Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg
Children, Young People and Education Committee10/02/2022
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Buffy Williams AS|
|Jayne Bryant AS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Joel James AS||Yn dirprwyo ar ran James Evans|
|Substitute for James Evans|
|Ken Skates AS|
|Laura Anne Jones AS|
|Sioned Williams AS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Delyth Gray||Arolygydd Ei Mawrhydi, Estyn|
|Her Majesty's Inspector, Estyn|
|Dyfrig Ellis||Cyfarwyddwr Cynorthwyol, Estyn|
|Assistant Director, Estyn|
|Jassa Scott||Cyfarwyddwr Strategol, Estyn|
|Strategic Director, Estyn|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Jennifer Cottle||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Katie Wyatt||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Sarah Bartlett||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Tom Lewis-White||Ail Glerc|
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 09:17.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:17.
Croeso i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg heddiw.
Welcome to this meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee.
I'd like to welcome Members to the meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee this morning. The public items of this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, with all participants joining via video-conference. The Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. Aside from the procedural adaptations related to conducting proceedings in hybrid format, all other Standing Order requirements for committees remain in place. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. We have received apologies this morning from James Evans. Joel James will be substituting for him. Joel, you're very welcome. Nice to see you here. Thank you for joining us. Are there any declarations of interest from Members? I can see no declaration of interest.
We'll move on to the first item on our agenda this morning. It's the first evidence session for our first inquiry, which will be on peer-on-peer sexual harassment among learners. This is our first evidence session, and we've invited this morning Estyn, who have been invited to set the scene following the publication of their report, '"We don’t tell our teachers"—Experiences of peer-on-peer sexual harassment among secondary school pupils in Wales', which was published in December. All Members have received a hard copy of that report. I'd like to welcome the witnesses this morning: Jassa Scott, strategic director; Dyfrig Ellis, assistant director; and Delyth Gray, Her Majesty's inspector.
All Members have got some questions for you this morning, and we'll make a start. How widespread do you think the problem of sexual harassment between pupils is in secondary schools, and were you surprised about the scale of the problem?
Thank you, Jayne. Diolch yn fawr iawn. I think I'll start to discuss a little bit about the background and the scale of the problem. Just to be clear, the report, as you are aware, considers the incidence of peer-on-peer sexual harassment amongst secondary-aged young people. When we worked with them, we did provide them with a working definition, telling them that sexual harassment is about making sexual comments, remarks or jokes, lifting up skirts, taking pictures, making nasty comments about somebody's body, gender, sexuality or looks to cause them humiliation, distress or alarm, and as well, image-based abuse such as sharing nude or semi-nude photographs. That was to establish an understanding with young people.
This problem is widespread. I'll come back to how surprised we were in a minute, but it's clear from the report and from our findings that this issue reflects the scale of the problem within society, in that sexual harassment is a societal issue that is prevalent in adult lives, and we also know that the problem lies with people not wanting to report their experiences of harassment. In a recent report, as many as 86 per cent of 18 to 24-year-old women said they'd experienced sexual harassment, and research tells us that both male and female victims do not take their complaints through the courts.
Our report is called '"We don't tell our teachers"', and later on we might be able to explain a little bit more about that. We were not surprised with the scale of the problem, but we were very astounded by the openness, the readiness and the honesty of young people in telling us about their experiences. Pupils tell us that this is happening face to face, during school hours, online and after school, but mostly after school and online, and, as the report states, around half of all pupils say they have personal experience of peer-on-peer sexual harassment, or three quarters of them report seeing other people experiencing this, and the stark finding is that twice as many girls report having personal experience of sexual harassment compared to boys: 61 per cent of girls compared with 29 per cent of boys.
I'm not sure if you'd like me to go on to describe the nature of the harassment that they are dealing with in their lives.
That was the sort of second question I was going to ask you—if you could perhaps say what you thought were the most common forms of sexual harassment and the most common things that people are experiencing.
Of course. Mostly the experience of harassment by their peers is via the mobile phone, through social media and gaming sites in particular, and this includes online bullying; posting hurtful comments, especially around appearance; asking for, sending or sharing nude or semi-nude photographs; catfishing; and then unsolicited friend requests or demands for nude photographs, often by strangers, potentially adults or those with a fake social media profile; and, as well, negative attitudes towards girls in digital games.
However, in terms of during the school day, the most common forms of sexual harassment are catcalling; making hurtful comments; making homophobic comments—mainly towards boys, but not always; and also comments about appearances. And, as well, the LGBTQ+ pupils tell us that they have substantial pertinent experiences of verbal harassment, with many saying that this is happening all the time, and that this is the most common harassment for them in their school.
You mentioned the extent to which this harassment takes place online and after school. Were you able to gauge the impact it had on children and young people during the school day as well, in terms of the impact of that outside of school?
Absolutely. Inevitably, what happens after school and online will boil into school, because that is where they meet face to face. In terms of then having to deal with it in school between lessons, it impacts on their well-being, and we might come to that later on. When I said at the beginning that we were astounded by the honesty, openness and willingness of young people to share their experiences, their thoughts and their feelings with us, we had hoped for a certain level of engagement, but we were very impressed with the maturity and the sensitivity with which they conducted themselves. We would say that most boys and girls have a clear understanding of what sexual harassment is, even at the age of year 8 and year 9. Girls especially understand that it usually results in people feeling uncomfortable, anxious and unhappy. Boys also understand the negative impact, but they may have a narrower understanding of its effect on well-being. Also, there's a difference between what older pupils and younger pupils say. The older the pupils get, the more they have to say, the more stories they had to tell us. Generally, this is expected, of course, due to age and experience, but we saw clearly that, as they grew older, the experiences grew and grew. Nearly all year 13 pupils—around 95 per cent of all pupils—we spoke to and we surveyed reported seeing harassment, and only very, very few had little to say about it.
Thank you. That's really helpful. We'll move on to questions now from Sioned Williams. Sorry, before I come to Sioned, I think Ken wants to come in. Ken Skates.
Thanks, Chair. Just a quick question about evidence and data. How confident are you that there is a sufficiently robust baseline of data and evidence to demonstrate that this is an escalating problem? This could take up quite some time, so it might not be for today; it may be a further briefing note. But how does the problem compare to the pre-internet age, if you like? Just to what extent has mass communication through digital means contributed to this escalating problem? And, as I say, that's probably better for an additional, supplementary briefing note.
Yes, it's a valid question. I'm not really able to answer fully, because I don't have data. But I would say that pupils spoke comprehensively around the mobile phone, social media, gaming sites and the issues associated, and despite the fact that, as we know, young people really value owning their mobile phone and it's very, very important to them, they understand how the problems associated with them can negatively impact on their mental health. During the work we did, there was an image of the mobile phone and we encouraged discussion around that, and during the conversation not one pupil, in any group, actually brought forward the idea of how helpful, useful and beneficial the mobile phone could be to them; they only identified problems. I think Jassa's going to add a little bit further. Thank you, Ken.
We'll bring Jassa in now. Jassa.
I agree with what Delyth said, but I just thought it might be helpful to make a point that we've made a few times, which is that the recording of incidents by schools is not great. We make that again in this report, but we've made it before in reports we've done on bullying and our report around support for LGBTQ+ learners in schools that we published in 2020. So, schools are not great at recording the full extent of the issue, which would actually help to give a much better picture over time of how that issue is changing. I think that requirement in relation to bullying has been strengthened in the most recent Welsh Government guidance, but we still see, as this work shows, that that's not being done well enough, really, as well.
Thank you. Sioned Williams.
