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Deputy Head of a London Secondary School
I am the Deputy Head of a Secondary School in London. We have had to deal with a number of shocking incidents concerning sexting and sexual bullying/inappropriate behaviour amongst our pupils. These are hugely traumatic experiences for young people, and often difficult for both parents and teachers to address.
One girl was so affected by an incident that she ended up having to move schools. She took an explicit picture of her private parts and texted it to a boy she fancied. The picture was then texted on to many of the boys in her year group, which lead her to being badly bullied by her friends – she threatened to throw herself out of the school building after confronting them. These sorts of incidents don’t just happen in the older years. Another girl who was only year 7 had her phone confiscated, and it was discovered a boy in the older years had been targeting her and texting inappropriate sexual comments during lessons. He had arranged to meet her in the toilets at school to carry out sexual acts. Unfortunately, this sort of coercive behavior is not a one-off – I have dealt with instances where girls have been forced into sexual acts by groups of boys after being threatened. These things are happening across all sorts of schools, it is something we need to face up to.
Family Lives’ TeenBoundaries programme gave us the expert help we needed to equip our students with the knowledge and confidence to deal with pressures they are confronted with. The topics that the workshops covered addressed issues that I felt were extremely important, and were not covered in normal lessons at our school. In particular, the dangers or pornography, sexualisation in the media and dangers of sexting, concerns that continue to grow. For many of our pupils, the TeenBoundaries work was a revelation. For the first time, they had a productive space to talk about topics that were previously untouched upon at school and home. Students felt it was really helpful to discuss these issues openly, and the role playing helped them to practice how they would react when being put in difficult situations. One student said “They helped to make us more aware so that we wouldn’t be pressured into doing things that could put us at risk”.
The work of Family Lives has impacted upon the whole school. I have shared resources regarding sexting with the Senior Leadership Team. It raised the awareness of this amongst them and it is something now being addressed in PSHCEE lessons with younger students in the school. The Deputy Head in charge of Child Protection spoke about pornography and sexting awareness at a whole staff meeting on the first day of term.