people, particularly of younger ages as well. I don't want to quote specifically, but by the age of 14, it's a really high percentage of those who identify as females who say, actually, they've experienced some form of sexual harassment already. So, we know it's happening, but it's just really hard to quantify exactly how much, without a bit more robust survey or research, maybe done by Welsh Government, to look into the issue substantially.

11:45

Buaswn i'n ategu sylwadau Kelly yn fanna. Mae'n anodd iawn i ni fel elusen allu siarad i'r pwynt yma'n benodol oherwydd y diffyg tystiolaeth sydd allan yna ar gyfer Cymru'n benodol, ond hefyd yn rhyngwladol ac ar draws Prydain hefyd. Mae ein cydweithwyr ni sydd yn gweithio yn yr Alban, Iwerddon a hefyd yn Lloegr yn cydnabod bod yna ddiffyg tystiolaeth ar y maes yma'n gyffredinol. 

O ran ein safbwynt ni, rydyn ni yn ymwybodol yn fwy ehangach, o ran y sefyllfa o ran aflonyddu a bwlio mewn ysgolion, ei bod hi yn broblem anferthol ar gyfer pobl LHDTC+ yma yng Nghymru. Mae adroddiad ysgolion Stonewall Cymru yn 2017 yn nodi bod mwy na hanner o bobl ifanc LGBT wedi profi bwlio ar sail eu hunaniaeth rywedd neu eu hunaniaeth LGBTQ+. Felly, mae hwnna, yn amlwg, yn rhoi darlun ehangach inni o'r broblem o ran aflonyddu yn ehangach. O ran y math o aflonyddu wedyn, mi oedd yr adroddiad hwnnw yn dangos bod yna bobl, a phobl yn ifanc yn benodol, wedi profi aflonyddu rhywiol o ran y profiadau roedden ni'n clywed yn yr adroddiad hwnnw.

Dwi eisiau jest rhannu rhagor o dystiolaeth ichi sydd efallai wedi dyddio ychydig, ond dwi'n meddwl ei bod yn dangos bod yna ddiffyg tystiolaeth. Ond yn ôl METRO Charity yn 2016, roedd bron i un ym mhob pump o blant LGBTQ+ wedi profi rhyw fath o drais rhywiol i gymharu ag un ym mhob 10 plentyn cis—neu ddim yn draws—a heterorywiol. Felly, mae hwnna'n ganran o 18 y cant i gymharu ag 11 y cant. Ac mae hwnna'n sylweddol iawn i feddwl bod hwnna'n digwydd yn 2016, ond, yn amlwg, ers hynny, mae'r byd hefyd wedi newid lle mae technoleg yn parhau i fod yn rhan fwyfwy pwysig ac amlwg o fewn bywydau ein plant a phobl ifanc ni.

Yn ehangach i hynny hefyd, mi oedden ni'n rhan o brosiect y llynedd efo Stop It Now! a'r Lucy Faithfull Foundation, sef elusennau sydd yn gwneud gwaith ar gyfer nadu aflonyddu rhywiol a thrais rhywiol yn erbyn plant a phobl ifanc. Beth oedden ni'n gweld drwy waith efo grwpiau ffocws o weithwyr ieuenctid yn gweithio efo pobl LGBTQ+ ydy bod yna rwystrau ychwanegol yn wynebu plant a phobl ifanc LGBTQ+ rhag adrodd a rhag dweud wrth unrhyw un am y math o brofiadau negyddol maen nhw'n eu profi. Felly, buaswn i'n annog y pwyllgor heddiw, a'r tu hwnt i'r sesiwn yma, i edrych ar y rhwystrau penodol sydd yn wynebu pobl LGBTQ+ a phobl ifanc o liw ac o leiafrifoedd ethnig, a phobl anabl, er enghraifft, rhag adrodd, a pham fod rhai grwpiau o'n plant a'n pobl ifanc ni yn fwy vulnerable i'r math yma o drais ac aflonyddu. A hefyd, wedyn, y math o gefnogaeth, neu'r diffyg cefnogaeth, rŷn ni'n aml yn ei gweld sydd ddim ar gael i'r bobl ifanc hynny.

I would echo Kelly's comments there. It's very difficult as a charity to speak to this point particularly because of the lack of evidence that is out there for Wales specifically, but also internationally and across the UK too. Colleagues who work in Scotland, in Ireland and also in England acknowledge that there's a lack of evidence on this particular area in general.

But from our point of view, we are aware more widely, in terms of the situation of harassment and bullying within schools, that it is a huge problem for LGBTQ+ people here in Wales. The Stonewall Cymru schools report in 2017 notes that over half of young people who identify as LGBT have experienced bullying on the basis of their sexual identity or their LGBTQ+ identify more widely. So, that, clearly, gives us a wider picture of the problem in terms of harassment more widely. In terms of the kinds of harassment, that report demonstrated that young people specifically had experienced sexual harassment amongst the experiences that we heard about in that report.