Dwi jest eisiau dod mewn yn gyflym iawn ar hwnna. Ydych chi'n meddwl eu bod nhw, yn rhan o'r broblem nad ŷn nhw'n cofnodi yn dda, fel ŷch chi wedi sôn, a heb fod yn gwneud ar sawl cyfrif—? Ydy hwnna'n ymwneud â'r ffaith eu bod nhw jest yn ystyried beth sy'n digwydd o fewn oriau'r ysgol yn broblem neu'n fater iddyn nhw? Ac yn amlwg o'r adroddiad, rŷch chi'n gallu gweld bod lot o'r pethau yma sy'n digwydd ar ffonau symudol a'r gofyn am luniau ac yn y blaen yn digwydd y tu hwnt i oriau ysgol. Ydy hynny'n ffactor?
I just wanted to come in briefly on that point. Do you think that, as part of the problem of not recording incidents well, as you've just mentioned, and haven't been doing so—? Does that relate to the fact that they simply take account of what happens within the school day and consider that to be an issue for them? And from the report, you can see that many of these things happen, in terms of asking for pictures and things that happen on mobile phones, happen outside of school hours. Is that a factor?
Mae yn ffactor, dwi'n meddwl. Mae'n glir nad yw cyfrifoldeb ysgol yn mynd bob man, ond dwi'n meddwl bod arweiniad clir pan fyddan nhw'n siarad am bethau fel ymddygiad plant, ac yn y blaen; mae rhyw gyfrifoldeb am beth sy'n cario ymlaen y tu allan i'r ysgol ac yn cael effaith yn yr ysgol. Ond y pwynt dwi'n ei wneud, rili, ydy, gyda'r pethau sy'n digwydd yn yr ysgol sy'n glir eu bod yn gyfrifoldeb ar yr ysgol, dydyn nhw ddim yn eu cofnodi nhw'n ddigon da. Ac fel dŷch chi'n gallu gweld o'n hadroddiad ni, dydyn nhw ddim yn cofnodi'r pethau y maen nhw'n gwybod amdanyn nhw yn ddigon da, ac mae llwyth o ddigwyddiadau dyw ysgolion ac athrawon ddim yn ymwybodol ohonyn nhw, achos bod y plant ddim yn siarad a rhannu eu profiadau gyda nhw. So, dwi'n meddwl ei fod yn gymysgedd o'r holl bethau yna, rili.
I think that is a factor, yes. It's clear that the school's responsibility doesn't permeate beyond the school, perhaps, but I think there is clear guidance when they're talking of things such as children's behaviour, and so on; they do have some responsibility for what goes on outside of school because it has an impact in school too. But the point I was making, really, is in terms of what happens in schools where it's clearly the responsibility of the school, they don't record those incidents well enough. And as you can see from our report, they don't record those incidents that they're aware of effectively enough, and there are a whole host of other incidents that teachers and schools aren't even aware of because the children don't share those experiences with teachers. So, I think it's a mix of all of those things, really.
I'll bring Delyth in. If you want to come in, just wave your physical hand at me, so I can—.
I gario ymlaen efo'r pwynt yr oedd Jassa yn ei wneud, efallai bod ysgolion yn cofnodi ar system fewnol ac yn delio efo achosion fesul un. Beth dydyn nhw ddim yn ei wneud yn dda ydy edrych yn ôl ar gyfres o ddigwyddiadau, edrych yn ôl ar beth sydd yn digwydd dros amser ac yn dod i adnabod tueddiadau a phatrymau yn ymddygiad plant ac yn gwneud rhywbeth am hynny. Hynny yw, mae angen i ysgolion weithio'n llawer mwy smart yn adnabod y prif bethau sydd yn mynd ymlaen, y themâu: ydy o ynglŷn â gwneud sylwadau am sut mae pobl yn edrych? Ydy o'n ymwneud â sylwadau negyddol, homoffobig? Ydy o'n ymwneud â rhannu lluniau? Mae yna ysgolion, ac yn yr adroddiad mae yna sôn am ysgolion yn gweithio’n dda iawn efo swyddogion yr heddlu ac efo asiantaethau allanol, ond dydy o ddim yn ddigon cryf ac yn ddigon cyson ar draws. Felly, hynna sydd angen canolbwyntio arno'n fwy: adnabod y tueddiadau a'r patrymau a gwneud cynlluniau clir i ddelio â hynny, maes o law.
To develop on Jassa's point, perhaps schools do record on internal systems and deal with individual cases. What they don't do well is to review a series of events, to review what happens over a period of time and identify trends and patterns in children's behaviour and do something about that. That's to say, schools need to work far smarter in identifying what is happening and what the themes are. Is it around making comments on people's appearance? Is it around negative comments or homophobia? Is it around sharing pictures? There are schools, and the report talks of schools working very well with police officers and with external agencies, but it is not robust enough and consistent enough. So, that's where the focus needs to be: to identify the trends and patterns and to have clear plans in place to deal with that.
Diolch. Mae cwpwl o gwestiynau gen i ynglŷn â'ch dull gweithredu chi yn ystod yr adolygiad yma. Dwi eisiau gofyn pa mor hyderus ydych chi fod y sampl o ysgolion y gwnaethoch chi ymweld â nhw a'r disgyblion y gwnaethoch chi siarad â nhw—. Ydych chi'n hyderus yr oedd y rheini'n ddigon cynrychioliadol o ysgolion a disgyblion ledled Cymru? Roeddwn i'n gweld yn yr adroddiad, er enghraifft, fod modd i rieni dynnu eu plant nôl o'r grwpiau os oedden nhw'n dymuno. Rŷch chi'n dweud yn yr adroddiad taw ychydig iawn a wnaeth hynny, ond byddai diddordeb gen i i wybod faint a wnaeth a beth oedd y rhesymau. Ac ydych chi'n teimlo bod hyn wedi effeithio o gwbl ar y math o sampl a gawsoch chi o ran pa mor gynrychioliadol yr oedd e?
Thank you. I have a few questions on your approach to this review. I wanted to ask you how confident are you that the sample of schools that you visited and the pupils you spoke to—. Are you confident that they're representative of schools and pupils across Wales? I saw in the report, for example, that parents could remove their children from these groups if they chose to do that. The report says that very few did that, but I'd be interested to know how many did that and what the reasons were. And do you think that this has had any impact on the sample you had in terms of how representative it was?
Ie, diolch ichi am hynny. Mi ydyn ni'n hapus efo'r sampl, dwi'n meddwl, o ystyried maint Cymru a nifer yr ysgolion uwchradd sydd yna. Mi aethon ni i mewn i 35 o ysgolion i gyd, lle mae yna blant uwchradd. Mi aethon ni i o leiaf un ysgol ym mhob un awdurdod yng Nghymru a lle'r oedd yna fwy na naw ysgol yn yr awdurdod, mi aethon ni i ail ysgol uwchradd. Mi oedd y sampl yn gymysgedd o ysgolion yr oedd gennym ni ychydig o wybodaeth am faterion diogelu yn yr ysgol, ysgolion a oedd wedi'u henwi yn adroddiad Everyone's Invited, ac wedyn hanner ohonyn nhw efo dim gwybodaeth, jest sampl rhydd.
O ran niferoedd y disgyblion yr oedd eu rhieni nhw ddim yn dymuno, byddwn i'n meddwl ei fod o gwmpas chwech i wyth o blant allan o 1,300 o blant. Mi oedden ni wedi gobeithio gweld tua 1,600, ond mae'n bwysig ein bod ni'n nodi ein bod ni wedi mynd allan yn y ddwy wythnos pan oedd y nifer fwyaf o achosion o COVID-19 ymysg disgyblion uwchradd yng Nghymru, sef wythnos olaf mis Medi ac wythnos gyntaf mis Hydref. Ac mae'n rhaid imi ddweud ei fod o'n destun balchder bod ysgolion a phenaethiaid wedi croesawu'r cais i ni fynd i'r ysgol mewn amser mor heriol ac wedi croesawu'r gwaith a gweld pwysigrwydd y gwaith. Felly, o ran y sampl o 1,300 o blant, rydyn ni'n meddwl bod hwnna'n sampl teg iawn, mae o'n sampl llawer mwy na sampl ein cyfeillion ni yn Ofsted, er enghraifft, sydd wedi edrych ar hyn mewn gwlad mwy o faint.
