St Albans school responds to Everard and Nessa murders with workshops for boys

Fourteen and Fifteen-year-olds at Verulam School have been learning about sexual consent and relationships. Photo: Danny Loo.

Fourteen and Fifteen-year-olds at Verulam School have been learning about sexual consent and relationships. Photo: Danny Loo. - Credit: Archant

Teenage boys at a St Albans school are learning about sexual consent in response to the murders of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard.

The partnership between Verulam School in St Albans and sexual abuse charity Survivors UK aims to teach young men about appropriate relationships.

The charity has led sessions on a range of topics including sexual violence, domestic abuse and cyber-flashing with boys aged 14-15.

A national Ofsted investigation in June found over half of students had experienced unwanted touching while at school. Meanwhile, 90 per cent of girls had been sent explicit pictures.

Julie Richardson , the school’s first ever female headteacher in its 83 year history, said the school wants to help young men develop healthy adult relationships: “Let’s be frank, this has been an issue in schools for many years, it is something we need to be addressing though many are not.

“For us this is not tick box exercise. It is embedded in our curriculum and to me is as important as English and maths.

"I want our students to pursue their dreams, be  emotionally, mentally and spiritually secure and successful, as well as achieving strong academic results.

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“For me, schools have failed if their children leave with good exam results but they’re not comfortable in their own skin, or feel that they don’t belong.

“Bringing in expertise and people who are used to answering some of the really challenging questions that young people will sometimes have about consent and domestic violence will help tenfold. These people are experts in their field.”

“There is still a concerning amount of violence against women not just in this country but globally.

“The majority of perpetrators are men. Sabina Nessa and before her Sarah Everard are more another tragic examples of why important it is to educate the next generation of young men. It is time for the talking to stop and for action. At Verulam we are driving the action, not waiting for society to catch up.” 

Outreach and engagement lead for Survivors UK Sam Thomson added: “I think what Verulam and Julie are doing is frankly amazing.

“Instead of brushing it under the carpet the school is meeting these challenges head on.

“This is exactly what every school in the country should be doing, taking a proactive approach to a very important issue.

“I was very pleased with the boys' responses. They showed great maturity and seemed to take onboard what we were saying.

“It is a process and it is about education. We are educating these young men how to be good partners, fathers, there can be nothing more important than that.”