1. To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on whether there should be more programmes in the school curriculum that aim to prevent violence in dating and intimate partner relationships. (S6O-00472)
The Scottish Government is clear that harassment or abuse of any form whether in the workplace, schools, the home or society is completely reprehensible and must stop.
We are taking forward a range of actions such as teaching our children and young people about safe and healthy relationships through relationships, sexual health and parenthood education, and we are funding programmes such as mentors in violence prevention, which is aimed at reducing and preventing sexual harassment and violence in schools.
We are committed to publishing national guidance for schools on addressing gender-based violence. That work is being advanced by the gender-based violence in schools working group, which will review existing resources and develop new resources where needed. That work is expected to be completed by 2022.
Evidence from Canada and the US shows that school-based programmes that seek to prevent violence in dating and intimate partner relationships are effective, so I welcome that answer. A recent report by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills said that in the 32 schools in England that were inspected, nine out of 10 girls said that unsolicited explicit pictures or videos were sent to them or their friends, and the chief inspector of schools in England, Amanda Spielman, stated that it is
“alarming that many children and young people, particularly girls, feel that they have to accept sexual harassment as part of growing up.”
Can the minister tell me whether that is happening to any extent in Scottish schools? It would be deeply concerning if it was. Can she investigate the matter if she does not know? Will she keep me informed of the development of the programme that she referred to?
Pauline McNeill raises an important point, which would concern anyone. We all want children and young people to be able to develop mutually respectful, responsible and confident relationships.
We will continue to fund a range of school-based programmes, which I heard that the member welcomes, and organisations including Rape Crisis Scotland, whose national sexual violence prevention programme in local authority secondary schools across the country has reached 48,000 pupils.
We all realise that the conduct and behaviour of perpetrators need to change if we are to end harassment and abuse across society, including among our young people. We must tackle the underlying attitudes and inequalities that perpetuate that behaviour, and I welcome Pauline McNeill’s support in that endeavour.