Dwi'n meddwl bod o'n iawn inni ddweud, Sioned, petaem ni wedi dewis 35 ysgol arall wahanol, dwi'n sicr iawn mai yr un fyddai'r negeseuon wedi bod mewn 35 ysgol arall hefyd. A hefyd, mae'r ffaith bod—a dwi'n meddwl bod Dyfrig efallai yn mynd i egluro ychydig mwy—natur yr hyfforddiant a'r paratoad gafodd arolygwyr i fynd i mewn i'r ysgolion wedi golygu ein bod ni wedi gallu creu awyrgylch gyfforddus, ddiogel i bobl ifanc siarad. Ac mae hynny yn glod, felly, i'r arolygwyr yn y lle cyntaf, ond yn fwy na dim, i ddisgyblion yr ysgol i fod mor barod, i fod mor agored i siarad am faterion sensitif ac anodd. Diolch.
Yes, thank you for that question. We are content with the sample, given the size of Wales and the number of secondary schools we have. We went, in total, to 35 secondary settings. We went to at least one school in each local authority area in Wales and where there were more than nine schools, we went to a second secondary school too. So, the sample was a mix of schools where we had some information about safeguarding issues, some schools that were named in the Everyone's Invited report, and then half of them, we had no information on, it was just a sample.
In terms of the number of pupils whose parents didn't want them to participate, I would think it was around six to eight children out of 1,300 children. We'd hoped to see around 1,600, but it is important that we note that we did go out in the two weeks when the number of COVID-19 cases was highest among secondary pupils in Wales, which was the last week of September and the first week of October. And I have to say that it is a cause of pride that schools and school headteachers had welcomed our request to attend schools at such a challenging time and had welcomed the work and had seen the importance of the work. So, in terms of the sample of 1,300 children, we think that's a fair sample, it's a far larger sample than the sample taken by our colleagues in Ofsted, for example, who have looked at this in a larger nation, of course.
I think it is fair for us to say, Sioned, if we had chosen another 35 different schools, then I'm quite certain that the messages would have been the same in those other 35 schools. And also, the fact—and I think Dyfrig can explain a little more on this—the nature of the training and preparation given to inspectors to go into the schools had meant that we were able to create a comfortable, safe environment for young people to speak openly. And praise is due, therefore, to the inspectors first of all, but more so to the pupils for being so willing to be so open and willing to talk about sensitive and difficult issues. Thank you.
Dyfrig, would you like to come in on that point?
Can you clearly hear me?
Yes. Right. I've had technical difficulties.
Dwi'n meddwl ei fod e'n bwysig ein bod ni efallai yn rhoi hwn yn ei gyd-destun, a phan wnaethom ni gychwyn ystyried y project, fe ddaeth e'n amlwg inni o'r cychwyn cyntaf fod hwn yn ddarn gwahanol iawn o waith ac yn fwy nag ymholiad. Ac er mwyn cyflawni hyn, gwnaethom ni ganolbwyntio ar adolygu'r diwylliant, a dyna sy'n bwysig inni, mai diwylliant a'r prosesau diogelu mewn ysgolion uwchradd sy'n helpu i amddiffyn plant a chefnogi pobl ifanc yn well. So, er i'r darn hwn o waith gael ei wneud yn ychwanegol i'r hyn roedden ni'n ei wneud yn barod, ein gweithgareddau arferol, y gwaith oedd wedi'i amserlennu, fe wnaethom ni ymateb yn gyflym iawn i gais y Gweinidog ar gyfer yr adroddiad. Ac, yn ystod ein trafodaethau gyda Llywodraeth Cymru, wrth inni ddatblygu'n cynllun, fe wnaethom ni gytuno ei fod o ddim yn bosib, oherwydd yr amseru tynn, inni fynd y tu hwnt i ysgolion uwchradd ar gyfer yr adolygiad arbennig hwn.
A hefyd, yn ogystal, roedd Delyth wedi cyfeirio fanna at yr hyfforddiant roeddem ni wedi'i gael, ac roeddem ni'n teimlo petasem ni wedi cynnwys unedau cyfeirio disgyblion, yna byddai wedi bod yn anodd iawn inni ei wneud o gyda'r amser a oedd gyda ni, ac yn teimlo efallai bod angen hyfforddiant pellach ar ein harolygwyr ni i drafod digwyddiadau o aflonyddu rhywiol rhwng cyfoedion gyda'u disgyblion, yn enwedig o ystyried y disgyblion bregus sydd yn mynychu yr unedau cyfeirio disgyblion, a'r ffaith y byddai llawer iawn ohonynt wedi profi sawl profiad plentyndod andwyol, ac efallai bod y rhain yn cynnwys rhai o natur rywiol. Felly, dyna pam wnaethom ni ddim penderfynu ar y pryd i fynd i gynnwys unedau cyfeirio disgyblion.
Ond, yn ystod yr adolygiad hwn, roeddem ni'n canolbwyntio ar brofiadau mewn ysgolion uwchradd. Gwnaethom ni ystyried y diwylliant, fel roeddwn i wedi dweud, ac roedd ein gwaith ni'n cynnwys yr adolygu hefyd o ganllawiau cymorth presennol sydd mewn ysgolion, a'r asiantaethau perthnasol eraill sydd yn gweithio'n uniongyrchol gyda phlant a phobl ifanc. Ond, dwi'n meddwl yn bwysicach fyth—a dyma'r pwynt dwi eisiau ei wneud bore yma nawr—ydy bod yr adroddiad yn crynhoi canfyddiadau holiaduron a thrafodaethau uniongyrchol a gawsom ni gyda disgyblion a gyda staff am natur a chyffredinolrwydd yr aflonyddu rhywiol rhwng cyfoedion, a sut mae ysgolion yn rheoli hyn. Ac mae'n bwysig nodi ein bod ni'n awyddus i adnabod arferion effeithiol hefyd a welwyd, ac mi wnaethom ni weld arfer dda, arfer effeithiol mewn ysgolion, ac rydym ni yn teimlo bod hwn yn elfen gref o'r adroddiad a bod yr astudiaethau achos sydd yn rhan o'r adroddiad yn mynd i fod o gymorth mawr i ysgolion, wrth iddyn nhw ystyried perthnasedd a rhywioldeb mewn ysgolion.
Ond mae Delyth eisoes wedi sôn am y paratoi a wnaethom ni ei wneud, a dwi'n meddwl bod hwn yn bwysig hefyd. Felly, cyn ein bod ni wedi ymweld â'r ysgolion, mi gawsom ni drafodaethau cychwynnol gydag asiantaethau perthnasol, ond doedd dim amser gyda ni mewn gwirionedd ar gyfer unrhyw gyfarfodydd panel—paneli cyfeirio manwl—ond fe wnaethom ni gaffael barn gychwynnol gan asiantaethau cefnogi amrywiol a charfannau pwyso a fu'n sail i'n gwaith ni felly. Ac roedd dod o hyd i'r gefnogaeth arbenigol o'r cychwyn cyntaf yn hynod o bwysig i'n paratoi ni ar gyfer y gwaith—y gwaith emosiynol oedd o'n blaenau ni. Ac i gyflawni hyn, fe wnaethom ni weithio'n agos gydag academyddion arbenigol, gwnaethom ni weithio wedyn, cyn ein bod ni'n ymweld â'r ysgolion, gwnaethom ni drefnu hyfforddiant a datblygiad proffesiynol ar gyfer y tîm, a gweithio, yn wir, gyda'r Athro E.J. Renold, gyda Phrifysgol Caerdydd, swyddfa Comisiynydd Plant Cymru a'r NSPCC.
