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Colleges Taking Action On Abuse Allegations

Jersey College for Girls and Victoria College have acknowledged that "this is no quick fix" but are actively normalising the conversations surrounding sexual misconduct on campus.

The headteachers of JCG and Victoria College have publicly welcomed the Safeguarding Partnership Board's report into allegations of misogyny, sexism and sexual abuse.

The report was prompted by two surveys of sixth form students at JCG following the tragic death of Sarah Everard in March.

They were set up by two students in Years 12 and 13.

The surveys revealed 68 anonymous testimonials from JCG pupils - including allegations of verbal abuse, sexual taunts, intimidating physical behaviour, online harassment, and even one of rape.

The survey which was sent to senior students at JCG.

One student testimonial said that "you couldn’t avoid" the misconduct they faced in and around school.

A few male students also reported facing homophobic taunts and bullying.

JCG Principal, Carl Howarth, says the death of Sarah Everard resonated with JCG pupils and led them to address issues they experienced themselves.

"At JCG, and in many schools across the UK, it unlocked pent-up emotion, frustration and anger resulting in courageous anonymous testimonies ranging from low level to the most serious harassment.

Our students called out cultures of normalised everyday sexual harassment and sought to show that ‘banter’ is not harmless but the foundation of a culture in which children get hurt and are at risk of harm."

JCG Principal, Carl Howarth

Mr Howarth and the school's board of governors have commended the'brave' students for sharing their testimonies. He says schools need to provide a 'safe space' for their students to speak about such issues.

"Schools need to create a safe space where students can come forward and share their experiences. The problem is the word ‘safe’. 

Schools and statutory agencies cannot promise confidentiality and have a duty to make onward referral to other agencies.  However, ‘safe’ in the eyes of students often means precisely the reverse. 

Their decision to use anonymity gave our students the safe space to share their experiences.  It is hoped that this review will help find a solution to this dilemma."

Sitting down with Channel 103 after the report's release, Mr Howarth said there is no simple solution, and putting in place the steps they have already is just the start.

"When this earthquake occurred in March, we were very quick to do everything we could, as soon as we able to do so. But this is not a quick fix. This is not an issue that can be quickly resolved.

This cultural shift will not be made overnight and this is something that will need to be continually focused on for substantial significant change to come about."

The SPB report highlighted a delay in the colleges involving the police and government, which meant agencies had little time to put support services in place before the Easter holidays.

Mr Howarth says the two weeks taken to report the pupils' testimonies was not intentional.

"There was no deliberate delay in reporting, there was a lot going on at the time, it was very fast-moving and there was a lot of information coming in. 

Also, the students were very protective about their information and they wanted to know what was going to happen to it. 

Our priority was supporting the students. That was always our number one priority. As part of that support, we had to gain our students' trust, understanding and acceptance, that we were going to pass this information on.

Whilst in the report it says there is a 10-day delay between receiving the testimonies and passing them on, actually I didn't feel like there was a deliberate delay at the time.

We passed the information onto the police when we felt we had all the information and we were ready, we knew what was happening, we knew what the students were telling us and that we were in a position to fully inform the police and brief them when we eventually sat down with them."

Dr Gareth Hughes, recently appointed Headmaster at Victoria College, has also welcomed the report, saying that 'society must do better'.

"At Victoria College, we take any such allegations incredibly seriously and we wholeheartedly support students speaking up against, and thereby shining a light on, such language and behaviour.

Whilst the report deals with the responses of the Colleges to the anonymous testimonies, it is important to remember what caused students to come forward. Society must do better, and it is this change that has led to much positive work in the last six months, with much more to come."

Victoria College Headmaster, Dr Gareth Hughes

In an interview with Channel 103, ahead of the SPB report being released, Dr Hughes said the college is taking the issues very seriously.

"Making sure that children are happy, safe, and can learn in schools is of absolute paramount importance.

I've been really proud of the way that our leadership group and that of JCG have come together to help solve this particular issue. We want to be seen as taking a lead on this on the island, and really show that we are taking proactive measures."

Dr Hughes went on to highlight the positive changes which have already been put in place on campus to combat issues faced by students.

"A charter created by our sixth-form students outlines clear expectations on language use and behaviour, to make sure they are clear for all.

This is a self-reinforcing charter to say that they want the language to be kind and considerate amongst all students."

Last term, senior staff members from both Victoria College and JCG shared duties - being present in communal areas shared by both colleges and monitoring the behaviour of students. This is something that is continuing this term.

"The leadership teams have visited both schools so the students are aware of who we are so that they feel more comfortable talking to us about any problems, we check in on them regularly.

The boys and girls should be increasingly comfortable and confident about seeing our senior leaders are the school sites. They help to monitor language used but also to provide reassurance that we are taking these issues very seriously.

We want all of our children to be happy, safe, to be themselves, and to be able to learn positively.

I have been very impressed with how all of the staff and students have responded to this."

Starting the term on a positive note, Dr Hughes told students and parents 'my door is open and my ears are open', encouraging students and parents to communicate with him and other senior teachers to encourage change within the school.

"I can't help to change the school unless people tell me what the issues are.

I would encourage all parents to give us a call if something concerns them and speak with us.

If all the adults in the room aren't all on the same side, we can't ever hope to achieve things for our young people."

The full report from the Safeguarding Partnership Board can be found here.

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