The headmaster, Dr Savage, of a top private school has issued a “sincere and unreserved” apology following the publication of two independent reviews, for any hurt caused to pupils following allegations of racism and harmful sexual behaviour.
The reviews were commissioned following the Everyone’s Invited and Black Lives Matter national campaigns.
The Everyone’s Invited website was set up for survivors to share their experiences and post their testimonies completely anonymously; the mission to expose and eradicate rape culture.
The school was one of many that appeared on the Everyone’s Invited website whereby pupils (past and present) posted 44 testimonies of sexual abuse and harassment they had experienced whilst at the school – mostly committed by other pupils. Examples of harassment include verbal or online comments, sharing sexual images without consent, abusive relationships, sexual and sexist bullying, rape and the ignorance of the meaning of consent. Social media was used to rapidly spread gossip, bullying and unsolicited sexual images.
The school is predominantly attended by boys with girls attending post-16. Of the girls surveyed as part of the review into harmful sexual behaviours at the school, 65% had experienced at least one instance of the behaviours described above.
Amongst the 70 recommendations following the review, the school was advised to overhaul its relationships and sex education curriculum and put more emphasis on how to create healthy relationships, educate on gender stereotypes and equality. Staff should also receive training on how to deal with matters beyond the normal curriculum such as mental health support.
The Race Review found “Significant events, such as the spotlight on Black Lives Matter, led to an increased awareness of racism but the continued denial of racism and invisibility of the issue as part of the school environment led to a dichotomy between those for whom this was very important and those who felt that they had ‘done awareness’ – so there is no need to ‘keep talking about it’.
There are relatively low numbers of black pupils in the school making it ‘emotionally draining’ for those pupils to challenge racist behaviour thereby drawing additional attention to themselves. It added that staff felt unsure how to effectively deal with racial harassment incidents.
The Race Review made 25 recommendations, including increasing the offer of counselling to victims, publicising its racial harassment policy and recruiting a more diverse teaching staff.
In response to the reviews, Dr Savage said “We certainly acknowledge that opportunities to learn have been missed in the past and welcome the advice in these reviews as to how we might reflect upon those and continue to improve”.
The recommendations are not all specific to Westminster School and all schools should consider those recommendations and what more they need to do.
Written by Lyndsey Jackson at BLM (firstname.lastname@example.org)