So, yn ogystal â datblygu yr hyfforddiant yna, fe wnaethom ni wneud yn siŵr hefyd fod ein harolygwyr ni yn ymwybodol o sut i ymateb i unrhyw drafodaethau a'r protocol, ac wedyn fe wnaethom ni roi yn eu lle y gweithdrefnau er mwyn cefnogi eu gwaith nhw. Ydych chi eisiau imi sôn am sut aethon ni ati wedyn o ran y trafod gyda'r disgyblion a thrafod yr hyn a wnaethom ni?
I think it's important that we put this in its context, and when we started to consider the project, it became clear to us from the outset that this was a very different piece of work and more than an inspection. And in order to achieve this, we concentrated on reviewing the culture, and that's what's important to us, that it's the culture and the safeguarding processes in secondary schools that help to safeguard children and support young people better. So, although this piece of work was done in addition to what we were doing already in our usual day-to-day timetabled activity, we responded very swiftly to the Minister's request for the report. And, during discussions with Welsh Government, as we developed our plan, we agreed that, given the tight timescale, it wasn't possible for us to go beyond the secondary sector for this particular review.
Delyth just mentioned the training that we'd had, and we felt that if we had included pupil referral units, it would've been very difficult for us to do it within the timescale that we had, and we felt that we would have needed further training for our inspectors to discuss incidents of peer-on-peer sexual harassment with their pupils, particularly with those vulnerable pupils who attend the pupil referral units, and the fact that very many of them may have had a number of adverse childhood experiences, and they may have been of a sexual nature. So, that's why we decided not to include pupil referral units.
But, during this review, we were focused on experiences in secondary schools. We considered the culture, as I said, and our work included the review of guidance and the current advice provided in schools, and the other relevant agencies that work directly with children and young people. But, most importantly—and this is the point that I want to make this morning—the report summarises the findings of surveys and face-to-face discussions that we had with pupils and with staff on the nature of peer-on-peer sexual harassment, how common it is, and how schools are managing it. It's important to note that we are eager to identify good practice, and we did see effective, good practice in schools, and we did think that this was a strong element of the report and that the case studies contained within the report will be of great assistance to schools, as they consider relationships and sexuality in schools.
But Delyth's already mentioned the preparations that we made, and I think this is also important. So, before we visited schools, we had initial discussions with the relevant agencies, but we didn't have time to have any panel discussions—reference panels—but we did seek initial views from various support agencies and pressure groups and that provided the foundation for our work. Finding that specialist support from the outset was extremely important to our preparations for this work—the emotional work that we were faced with. And to do this, we worked closely with specialist academics. Before visiting schools, we organised training and professional development for the team, and worked with Professor E.J. Renold, Cardiff University, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales's office and NSPCC.
So, in addition to developing that training, we also ensured that our inspectors were aware of how to respond to any discussion and the protocol, and then we put procedures in place in order to support their work. I don't know if you want me to talk about how we had face-to-face discussions with pupils and so on.
Mae gen i gwpwl o gwestiynau, os yw hynny'n iawn, Gadeirydd, yn benodol efallai ynglŷn â'r—. A dwi'n credu byddwn ni'n symud ymlaen at hynny, efallai, yn rhai o'r cwestiynau nes ymlaen. Jest i fynd nôl at y pwynt yna, so, rydych chi'n hapus bod y sampl a wnaethoch chi ei ddewis yn gyfuniad o'r wybodaeth oedd yn dod o wefan Everyone's Invited yn ogystal â gwybodaeth oedd gennych chi o ran diogelu beth bynnag, a hefyd roeddech chi'n teimlo bod y sampl yn gynrychioladol o ddalgylchoedd difreintiedig, cyfoethog, lleoliadau gwledig a threfol, ac yn y blaen. Felly, a wnaethoch chi weld unrhyw wahaniaeth neu batrymau o ran y dystiolaeth, tueddiadau yn dod i'r amlwg o'r mathau gwahanol o ysgolion? Wnaethoch chi wneud unrhyw ymarfer felly o ran yr ymatebion a gawsoch chi?
Well, I do have a few questions, if that's all right, Chair, perhaps, specifically on—. And I think that we may move on to that, perhaps, in some later questions. But just to return to that point, so you are content that the sample you chose is a combination of the information from Everyone's Invited as well as the information that you held in terms of safeguarding, and you were also confident that the sample was representative of catchments—the more affluent, the more deprived catchments, rural and urban areas and so on and so forth. So, did you see any differences or any trends in terms of the evidence emerging from those different types of schools that you visited? Did you do any sort of analysis of that kind in terms of the responses?
I fod yn onest—o, sori, Dyfrig.
To be honest—sorry, Dyfrig.
Na, roedd y—
No, it was—
I fod yn onest, Sioned, roedd y negeseuon yn glir ac yn debyg ym mhob man. Y gwahaniaeth mwyaf oedd rhwng beth oedd plant iau yn ei ddweud a phlant hŷn yn ei ddweud. Roedd y plant iau yn sôn, 'O, mae bechgyn yn gwneud hyn inni,' fyddai'r merched yn ei ddweud, 'O, maen nhw jest yn ei wneud o am hwyl,' neu 'Maen nhw'n bod yn wirion.' Fel roedd y plant yn mynd yn hŷn, roedden nhw'n dod i ddeall mwy nad oedd hyn ddim yn dderbyniol. Erbyn iddyn nhw gyrraedd yr oedran 16, 17, 18, roedden nhw'n nodi bod hyn effeithio mwy ar eu lles nhw, ar eu teimladau nhw ac yn blaen. A dwi'n meddwl ein bod ni wedi sôn dipyn am hynny yn yr adroddiad, sut oedd plant yn canfod y broblem yma fel roedden nhw'n mynd yn hŷn i fyny'r ysgol, sut oedd bechgyn wedyn yn gweld yr aflonyddu ac yn ei weld o fel banter, fel hwyl, fel jôc, a sut oedd y genod yn cymryd pethau o ddifrif ac yn gweld hyn yn andwyol iddyn nhw.
Roedden ni'n hapus iawn efo'r sampl, a mwy nag erioed o'r blaen—dydyn ni erioed wedi mynd i gymaint o ysgolion mewn astudiaeth thematig. Dydyn ni erioed wedi cael tîm mor fawr: 18 o arolygwyr Ei Mawrhydi yn mynd allan fesul dau i ysgolion dros bythefnos. Roedd yr adnoddau a roesom ni i mewn i'r adroddiad yma, i'r gwaith yma yn sylweddol. Eto i ddweud ein bod ni wedi bod ym mhob un awdurdod addysg yng Nghymru, a phan oedd yna fwy o ysgolion, mynd i fwy. Roeddem ni hefyd wedi cynnwys, am y tro cyntaf, ysgolion annibynnol—dydy hwnna ddim yn arferiad gennym ni—ac wedi defnyddio hefyd ein cyfeillion ni yn Arolygiaeth Gofal Cymru i gynorthwyo efo'r ymweliadau yna i'r ysgolion annibynnol, achos rydyn ni'n gwybod yn Everyone's Invited fod yna nifer o ysgolion annibynnol yn cael eu henwi dro ar ôl tro yn fanna hefyd. Dwi'n gobeithio bod hynna'n ateb y cwestiwn. Felly, dwi yn teimlo'n gryf, Sioned, petaem ni'n dewis 35 ysgol newydd heddiw, ac yn gwneud y gwaith o'r newydd, mi fyddem ni'n cael yr un math o ganfyddiadau o wneud hynny. Diolch.
