The allegations levelled against some of Britain’s top private schools have been deeply troubling. Dulwich College turns boys into sexual abusers, one former pupil has claimed. A ‘dossier of rape culture’ has been compiled by ex students at Westminster School; Latymer Upper School has reported sex abuse allegations to the police. These are just a handful of examples: Everyone’s Invited – an online campaign which invites young people to post anonymous testimonies of sexual assault and harassment – has over 4100 testimonies from girls as young as nine.
For teachers like me who have taught sex education to 14 and 15 year old boys, these allegations are shocking but perhaps not surprising. Sex education has improved enormously since I was at school, when it was pretty much the equivalent of Coach Carr’s warning: ‘Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant… get chlamydia… and die. Now everyone take some rubbers.’ Conversations around issues such as consent are now commonplace. And there is far more focus on the social and emotional implications of sex rather than trying to scare off students with images of childbirth and disease-riddled genitalia.
But why are these awful stories which have emerged not much of a surprise? The answer perhaps comes in the fact that almost every pupil nowadays has a smartphone with unlimited data. Parents too often turn a blind eye to the reality of what this actually means: access to sexual content that they are not mature enough to understand. By the time teachers start discussing the dangers of pornography in Year 10, the damage is already done.
According to recent studies, half of 10 year olds own a smartphone. This is realistically a lot higher in private schools, where wealthy parents can afford to dish out devices with extensive data packages. Correspondingly, 51 per cent of 11 to 13 year olds reported