Schools and colleges have an important role to play in the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV). Research, including our own, supports a Whole School Approach (WSA) to achieve this aim.
“I think schools are crucial, I think they’re crucial for creating an ethos where violence isn’t tolerated.“Teacher in participating school
Our partner organisations reported that, over a 15-21 month period, they were able to make a difference to the lives of young people, school staff and relationships across the school. One young man explained:
“It’s different now. Boys and girls will talk about their feelings. Before, we didn’t care…now we do.”
There is strong evidence that good quality Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) can reduce harm by reducing sexual and domestic violence, and addressing ‘the harmful attitudes and beliefs that serve to uphold [rape] culture.’Sex Education Forum, Relationships and Sex Education: The Evidence, (2022)
In their 2022 report, ‘Relationships and Sex Education: The Evidence’, the Sex Education Forum (SEF) included data from a study that found schools running Prevention programmes saw, ‘25% less psychological abuse perpetration, 60% less sexual violence perpetration, and 60% less [physical] violence perpetrated against current dating partners’ compared to control schools. Additional benefits reported on by the SEF included:
- Children and young people are more likely to speak out and report abuse.
- Young people are more likely to practice safe sex and have improved health outcomes.
- First sexual experiences are more likely to be consensual and young women are less likely to have a relationship with an older person.
The Wider Benefits
“The issue was so important and so emotive that it made their drama better.”
Aside from harm reduction there are wider benefits that fit into school priorities. A WSA contributes to anti-bullying and respectful relationships work and improves relationships between staff, between staff and students, and between students. Schools can also expect to see:
- Improvements in the mental health and wellbeing of staff and students.
- Improvements in academic attainment and the ability to learn; better attendance.
- Increased confidence and self-esteem amongst students, a better sense of their identity.