To be honest, Sioned, the messages were clear and similar in all areas. The greatest differences were between what younger children said and what older children said. The younger children were saying, 'Well, boys do this to us,' the girls would say, 'but it's only a bit of fun,' or 'They're only playing up.' But as they got older, they came to understand more that this isn't acceptable, and by the time they were 16, 17 and 18, then they were saying that this had a greater impact on their well-being, on their emotional well-being too. And I think we mentioned that a great deal in the report in terms of how children perceived this problem as they got older and progressed through the school, and then how boys saw this harassment and saw it is banter or a bit of fun, and how the girls took the issue much more seriously and saw this as being detrimental to them.
We were very happy with the sample, and more than ever before—we've never visited so many schools in a thematic review. We've never had such a large team: 18 of Her Majesty's inspectors going two by two to schools over the course of a fortnight. The resource that we provided for this report, this work was very significant indeed. And, again, I'll say that we went to all education authorities in Wales, and those areas where there were a higher number of schools, we went to more schools. We've also included independent schools for the first time—that's not our common practice—and we also used our colleagues in Care Inspectorate Wales to assist with those visits to those independent schools, because we know through Everyone's Invited that a number of independent schools are named time and time again there. So, I hope that answers your question. I do feel strongly, Sioned, that if we were to choose another 35 schools today and did all of the work again, that we would get the same kind of findings in doing that. Thank you.
A roeddech chi'n gweld bod y dystiolaeth yn debyg iawn o bob math o ysgol a phob math o ddalgylch.
And you saw that the evidence was very similar from all kinds of schools and all kinds of catchments.
Dau gwestiwn cyflym iawn i orffen, dwi'n ymwybodol bod amser yn mynd heibio. Allaf i ofyn jest un cwestiwn ffeithiol? Rwy'n gwybod yn eich adroddiad chi nad ydych chi'n enwi'r ysgolion. Jest eisiau cadarnhau gyda chi fod yr ysgolion yma yn mynd i aros yn ddi-enw ai peidio. A hefyd, jest yn pigo lan ar rywbeth wnaeth Dyfrig sôn amdano fe o ran sgôp yr ymchwiliad, gwnaethoch chi benderfynu aros mewn ysgolion uwchradd ac fe wnaethoch chi sôn am bam aethoch chi ddim i unedau cyfeirio disgyblion a cholegau, ond a oes gennych chi wybodaeth ynglŷn â'r broblem yma yn y mathau eraill o ysgolion aethoch chi ddim iddyn nhw o fewn y 35—ysgolion cynradd, unedau cyfeirio disgyblion, colegau ac yn y blaen? Oes gyda chi wybodaeth o gwbl am y broblem yn yr ysgolion hynny? Diolch.
Two brief questions because I am aware that time is against us. Can I ask you one factual question? I know that in your report you don't name the schools. Can I just confirm with you that these schools will remain anonymous? And also, just to pick up on something that Dyfrig mentioned in terms of the scope of the inquiry, you decided to focus on secondary schools, and you mentioned why you didn't go to PRUs and colleges, but do you hold any information on this problem in those other kinds of schools that you didn't go to within the 35—primary schools, PRUs, colleges and so on? Do you hold any information on the problem in those sectors? Thank you.
Diolch. Mae Dyfrig wedi egluro'r rheswm am fynd i'r ysgolion uwchradd, ond hefyd mae'n rhaid cofio o fewn ysgol uwchradd mae yna ystod oedran enfawr o blant 12 oed sydd yn ifanc iawn, iawn—ac roedden ni'n mynd ar ddechrau'r tymor—newydd ddechrau ym mlwyddyn 8, i oedolion efo profiadau eang. Mae tystiolaeth yn cael ei nodi mewn adroddiadau thematig eraill sydd gennym ni. Mae gennym ni adroddiad thematig ar sut mae ysgolion yn cefnogi disgyblion LGBT, er enghraifft. Mae gennym ni waith wedi ei wneud ar ysgolion cymunedol, er enghraifft, felly mae yna ystod o adroddiadau sydd yn sôn am faterion fel hyn, nid i'r un graddau ac mae yna fwriadau, dwi'n gwybod, i edrych ymhellach. Mae Jassa am ateb ymhellach i beth dwi newydd ei ddweud, dwi'n meddwl. Diolch.
Thank you. Dyfrig explained the reason for going to secondary schools, but we must also bear in mind that, within secondary schools, there is a huge age range, from 12-year-old children who are very, very young—and we went at the start of term—who'd just started in year 8, to adults who have broad-ranging experiences. Evidence is noted in other thematic reports that we have published. We have a thematic report on how schools support LGBT pupils, for example. We have work that's been done on community schools too, for example, so there is a range of reports that covers issues such as this, not to the same depth, but there is an intention, I know, to look further at this. I think Jassa wants to respond further on this point. Thank you.
Jassa, I might bring Laura in.
Dwi ddim yn siŵr os yw Laura eisiau dod i mewn i ddechrau neu—
I don't know if Laura wants to come in first or—
Yes, it's on this. Just to say that, from my experiences as a politician and as a mother, I'm well aware that in primary schools this is a problem as well, particularly in, obviously, the higher juniors, because children are getting phones at a much earlier age and parents aren't putting the locks on it et cetera that they should do, which is part of the problem. So, I do feel that we need to extend this to junior school primary age, definitely, just from my experience. I just wanted to chip in on that, sorry. Thanks.
I think it's worth saying that, in the work that we did do, there was quite a substantial proportion of young people that said they'd first experienced some of this in primary school, so there is some evidence from the work—and I haven't got the exact number in front of me—that there were experiences from the later stages of primary school. And as Delyth said, we do know from some other work around bullying and so on that this is happening there.
Just to say that we're in the final stages of agreeing our remit, our set of thematic work for next year, with the Minister, so that's the Minister's requests, and the indication that we've had is that we will be asked to do some work around this in further education colleges next year, so there will be that opportunity to extend this for that age group and, clearly, it's something that's in our minds. We've had inspectors who've had their awareness raised through some of the training and stuff that we support them with. So, we will be returning to inspections of schools after half term, and I'm sure that, in the work that we'll be doing with primary schools, we'll continue to gather some evidence about the extent of the problem there as well. Whether that will end up, further down the line, in a specific piece of work looking at particular issues in primary school, we'll have to see.
Dyfrig, did you want to add anything? Did I see your hand go up?
No, it's been covered by Delyth, but I think what's important as well is to note that, when we're talking about the broad representation across Wales, it was the openness that we experienced in every single school. We conducted those discussions with pupils in a safe environment, in a confidential environment, and the teachers, the staff, the leaders and the pupils knew that they were talking to us in confidence. So, the fact that we didn't name schools was integral to the openness that we had with the pupils and with the members of staff. But, very interestingly as well, we did include the independent sector, as Delyth has alluded to, and that was a first for us, to include them in this thematic piece of work.
Thanks, Dyfrig. Sioned, did you have any further questions?
Na. Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Diolch y fawr.
No. Thank you, Chair.
Diolch, Sioned. Some questions now from Laura Jones. Laura.
Thank you. Thanks, Chair. Just to say that we're all aware of instances, unfortunately, through the media and through our own experiences, as I've just outlined, but what do you think are the main causes of the increase in incidents of sexual harassment between young people? Thank you.