I just want to share more evidence with you that perhaps has dated a little bit now, but it does show that there is a lack of evidence. According to METRO Charity back in 2016, almost one in every five of LGBTQ+ children had experienced some kind of sexual violence as compared to one in 10 of cis people—those who don't identify as being trans—or heterosexual. So, that's a percentage of 18 per cent as compared to 11 per cent. We do see that that is a significant difference to think that that was happening in 2016, and since then, the world has changed where technology continues to be an increasing part and a more prominent part of the lives of our children and young people.

More widely, we were part of a project last year with Stop It Now! and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which are charities that do work on preventing to sexual harassment and sexual violence against children and young people. What we saw through our work with focus groups there with youth workers working with LGBTQ+ young people is that there are additional barriers facing children and young people who are LGBTQ+ from reporting and from disclosing to anyone about the kinds of negative experiences that they experience. So, I would encourage the committee today, and beyond this session indeed, to look at these barriers that specifically face LGBTQ+ people and young people of colour and from ethnic minorities, and disabled people, for example, from reporting, and why some groups of young people and children are more vulnerable to these kinds of violence of harassment. And then, the kind of support, or the lack of support indeed, that we often see that isn't available to those young people.

Diolch. Dwi'n meddwl bydd un o fy nghyd-Aelodau efallai'n gofyn yn benodol ynglŷn â'r effaith ar grwpiau penodol a thynnu ar eich arbenigedd chi yn fanna. Dwi'n gwerthfawrogi beth mae'r ddau ohonoch chi wedi dweud o ran y diffyg data ac, mewn ffordd, dyna pam rŷn ni wedi teimlo bod angen yr ymchwiliad yma, yn dilyn yr arwyddion rŷn ni wedi'u gweld gan, er enghraifft, adolygiad Estyn.

O beth ŷch chi'n gwybod yn gyffredinol, o'r gwaith ŷch chi'n ei wneud yn gyffredinol, yn eich barn chi, ydyw e'n broblem sydd ar gynnydd? Roeddech chi, Iestyn, yn cyfeirio nôl rhai blynyddol at adroddiadau a oedd wedi canfod bod hyn yn broblem, nôl pum neu chwe blynedd yn ôl; yn amlwg, mae'r byd wedi symud llawer erbyn hyn. Felly, ydych chi'n teimlo ei bod hi ar gynnydd, naill ai o ran nifer yr achosion, neu efallai o ran lefel y difrifoldeb? Ydych chi'n bryderus ynglŷn â chasgliad Estyn bod aflonyddu rhywiol bellach wedi'i normaleiddio, yn enwedig efallai mewn ysgolion uwchradd ac efallai yn y gymdeithas yn fwy cyffredinol?

Thank you. I think that one of my fellow Members may ask specifically about the impact on specific groups and will draw upon your expertise, both, there. I appreciate what the two of you have said in terms of the lack of data and, in a way, that's why we felt that we need this particular inquiry following the signs that we've seen, for example, from the Estyn report.

But from what you know in general about the work that you do in general, in your view, is it an increasing problem? You referred back to a few years ago to some reports that had found that this was an issue five or six years ago; of course, the world has changed, as you said. So, do you feel that it is an increasing problem, either in terms of the number of cases, or in terms of the level of severity? Are you concerned about Estyn's conclusion that sexual harassment has now become normalised, particularly in secondary schools perhaps and also in society at large?

11:50

Dwi'n meddwl efallai fod Kelly yn well i adrodd ar hwn, gan ei fod o'n fwy cyffredinol am aflonyddu rhywiol yn ehangach o fewn ein hysgolion ni. Ond dwi'n meddwl ei fod o'n rhywbeth rydyn ni'n ei gydnabod o ran y dystiolaeth fewnol ac allanol rydyn ni'n ei gweld o ran pa mor amlwg ydy aflonyddu rhywiol a'r ffordd mae'n cael ei normaleiddio. Hefyd, fel roeddwn i'n sôn yn gynharach, sut mae ein plant a phobl ifanc bellach yn gallu cael mynediad at wybodaeth a deunydd sydd yn broblematig ac sydd ddim yn iach drwy pethau fel y rhyngrwyd ac apiau sydd ar gyfer oedolion, lle maen nhw, yn amlwg, yn cael access iddyn nhw. Ond, efallai, ar gyfer pwrpas yr ymchwiliad yma, bod hwnna'n fwy ehangach na'r elfen peer-on-peer. Ond, dwi'n meddwl ei fod o i gyd yn bwydo i mewn i'r un broblem yn y diwedd. Kelly, dwi ddim eisiau eich rhoi chi ar y sbot, ond dwi'n amau efallai fod y cwestiwn yna'n well ar eich cyfer chi.

Perhaps Kelly is better placed to report on this, because it is a more about a general picture of sexual harassment in a wider sense in our schools. But it is something that we have identified, in terms of the evidence that we've seen internally and externally in terms of how prominent sexual harassment is and the way that it has been normalised. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the way that our children and young people now can access information and material that is problematic and is unhealthy through things such as the internet and mobile phone apps that are for adults, but they are able to access themselves. But, perhaps, for the purpose of this inquiry, that's wider than the peer-on-peer element. But, I think that it all feeds in to the same issue in the end. Kelly, I don't want to put you on the spot there, but I suspect that the question is best asked to you.

