Data on sexual violence in schools

Sir, – Peter McGuire's article ("How can our education system tackle gender-based violence?", Education, February 8th) reports that a Government-wide strategy is being developed to address male and gender-based violence.

The prevention and protection element of this strategy cannot be delivered by the Department of Education while it refuses to collect data on sexual bullying and harassment in schools. On August 3rd, 2021, an Irish Times article ("State can no longer ignore sexual violence towards teenagers") reported on research commissioned by the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI).

The research, Storm and Stress: An Exploration of Sexual Harassment Amongst Adolescents, noted that the RCNI asked the Department of Education to collect detailed data on sexual bullying in schools in 2013.

This did not happen.


In May 2021, the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, told a joint Oireachtas Committee that the Department of Education “has persistently chosen not to ask about sexual bullying. In 2022, the State will have to account for itself again to the UNCRC (United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child) and confirm that no progress has been made on the collation of sexual violence data in schools.”

In spite of collecting no data on the number of sexual assaults taking place in schools, the Department of Education continues to promote the provision of mixed-sex toilets in new and refurbished secondary school buildings.

In 2018, Unesco urged governments around the world to prioritise the provision of single-sex toilets in schools, warning as many as one in 10 girls are missing out on lessons because of the lack of availability of single-sex toilet facilities.

Data from the UK shows that girls are facing unprecedented levels of sexual assault in schools and that the risk of sexual assault to females rises exponentially in mixed-sex facilities.

Any policy to address violence against women and girls will fail if those responsible for its implementation refuse to record where the violence happens and how often.

Policymakers in this arena must acknowledge that single-sex spaces for women and girls are not exclusionary but vital for their safety, dignity and privacy. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 15.