Thank you. I'll attempt to answer, Laura, not being an academic researcher looking in that field. But we know the term 'harmful sexual behaviour' to start off with, and it's a term used to describe a continuum of sexual behaviours, from the normal to the abusive and violent. Practitioners who work with children use a continuum model of harmful sexual behaviours to assess and identify problems. So, 'normal' would be the acceptable developmentally and socially acceptable behaviour, going through to the inappropriate and problematic.
Inevitably, young people, they live online, and their mobile phone, like we said, is very important to them. The media, television, film—we know how influenced young people are by these things. There have been a number of interesting and very important studies in Wales in recent years that refer to causes of peer-on-peer sexual harassment. Alongside this report, we have a supporting resources document, which is much bigger than the actual report, and this research, these reports that I'm going to mention a little bit about now, are contained fully there, and I would encourage you, when you have time, to read the supporting resources document. What we see there is this tendency for young children to grow up too quickly. Our culture has increasingly become sexual and sexualised, and we see this evidenced in the increase in sexualised and gender stereotyped clothing and products and services for children, advertising, pressures on children from a range of commercial sources, such as companies who really push the boundaries when advertising to them. The children's commissioner published a report in 2013 called 'Boys and Girls speak out', where it was exploring sexuality and sexual learning, and adults were talking about fearing that their children were growing up too soon. That is certainly an issue, and I'm sure that you can relate to that.
The NSPCC as well has found that the most common form of technology assisted harmful sexual behaviour is the sharing of nude images, and, in our work, we found that boys in particular were encouraging other boys to ask for nudes, ask for photographs, to show off. It's a sort of bravado thing. And also girls would complain that boys would make them feel guilty for not sharing—that they would be made to feel that they weren't loved or liked unless they shared. And this is a major issue. As you alluded to already—I am a parent of three girls—we will put all kinds of measures in, we will look, we will be friends with them online and we'll monitor their friendship groups, but, at the end of the day, we do not have ultimate control over what our children do, and peer pressure is something that, inevitably, we are really struggling to fight against.
Can I just—? Before I bring Laura back in, can I just ask if you would be able to send us copies of those reports around causes? The committee would be really keen to see those. Thank you. Laura.
I can send you the link, no problem.
Thank you. Laura.
Yes, peer pressure, as we all know, is massive, and that's a major problem. It stems back to what Ken said earlier, actually. It would be interesting to see, before mobile phones, the problem, and now, in that way, and how much having a mobile phone and exposure to social media all the time has had an impact on this. I was just wondering, on that, if you had any evidence that, because of the lockdowns that we've had in the last couple of years, people were having more time online, and whether there was an increase in this behaviour during the pandemic. That's just a question that I just thought of. And do you think all this exposure, and harmful exposure, is creating unhealthy attitudes towards relationships and sexuality between young people?
I think Jassa will be addressing your question. Thank you.
I don't know if you want me to pick that up now, or if we go on to something—. I think you maybe wanted to maybe ask about effects and things. But, certainly, I think some of the young people that we talked to talked about the impact on self-identity and self-esteem of some of this, and there's a lot of research that then looks at the impact of that on their ability to form healthy relationships and to understand what a healthy relationship looks like, which I guess takes us back round to then that knowledge and understanding as well being an important part of that ability to be able to go on and form healthy relationships, healthy sexual relationships. Our report found that there were some shortcomings in that area in terms of the level of sex education and relationships education that young people are getting access to, and they wanted more, and they wanted to be having those discussions as well.
Yes, on that, Jassa, Miss Gray said earlier that all age groups seemed to have a clear understanding of what sexual harassment was, but do you think that, with the new curriculum coming up, there's an opportunity for more education in this area? Do you think that that would have an impact on behaviours, and how would you see that working?
I think absolutely. We highlight in the report the importance of that age-appropriate understanding and knowledge, and the kind of mandatory relationship and sex education that's in the new curriculum, and the increased focus on health and well-being generally, has the potential to do that. It's not done well enough at the moment. We've been saying that for a few years. But it takes more than that. And the other point that we've made, and we're pleased that it's being responded to, is that recognition that it's a whole-school approach that is needed. And we pick up in this report, and we have done previously, that, too often, this is seen to be the domain of a small number of staff in a school, rather than it needing to be something that all staff are comfortable with, all staff have an understanding of and therefore are able to support young people at the time when it's appropriate to support young people, as well as more specialised input to support that delivery as well. So, I think it's good, we welcome it, as long as it's supported by really good professional learning for staff to increase their understanding, to support them in that delivery, and for all staff, so that they can have a better understanding of the needs of young people, of particular groups of young people, like LGBTQ+ young people, so that they can better support children and young people of all ages.
I desperately want to ask you some questions on that, but I know another MS is going to ask you more on that later. I don't know if we want to leave it til then.
Yes, if that's—. Thanks, Laura. We can come back to it.
Just quickly on my section, on the causes, really, do you think that perhaps it's too easy for young people to do it by having mobile phones in school? And do you think that maybe a more national approach would be a good idea on having mobile phones in school? Some put mobile phones in a box, or whatever, and locked up at the beginning of the school day. Do you think that sort of approach would help stop this problem within the school grounds? Obviously, it's not going to do it afterwards.
Well, we have to be careful because, due to the pandemic, schools have relied on pupils' ownership of a mobile phone to use it as a learning device, and some schools have a policy of bringing your own device to school, whether that be the mobile phone or the tablet or whatever. This is happening more online after school, not in school. So, we have to be mindful not to criticise or to make a judgment about policies around mobile phones. And I know, as an experienced secondary practitioner for a number of years, there's a massive battle between schools and the pupil with a mobile phone that unfortunately adults will never win. So, I don't think it's really about that. I think, going back to Jassa's point as well, when you speak to 18-year-olds who tell you they've never had a sex education lesson in their time at secondary school, that's quite something. And, as Jassa says, it's enabling that conversation, open conversation. I think Dyfrig wants to come in.
Yes, thanks. [Interruption.] Oh, go on, Laura.
Sorry, I was just—
I'll get Laura in first. Go on, Laura, and then I'll bring Dyfrig in.
Oh, okay. No, no, it's fine. I was just going to say that—. Yes, that's absolutely fine. You carry on and I'll ask another question in a minute.
Okay. Dyfrig and then we'll have to move on then.
Yes, I appreciate that. Just to add to what Delyth has said, it's not necessarily about the mobile phone, it's not necessarily about the photos, it's about the culture, and that's what needs changing in the schools, the culture, the approach and the attitudes of pupils and, indeed, of staff. And that has to happen through education for the pupils and through professional learning for the staff so that they are empowered, the staff are empowered and confident. And that can only happen through professional learning and training. But it's not all about the mobile phone; it's about the culture.
Thanks, Dyfrig. Laura.
Just really quickly, Chair. The last question is on parents, and perhaps a lack of understanding at home of the extent of this problem that's going on at the moment and how you tackle that and educate about what's going on, really, in schools and at home and what you do about it.
Yes. Quickly, just to be fair to schools, many schools have been creative in the way they've tried to engage with parents, using the school police liaison officer and other people from outside to create parents' evenings, open evenings, information sessions, posters, everything. And, inevitably, you get the best parents turning up very often. I've done it myself. The parents you really want to engage with—. You know, it's not easy, but certainly we believe firmly that this lies with the responsibility of the parents. Diolch.
Thank you, Delyth. Questions now from Ken Skates.
Thanks, Chair. There's some fascinating work by Gabor Maté regarding the authentic self and the impact that early years trauma can have in terms of a person progressing to adulthood feeling that they're authentic, being able to express themselves, and the lifelong impact that that has on their mental health. Clearly, incidents such as sexual harassment could be classed as traumatic incidents in early life. What do you think the main impact of sexual harassment on children and young people is, and to what extent does it affect, in your view and from the evidence you've been able to gather, their mental health and well-being, as well as, in many cases, their physical health and how they present themselves to others through life?
