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Staff INSET Training with Dr Elly Hanson
At the start of the Spring term, we welcomed Dr Elly Hanson to address staff at our INSET training day.
Conversations surrounding sexual health and wellness go far beyond biological textbooks and old-fashioned talks about the very misleading ‘birds and bees.’ They are emotional and complex issues that require careful and respectful consideration. Dialogues surrounding sexual harassment and pornography must be spoken about openly and confidently to confront the dangers they possess and the effects that they have on young people.
Dr Hanson is a Clinical Psychologist, writer, and researcher whose work has focused on preventing abuse, harm, and injustice. The INSET training session for staff, entitled ‘Sexual harassment and pornography: Understanding, preventing, and responding', was a discussion on how schools should be tackling these issues in a more open and productive way.
How can schools prevent sexual harassment and respond well?
- See and name the problem – define, assess, map, understand.
- Tackle its contributors, e.g., pornography.
- Deter through sanctions and narratives that stigmatise.
- Support those affected with protective responses.
- Nurture core goods and encourage core ethical values.
Gender norms are societal constructions that suggest which sets of behaviours are more commonly attributed to men and women. While these norms change amongst different societies and times, the current norms that we exist with can perpetuate some of the cultural acceptance surrounding sexual misconduct.
The notion that ‘boys will be boys’, with a focus on sex drive, conquest, entitlement, restricted emotion, and lack of vulnerability, are norms that should be attributed solely to unacceptable behaviour as opposed to defining characteristics of men. Likewise, the notions that women should be focused on appearance, being vulnerable and passive in sexual situations, requires redirection and revaluation.
Conversations addressing these issues can be awkward, but they do not have to be. Research shows that younger generations are clearly aware of awkwardness from teachers in discussions about sexual harassment and pornography. This has led to somewhat clinical and in many cases uncomfortable projections on how we should approach sexual wellness. Dr Hanson advised Bryanston staff to lean into the awkwardness, which in turn will help empower our younger generation to feel confident in disclosing information.
Dr Hanson went on to explain the ways in which pornography promotes a set of sexual scripts, including transgression, violation, dominance, and misogyny. The porn industry looks to bring to fruition elements of the human psyche that fall into these categories, whilst missing the script for good sexual ethics, including kindness, honesty, equality, chemistry, connection, and communication.
Staff were asked to consider whether we have failed as a society if platforms like PornHub are freely available to the younger generation at just one click of a button. How are we meant to challenge the implicit messages of pornography if this is their first experience of sex?
How can we further solidify our whole-school approach to tackling sexual harassment and pornography?
- Seeing the problem – focus groups, considering perspectives of staff, parents and pupils, surveys, questionnaires.
- RSE and PSHE programmes.
- A clear set of sanctions and ready responses to low level behaviour.
- 2-way communication with parents.
- Multiple routes for pupils to safely disclose information.
- Practical interventions.
- Reduce exposure to contributors.
- Consistent messaging.
- Time and support for teachers and staff.
- Person or team with dedicated time.
Dr Hanson closed the session asking us to consider whether we can package sexual harassment as shameful, shocking, a sign of weakness, and a sign of vulnerability – to prevent packaging it as an acceptable cultural norm.
We are hugely grateful to Dr Elly Hanson for giving up her time to speak with staff and deliver such an insightful session. We look forward to inviting Dr Hanson back in June for a special event where we are planning to further drive awareness on how Bryanston is working towards empowering its pupils, staff, and parents. We are aiming to bring about positive change and maintain a safe and inclusive school community.