Diolch, Iestyn. In terms of what we're seeing amongst young people, whether I would say that there's a sharp increase in it, I don't feel that I would be able to say 'yes' specifically. But I think that a lot of it is because it is underreported, and Estyn's report showed us that really significantly—that actually, those who do experience sexual harassment are the least likely to think that reporting it will be a helpful experience to them. Therefore, what we see are barriers to young people coming forward and disclosing what's happening to them for many reasons. Sometimes, it's around the fact that some students don't feel that, maybe, their teachers will take it seriously because it gets dismissed as, 'Oh, well, it's just young people being young people', or when we look at it from a gendered perspective, it's, 'Boys being boys' and we've normalised that kind of impact on the way that people talk to each other, or how it's just accepted by some teachers.

I'll give some evidence around that. We deliver our harmful sexual behaviours training called the traffic light tool, and when I was in a school delivering this training to some staff around it—. We do a value-based activity just for professionals to think objectively about how their values could impact on the way that they deal with disclosures and how they generally think of different topics. Around the value of 'Sexual banter amongst boys is normal and should just be left to be so', I had one teacher really argue the point that they believed that actually, sexual banter is healthy and we should be allowing it. It's the way that that is enshrined in people in society that we should just allow it, when we shouldn't; we should be addressing it, we should be unpicking it, we should be taking the time to do it. And therefore, the challenge is that if we've got teachers who portray that—. And that is not an indication that all teachers are like that across Wales, they're not; I've worked with some wonderful, wonderful teachers who really try hard to implement and put robust procedures in place. But if we still have people who will react to somebody, or dismiss it to be, 'Well, it's just normal, it's just banter', that's a huge challenge for young people. Sorry, Iestyn, I'll just finish and then I'll come to you. 

What we also know from the Estyn report and from the Ofsted report in England is the scale of the problem—it's in all schools right now. So, what we need to be doing is capturing how it's happening, how it's going on, what the result of it is, and also just the severity of it, because we do see it. When I'm delivering sessions around consent to young people—obviously, we do things in a very key stage, age-appropriate, timely manner with our education resources—and particularly when I talk to year 11 around issues of consent, some of the ways that they will express themselves or things that they say can be worrying, that normalised thing, that acceptance. I also had a young person say to me, 'Well, there is no point in reporting it, it's just going to happen anyway', and that's really sad. Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 19, young people have the right to feel safe, and if our young people are going to school knowing that this is going to happen and that it's normal, that's really, really damning of our society that, actually, we're not doing more to address it and to challenge it. There'll be, I imagine, other questions from the committee members about how we can tackle these things and how can we do it. I could probably talk for two hours and longer about things that could be implemented and things that could be done, but it's a huge, huge challenge. Iestyn, sorry.

11:55

Yes. No, apologies, Kelly. I was just agreeing with every word that you were saying. But also, just in terms of that banter element that you mentioned, obviously, we need to recognise and to say from the outset, neither I nor Stonewall are experts in the area of sexual harassment within schools. However, we do have knowledge over how it affects LGBTQ+ children and young people, and what Kelly said in terms of the banter element is something that a lot of LGBTQ+ people will experience.

The Estyn report notes that homophobic name-calling in corridors in schools is a norm to a lot of LGBTQ+ children and young people. Our report from 2017, the School Report, echoes that, with 90 per cent of children and young people who are LGBTQ+ having heard the term, 'That's so gay' in a derogatory manner, being expressed negatively. And with my personal hat on, I can echo that, as someone not that young now, but having memories from my school time where that was still a problem years ago, and it continues to be now. So, going back to Sioned's question earlier—sorry, the Member Sioned's question earlier—about how prevalent this is and how things are changing, I would say, from a personal, anecdotal point of view, it hasn't gone anywhere; it still continues to be an issue. But how prevalent that is is obviously something that we've discussed that is very difficult to pinpoint at the moment, given the lack of evidence. But, just to finish on a quote that's in the Estyn report, it says here:

'Every time we walk down the corridor, someone will call names at us.'

And we see the abuse that LGBTQ+ children and young people are often sexualised in disguised by homophobia, biphobia or transphobia, and it I think is problematic. So, I will, maybe, throughout the session, talk a bit more about the types of sexual harassment and abuse that children and young people who are LGBTQ+ face, because I think there are different layers that can disguise it in different forms, because of it being homophobic, biphobic and transphobic in nature as well.

Can I just—?

Ie. Rŷch chi eisiau dod nôl i mewn, ond dwi'n gwybod bod nifer o gwestiynau eraill, felly os gallwch chi ei gadw fe'n fyr.

I know you want to come back in, but I know that there'll be a number of questions, so if you could be succinct, please.

Yes. Sorry, I was just going to say, add to it as well, obviously in terms of your question around the increase around it. I think, obviously, there's a conversation around online as well, which definitely would have added to the number of people experiencing it.

Diolch. Diolch, Cadeirydd.

Thank you. Thank you, Chair.