I think there's a whole spectrum in terms of how we answer that, and it will depend on the type of experience, because I think what you'll see from our report is we're talking about a whole range of experiences, from quite serious sexual harassment experiences through to—I don't want to say 'less serious', because sometimes the impact can be just as bad—some almost normalised bullying behaviours that can have a different impact over time when they're happening.
I think with all of those, it slightly depends on the individual's own resilience and ability and what else is going on for them as well. It's hard to say that one size fits all, but generally the research shows, and there was some indication in our conversations with young people, that where young people have experienced bullying—and magnify this for some of the more serious incidents—they certainly tend to face barriers to learning, they're more likely to miss school, they're more likely to be excluded, they are more likely to develop mental health issues in terms of things such as depression or self-harm and have impaired well-being. So, there's some very clear evidence that that sustained bullying and lots of those more serious incidents can have that impact.
I think what some of what the young people we talked to talked about was about not being able also to feel themselves in school because of some of those incidents that are happening. I thought it was interesting in the coverage on the BBC last night that one of the young men in particular talked about that; he's not really still quite comfortable in being himself because he didn't feel like he could be himself from quite an early age because of that environment. So, in terms of what you're saying about authentic self, I think there is an impact over time of some of those cumulative experiences for young people as well. Then, there's clearly sometimes quite a serious impact, because sharing of nude images is a criminal offence. There's a lack of awareness among young people of some of that as well, and the actual seriousness of what they're doing.
So, yes, the research shows that there are some of those impacts, as you indicated, Ken. When we were talking to young people, that was their experience as well, particularly for some of the girls we talked to—the impact of that social media world and the expectations around who they should be, what it means to be a girl. Their self-identity in terms of that was coming across really clearly about the pressure they felt. We talk about that in all kinds of ways in the report from comments about uniform through to how they're expected to behave with partners, and things like that. So, there are a lot of things feeding into that, and certainly, that prolonged incidence of bullying continues to have a more serious impact, I think, for young people.
I think what might help is if you can point to any further reading that you'd suggest to us, particularly in terms of the impact on the educational progress and lifelong mental health impacts. Delyth.
Thank you. I'll just add to Jassa's point and then answer the last point, or request, Ken. Just to elaborate a little bit, quickly, on Jassa's point, it's the dilemma that girls, in particular, have over the length and fit of their skirts. They feel they potentially are bullied by other girls if their skirts are too long, and sexually harassed by boys if their skirt is too short. That's just around one item of clothing.
To answer your point, I've just put in the chat as well what I mentioned a few minutes ago, the supporting resources. Research reports and other relevant documents are cited in those supporting resources. I've put in the chat the link there for you to have a look at that. Diolch.
We might not be able to see that in the chat, so if you'd be able to e-mail the committee clerk that would be great. Thank you. I'm just conscious of time, so we'll go back to Ken now.
Thanks. Just two really quick questions, then. Are there any certain groups that are disproportionately affected, for example girls or LGBTQ+ pupils? And then secondly, you report that sexual harassment has become normalised; what impact is this then having on the culture, the ethos and the level of discipline in schools and what should be done to remove that normalisation of this behaviour?
I think Delyth has already picked up on some of the groups where it's more prevalent. Certainly, girls were more likely, I think two times more likely, to have experienced it themselves personally, and we touch upon quite a bit the LGBTQ+ groups in terms of quite substantial experience of that verbal homophobic harassment, particularly related to appearance, for example, but also just in terms of language being sometimes normalised as well from quite an early age. Interestingly, with things like the nude photographs, the LGBTQ+ group didn't really have experience of that. That tended to be girls, and girls with boys, experiencing that sexting and sharing of nude photographs. That wasn't something the young people we talked to from LGBTQ+ groups said was impacting on them.
In terms of the normalisation, as our report picks up, some of it is happening outside of school, it's more likely happening outside of school, so in terms of the impact in school on behaviour and things, I don't think it's revolutionising or substantially changing that necessarily, but I think it has just become a normal part of young people's experiences and of, as we said, society as a whole. I think schools have an opportunity to change that. Although it is happening sometimes outside, they are community leaders, they have an opportunity to take action that can influence that wider community as well. So, we'd certainly see that they have a role in doing that to respond to it as well.
Thank you. Thanks, Ken—
I mean, the title of the report, and Dyfrig might come in here, about—. Sorry, Jayne.
I'm just really conscious of time, so succinct answers and questions are really appreciated now, because we are running over.
Ken was asking about the culture and about—. Okay.
Okay. Go on, Dyfrig, do you want to mention anything?
No, that's okay.
No, you're okay. Joel.
Thank you, Chair, and thanks, everyone, for coming to today's evidence session. I just want to quickly talk about the schools' management of the problem, really. I'm conscious that the report's title is '"We don't tell our teachers"', and I was just keen to know about your thoughts. How aware are the schools of this as an issue, or is it something they don't necessarily turn a blind eye to but are unable to handle properly themselves in terms of maybe training of staff or the awareness of the issue? I just wanted to pick your brains on that, really.
I'll come in on that one. On the first part of the question, '"We don't tell our teachers"' basically does what it says on the tin. That was the message that we were receiving from all the pupils during our visits to schools, in as much as pupils don't systematically tell their teachers about peer-on-peer sexual harassment. They either don't think the incident was serious enough, or they didn't think it was worth reporting. We've already mentioned the normalisation—that this type of peer-on-peer sexual harassment is expected, they accept it, their behaviours and attitudes are significantly influenced by what they see happening on social media. Pupils don't tell their teachers, simply because they don't feel they can, that anything will be done, and they don't feel that, often, they're taken seriously. Quite often, teachers will dismiss the incidents as being trivial, or even encourage the pupils to ignore them. So, that's the reason why the title is there—pupils feel that verbal sexual harassment is classed as banter by their peers and the adults. The girls in particular told us that they had negative experiences when making verbal complaints about boys' attitudes, or their behaviour, to their teachers. They gave examples of teachers being dismissive, with responses such as, 'Take no notice of it', 'They're just being silly' or, most often, 'Well, boys will be boys'.
In terms of the second part of the question, are schools aware of it? Yes, they are aware of it, and when they do respond, they do that effectively. But in most schools that we visited, they work reactively around this issue, and are not proactive enough in their approach. What I guess I'm trying to get at is that they're too reliant on waiting for pupils to approach the school staff with their complaints and concerns, but once they are aware of the problem, there are processes in place to address it and incidents are dealt with appropriately. But, as the report highlights quite clearly, schools don't talk about peer-on-peer sexual harassment openly, regularly enough, to enable pupils to speak up safely. And indeed, in most schools, staff are unable to describe any measures their schools have taken to proactively promote a culture where the staff and pupils refute harassment, stand up to it, and stand up to any negative attitudes towards sexuality or gender. Pupils told us how much they want open, direct conversations about this, so that the issues are brought to the surface and are, basically, called out.
Joel, I think Laura's got a quick point on that, if that's okay.
Yes, okay. Sorry.
Just quickly, Laura.
I don't want to step on your toes, Joel, but on that specifically, my experience in school is that you don't really want to tell things like that to such an authoritative figure. I'm an ambassador for the Where's Your Head At? mental health campaign, and they very much want to promote mental health ambassadors within schools—I think it's a good idea—and peer-on-peer ambassadors in schools, as well as the education for teachers, which is obviously needed. Do you think that would help with the problem of getting the information there?
