Labour has warned of a “growing scourge” of misogyny in Britain’s classrooms, saying it will “store up huge problems” if the issue goes unaddressed.

The party pointed to analysis from the House of Commons Library that showed a sharp rise in references to sexual harassment, sexual abuse and safeguarding incidents in Ofsted reports since 2017.

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, said: “Misogyny is a growing scourge in our classrooms and if we fail to tackle it now, we store up huge problems for society in years to come.

Romania Andrew Tate
Social media influencer Andrew Tate, who is currently awaiting trial for rape and human trafficking in Romania, has been accused of fuelling a rise in misogyny (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

“Female pupils and teachers deserve the right to a safe space, but it is evident that content from influencers such as Andrew Tate is having a lasting and damaging impact on boys and young men.”

The statistics show that while there were no mentions of sexual harassment in Ofsted reports in 2017, that figure reached 40 mentions in 2021 and 106 mentions in 2022. References to sexual abuse rose from 4 in 2017 to 28 in 2022, while mentions of safeguarding incidents doubled from 43 to 87.

Social media has been partly blamed for a rising tide of misogyny in schools, with the influence of figures such as Tate – currently awaiting trial for rape and human trafficking in Romania – seen as contributing to a trend of “toxic masculinity”.

Ms Phillipson added: “Parents across the country are rightly concerned about the impact this is having on children, particularly the sexual harassment being suffered by young women and girls.

“That is why I have set out measures today to equip schools with the tools they need to rid our education system of these misogynistic views, teach our children right from wrong, and implement better safeguarding measures.

“Labour is the party of high and rising standards, which is why alongside long overdue reform of Ofsted inspection, we will ensure the regulator conducts annual safeguarding inspections to identify where problems exist – and keep our schools and children safe.”

Labour has previously said it would put lessons on treating women and girls with respect onto the school curriculum as part of a pledge to halve violence against women, and give Ofsted the power to conduct annual safeguarding checks to identify harmful behaviour.

On Tuesday, Ms Phillipson provided more detail, saying the party would create regional improvement teams to provide training so older schoolboys can coach younger boys in recognising and stopping misogyny.

She also committed to embedding digital literacy in the curriculum to help combat online hate and misinformation.

Teaching unions welcomed Ms Phillipson’s proposals, saying it was “vital that every action that can be taken is taken to stamp out such abuse”.

Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Education Union said: “This can feel like an overwhelming challenge for schools and one where things are constantly changing.

“Labour have recognised that the curriculum and what skills are valued and taught must fit the modern day.”

He added: “Sexism in schools is symptomatic of gender inequality across our society. Using education to prevent sexist ideas and attitudes is vital – but only with a whole school approach and an approach that’s supportive of schools.”

NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach said: “We know from reports from members, our casework and previous research that sexual harassment and sexist abuse towards both female teachers and pupils in schools and colleges is commonplace and that the majority of incidents fail to be reported or dealt with effectively.

“We welcome the commitment to tackling the many forms of misogyny and supporting effective practice in schools. This must also include equipping schools to confront sexism and misogyny in the curriculum.”

Margaret Mulholland, of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), backed Labour’s plans to improve digital literacy to combat misogyny.

She said: “Schools and colleges have an important role to play in helping young people to navigate the digital world and already teach the importance of respectful relationships as part of relationships and sex education (RSE).

“It’s important that young people, particularly boys, are involved in the conversation to combat this problem and feel empowered to make good decisions and form healthy relationships.

“However, support from politicians and external agencies is also welcome, as schools cannot fight this battle alone, and we are pleased to see Labour devote attention to this important issue.”