Violence against women and girls is preventable, it is not inevitable.
This toolkit has been created to give education practitioners the knowledge and tools to prevent Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), to stop the violence before it happens, create an equal world, and to intervene early to support survivors.
There are three important reasons for schools to promote gender equality and challenge Violence Against Women and Girls:
Education institutions have legal responsibilities to do so through child protection, there is a strong business case for this area of work and, finally but most importantly, there is a moral imperative to promote gender equality and stop violence against women and girls.
Education institutions across the UK need to recognise that they have a role to play in preventing violence against women and girls. Often they are already doing work to support students affected by this issue, and have initiatives in place to promote equality — but they could do more!
A comprehensive programme of prevention:
Education settings are an important site to prevent and intervene early to stop violence against women and girls. There are key players within an education environment who can stop the violence: children and young people (both boys and girls), education staff, parents and community members. A comprehensive education programme will work with all the key players and integrate a focus on violence against women and girls within the following components of an organisation: Learning, Safeguarding, Participating, Campaigning, Institutionalising and Localising.
Mandatory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)
The new curriculum will be mandatory from September 2020. Schools are encouraged to adopt the new curriculum early from September 2019.
This is statutory guidance from the Department for Education issued under Section 80A of the Education Act 2002 and section 403 of the Education Act 1996.
Schools must have regard to the guidance, and where they depart from those parts of the guidance which state that they should (or should not) do something they will need to have good reasons for doing so. The new guidance replaces the Sex and Relationship Education guidance (2000).
The guidance can be found here.
The case for prevention programmes:
Children and young people want to learn about sex, relationships, respect and abuse. They do not want to live in a world where there is violence against women and girls. Children and young people recognise that they are not given sufficient education on the things they want to learn about.
Young People’s Views
Children and young people want to know about healthy relationships and sex. As one young women in a school focus group said to AVA: “RSE is really important and should be compulsory. Girls just get taught about periods and pregnancy, boys get taught about sex. We should have the right to learn, I don’t want to go out into the world oblivious“.
Ofsted found that:
Young people have reported that in primary schools, there is too much emphasis placed on friendships and relationships, leaving pupils ill prepared for physical and emotional changes during puberty, which many begin to experience before they reach secondary school.Ofsted, (2013)
Research by Brook found;
Behaviour: Schools have a legal responsibility under Section 89 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 to have a behaviour policy, which includes measures to encourage ‘good behaviour and respect for others on the part of pupils and, in particular, preventing all forms of bullying among pupils’ (1b).
Child Protection: Keeping Children Safe in Education (2018) is statutory guidance that schools and colleges in England must have regard to when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This includes appropriate responses to most of the forms of VAWG set out in our toolkit.
Europe and UN:
In 2014 the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women, and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) came into force. Important themes of the Convention include Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, Substantive law and Monitoring.
Parties shall take, where appropriate, the necessary steps to include teaching material on issues such as equality between women and men, non‐stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, non‐violent conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships, gender‐based violence against women and the right to personal integrity, adapted to the evolving capacity of learners, in formal curricula and at all levels of education.Article 14 Istanbul Convention
The UK Government has ratified a number of international declarations which stress the need for children and young people to receive information on Violence Against Women and girls — and emphasise the importance of gender equality. The UK Government has ratified the United Nations Beijing Platform for Action, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The CEDAW Committee recommends that the State party should:
(a) Consider introducing mandatory age appropriate education on sexual and reproductive rights in school curricula, including issues on gender relations and responsible sexual behaviour , particularly targeting adolescent girls; and
(b) Enhance measures to prevent, punish and eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls, including bullying and expressions of racist sentiments, in educational institutions;
(c) Intensify career guidance activities to encourage girls to pursue non-traditional paths and improve the gender awareness of teaching personnel at all levels of the education system;Paragraph 45 of the 2013 UN CEDAW Committee concluding observations and recommendations .
There is a strong moral case to deliver prevention education programmes to stop Violence Against Women and Girls. Education staff often make the moral argument that, as members of society and people in authority, they have a responsibility to take a stand against inequality and violence. As one teacher commented:
‘If we want pupils [girls and boys] to have the full range of choices then they need to have the self-esteem and value in themselves to make those choices and I think this is a way of making sure that happens.
And, I think, because of increases in domestic violence and the research that shows that a girl is more likely to be affected by the crime of domestic violence than by any other crime…well, to me, that speaks eons. Because, if you can do something to prevent that from happening, even if it is the one girl or one couple or one lad — victim or perpetrator — then we have done our stuff. To me it seems an obvious step and I think it is something that the government should be putting into statute.’WomanKind (2010)
Many children and young people in the education setting will have experienced violence against women and girls, and this will have an impact on their behaviour and attainment (some would say the business of education). Around a third of students in any school are likely to be living in, or have had experience of living in an abusive or violent home situation. Furthermore, if young people are experiencing harassment or bullying within the school, they are likely not to feel safe or be able to focus on their education. Children and young people who can be protected, supported and prevented from experiencing violence will do better within education and throughout their life.
It is also likely that some members of staff are living with, or have a history of experiencing abuse and violence. Experience of violence against women and girls will impact on an adult’s capabilities and the input they are able to give to the young people in their care, and they may need support to deal with their experiences. Education settings that support staff who have experienced violence against women and girls will have happier staff.
This section is based on evidence from research that AVA did with prevention practitioners from across the UK that identified what works and developed a model for a comprehensive education prevention programme. We have developed a whole school approach model which encompasses six core elements:
Learning to understand Violence Against Women and Girls, challenge gender inequality and build respectful relationships:
- Children and young people learn about VAWG
- Staff learn about VAWG
- Parents learn about VAWG
- Learn what works in prevention of VAWG
Safeguarding to support people that experience forms of VAWG:
Participating to actively prevent Violence Against Women and Girls:
Campaigning to take action to stop VAWG:
Localising to work in relevant expert partnerships:
Institutionalising to embed a comprehensive prevention programme:
- Changing the culture of the organisation
- Developing policies to stop Violence Against Women and Girls