We certainly saw some good examples. Ysgol Plasmawr is a great example of how that's operated successfully, where pupils will talk to each other and there's that ambassadorial role. We particularly saw some effective practice in schools with LGBT groups, which would focus on the issues that are relevant to what's going on with them, and run again by pupils. But I would certainly agree about making it an issue that's relevant to everybody, and everybody has an opportunity to feed into that, and to change—again, I come back to that important word—the culture.
Thanks, Dyfrig. Joel.
Just with regard to your response there, you mentioned that sometimes the teachers are almost dismissive of it—'Oh, that's part of growing up' or, as you said, 'Boys will be boys'. To what extent then is that an issue of data management and recording the incidents, and how is that linked then, would you say, to the wider bullying issues that schools face?
Most schools use a digital or online information management system to record incidents, they just don't use it well enough to identify any shortcomings or patterns of behaviour. Staff at all levels have access to this system, and in many cases, when they do use it, it's used well. However, more comprehensive use of these systems would be something that we'd be keen to see. And in a few cases, the classification of bullying is too broad, and doesn't enable the schools to record and evaluate incidents of homophobic, sexist or even racially motivated bullying.
To add to that very, very quickly—. I know, Jayne, that time is going; I promise I'll be quick. Local authorities are required to ask schools for termly reports on bullying incidents. That's not done well enough. We spoke to eight local authorities, and we know that that's not done consistently well enough. And I believe that maybe involvement of Welsh Government, going forward, in collecting data from local authorities, then, and enhancing the categories, would be particularly helpful, going forward. Thank you.
Thanks, Delyth. Joel.
It's really just the last question then. Obviously, that age-old story—where do the parents come into it, and where does the school fit into it? How could schools then monitor, or at least is it their purpose to monitor that sort of behaviour, then, outside of school hours? And then in some cases, some teachers might even say, 'Well, what happens in the playground, is that really for me to do?' Surely, that's something that the parents should be addressing then when they get home, if that makes sense. And I was just wondering what your views are there—where does the role of the teacher and the parent, not necessarily collide, but where do they fit in with each other?
The teachers were telling us that this was a common thread, that they felt that it was the responsibility of the schools to be part of the culture. But what they were telling us was that they didn't feel prepared, they didn't feel that they had the right skills, in order to do that properly. And I will just mention one incident. It is societal, and one pupil asked me, in an LGBT group—I was wearing a rainbow wristband—and they asked me if I was gay. And I said, 'No, I'm not gay, I'm simply wearing it to support my own son, who's gay.' And that pupil held my hand, and said, 'I wish you were my father.' Now, that tells me that it is the responsibility—. The experiences of that particular child really moved me, in understanding that it's not just the school, it is societal, but what happens at home, what happens on the playground, what happens in the park, wherever it is—it spills over into the school, and that's where the school has a responsibility to react and respond and support these pupils.
Thanks, Dyfrig. Thank you, Joel. Finally, we've got some questions from Buffy. And I know we're tight on time, but, Buffy.
Thank you, Chair. And thanks, everybody, for joining us today. To what extent do you believe parents and carers should be involved in dealing with children's actions and behaviours in regard to sexual harassment? And do you believe they're engaging with schools and other agencies sufficiently?
Shall I pick this one up? I think we've touched upon it a little bit. I think it's clear that this needs to be a partnership between schools and parents. In the best schools, they do engage well with parents. And in the 'Supporting Resources' publication that we'll share with you by e-mail, there are actually lots of resources that are already available to support parents in dealing with this as well. I know Welsh Government themselves have a number of campaigns around supporting parents. So I think it's trying to keep that dialogue going, keep it a live issue, and schools clearly have a role in that. I talked earlier a little bit about the fact that schools need to see that role, embrace that role, and there was some indication, as Dyfrig said, that they want to do that. So, we just need to, through the guidance and professional learning that they get, support them to take on that role as community schools, to work in partnership with parents, in order to best support young people to navigate through what is a tricky time in terms of that growing up.
Do you believe that statutory services, such as the police, are supporting schools to deal with individual cases and address this problem more generally? Do you believe that they are engaging correctly with schools?
What we found, where there was an actual incident, those statutory services worked well together—the school took the appropriate actions and put the appropriate support in place. And those statutory agencies, and non-statutory voluntary bodies and services, have a key role to play in this. Young people and staff we spoke to valued the input that some of those specialist agencies can bring, both in very specific incident cases, as you highlighted there, Buffy, but also as part of that wider programme of relationship and sexuality education, and PSE as it has been.
So, there's a key role for schools to work in partnership with others. They don't have all the answers, staff need more professional learning, they can have better understanding to be able to deliver better-quality relationship and sexuality education, but there is an important role for all those other agencies to play to add depth, to bring a different voice. Young people really value the inputs they have from the school police officer and others as well, as part of an ongoing programme. So, we think that's really important, in particular as part of how they take this work forward.
Okay. What more do you think the Welsh Government could do to provide the necessary strategic approach and co-ordination to ensure an effective multi-agency approach to this problem?
I think the Welsh Government has identified the need to make every school a community school. And there's work starting to happen around that, and that provides, almost, the mindset to work with other agencies and to work with the local community and parents in improving the experience that young people have in a school, and once they leave and the time they spend beyond that school.
We published a report on community schools as well in 2020 that's got loads of really helpful good practice, particularly around some of the aspects of multi-agency working. So, I think it's understanding the importance of that and making sure, through all the policies and guidance that Welsh Government has, that it supports that. There have been a couple of helpful—. Obviously, Welsh Government have recently consulted on the LGBTQ+ action plan, which I think, given some of the discussions today—it would be worth looking to see how some of the things that we've talked about can maybe feature more prominently in that action plan.
I think we've talked a lot today about the online world. There's UK online safety legislation, I think, but I think there's certainly more to be thought about how we can continue to make that a useful and safe world to be living in that doesn't negatively impact, in some of the ways we've talked about today? So, I think those are some of the areas where you may, through the next couple of weeks, want to focus your inquiries as well and see if there's more value we can add and whether there are areas where there maybe needs to be a bit more guidance and steer.
Okay. And thinking about the report, is there anything that we haven't covered today that you think should be highlighted to us?
I think we've covered quite a lot. I'm conscious of your time. Obviously, as you go through the inquiry, if there's anything you want to come back and ask us for further evidence on in addition to the couple of things that we've said today, then we'd be very happy to do that. There may be things that come out of your conversations with other stakeholders over the next few weeks. We'd be very happy to follow up with more evidence if you need that.
Okay. Thank you. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you. I think that's really helpful and we appreciate that and any further documents and information you can provide—we'd be really grateful. And just thank you for coming in this morning. The session was really helpful and Members were really keen to hear what you had to say. And following on from you report, there are a lot of serious issues within the report that hopefully we've teased out today as well.
Thank you for joining us. You'll have a transcript sent to you for checking in the coming days or weeks, so please have a look at that, but thank you for joining us this morning. Diolch yn fawr.
Thanks, all. Diolch.
We'll now move on to item 3, which is papers to note. Full details of the papers are set out on the agenda and in the meeting papers. You'll notice that papers 1 to 11 are in response to a letter from the committee seeking information on working with the third sector to provide mental health support services for children and young people, which the committee requested following the scrutiny session on the children's commissioner's annual report. And those letters were considered as part of our strategic planning session at our meeting on 27 January. Are Members content to note the papers? There are 24 papers there to note. I can see that Members are content.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod a'r cyfarfod cyfan ar 17 Chwefror yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting and for the whole meeting on 17 February in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
We'll now move on to item 4. So, that is to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting. So, I propose in accordance with Standing Order 17.42 that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of the meeting and for the whole of the meeting on 17 February. Are Members content? I see that Members are content. So, we will now proceed in private.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:25.
The public part of the meeting ended at 10:25.