The Government’s Violence Against Women & Girl’s Strategy states ‘There should be no facet of life where violence and abuse are allowed to occur – at home, at work, at school, online, or on the streets’. Girl Guiding UK have recently published the latest Girls Attitude Survey 2022. Every year, since 2009 they have provided a platform to give girls a voice on the issues that matter to them, by asking over 3,000 girls and young women aged 11-21, how they feel about their everyday lives. This latest survey reports findings on a regional basis for the first time. The evidence shows girls and young women are still concerned about their education, safety, inequalities and their mental health.
The survey found that, unsurprisingly, the pandemic will have a lasting negative impact on their wellbeing and opportunities, with notable differences across nations of the UK. They were asked about community, gender stereotypes, safety and sexism. Girls and young women chose mental health, women and girls’ safety, and equality and inclusion as the issues most important to them.
- A quarter (26%) said they don’t feel safe online and more than 2 in 5 (46%) think there should be a way to ensure users of social media platforms are old enough to use them. Given that 97% of the material that the Internet Watch Foundation took down in 2021 involved girls, this finding is not a surprise.
- Over half (53%) don’t feel safe when they are out on their own.
- Around 1 in 5 (19%) said they don’t feel safe in school.
- 40% say inequality has become worse in the last year with 71% experiencing discrimination. The survey found that girls who are white are more likely to feel safe in school than those who are not white – we need to think deeply on how we can make our practice safer and more inclusive to ensure that all girls feel safe in schools and settings and are empowered to talk about their experiences.
- 80% see or experience sexism online and on social media.
- 36% said they are put off from applying for high profile jobs because of the abuse women in these positions receive online.
- Just 10% are completely happy with their appearance, compared to 42% of 7 to 10-year-olds. The survey shows that pressures around appearance continue to be a real challenge for girls and young women, especially as they get older.
In 2021 the survey reported a ten year decline in girls’ happiness and wellbeing, exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Last year’s survey shows signs that wellbeing is recovering and good mental health is increasing, but it is still lower for older girls. It decreases when girls get to secondary school. We need to think about why this is and how we can support, empower and keep girls safe throughout their school and college years.
Ofsted’s Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges found that incidents in school tend to be ‘lower-level’ sexual harassment, with other incidents tending to happen online, at parties or parks. The report identified that only two in five young people said they would speak to someone at school about sexual abuse, and that school staff rely too heavily on children raising a concern. Inconsistencies in how schools see their role and understand what constitutes harmful sexual behaviour were identified.
Top Tips for Best Safeguarding Practice
- Read the research!
- Consider your pupil voice structures – could you raise similar topics as those in the Girls’ Attitude survey with your children? Can you ask them some of the same questions, and ask the student council to find out some information in relation to the attitudes of girls and young women in your setting?
- Consider how you can tackle some of the topics covered by the survey – safety on the street/in school in PSHE. It is also crucial to involve boys and young men in the discussions.
- Consider disparities in the responses between groups in the school (protected characteristics).
- Consider the structures you have in place to support girls’ happiness, wellbeing, mental health and confidence.