Sunday was an idyllic, proud day. I went to Bristol University to meet up with my second daughter who has survived Freshers’ Week. It was not only a proud moment but an extremely reassuring one as the week of ‘Freshers’ still remains a cattle market, an initiation with alcohol, pizza and for some, sexual depravity. She was proud to show her mum the welcome pack on her bedside table consisting of two rape alarms, five free bottles of shots and array of free condoms that seemed to be a chocoholic’s delight, with minty freshness and bubble gum for the less discerning. Finally, I had to endure the ‘outfit’ for the ‘safe sex’ party that was the culmination of the week, cleverly called ‘no clothes disco’!
Now I hope my university friends do not think I have turned into a hypercritical Victor Meldrew; the first week at university was ever thus. However, what message are we giving young people? The welcome pack contains free pizza, vouchers, advice on how to stay sexually safe and the obligatory ‘Bible’. This week the Natsal–3 survey reports that:
- One in five women in Britain have been sexually assaulted compared to one in twenty men. sexeducationforum.org.uk
The ramifications of misadventure can be lifelong, going way beyond the inevitable nickname my friend ‘post-it’ endured throughout his four years at university. He awoke from a drink fuelled night to find various post-it notes advertising and advising him of all things possible and impossible in Exeter, stuck via superglue to various parts of his body. The nickname stuck for four years but it could have been worse. Sexual assault leads the victim to a lifelong sentence of self-doubt, low esteem, concerns and personal recriminations.
Using excess alcohol to have the confidence to meet new friends and be socially acceptable would appear to be the British teenage message. For schools that discharge their precious year 13 students to further education, this is a worrying indication of where society is.
The BBC report that 5,500 alleged sex crimes were reported in UK schools in 2014/15 is a major concern, as are the 600 rapes, many of which were peer on peer abuse. Thankfully Ofsted’s new framework has tweaked the ‘Behaviour and Attendance’ judgement to the new all encompassing ‘Personal Development and Welfare’, including ‘Behaviour and Attendance’.
Hopefully, this will ensure schools do deal properly with their statutory responsibility and ensure a proper sex and relationships curriculum is taught by specialists, where all children are aware of consent, responsibility and what a meaningful relationship is. This to me is as important as three levels of progress; it might not make headline judgement figures but if we get it right it will mean more young people have a safer, successful life.
Monday morning brings relief for both of us with Freshers’ Week survived and lectures at last starting. Now that’s the reality of university life, not dressing up in a onesie cow outfit for the zoo disco! I thought that was the domain of parties for six year olds not our university generation, but I am getting old!