Nine in 10 girls did not say they’d been sent explicit images

14 July 2021
What was claimed

Nine in 10 school-age girls are being sent explicit images.

Our verdict

The evidence, which comes from an Ofsted survey, does not support this claim. It found that 88% of girls said this happens among young people—not that it had happened to them.

Nine in 10 school-age girls are being subjected to indecent exposure on their phones, their iPads and computers.

During Prime Minister’s Questions last week, and on Twitter, the Conservative MP Maria Miller misinterpreted recent Ofsted research on sexual abuse in schools.

As we have said before, based on evidence from a variety of sources, it seems very likely that sexual harassment and abuse are a common problem among schoolchildren, and especially among girls. However, the Ofsted survey does not tell us how common the problem is.

Ofsted visited 32 schools and colleges, which it specifically said “should not be assumed to be a fully representative sample of all schools and colleges nationally.”

During these visits, inspectors asked students to complete a questionnaire, which showed them a list of different types of abusive behaviour and asked: “How often do these things happen between people of your age”. (This is slightly different from the wording that Ofsted originally told us it had used.)

Roughly nine out of 10 girls (88%) said that “being sent pictures or videos they did not want to see” happened “a lot” or “sometimes”.

However, they were not answering a question about what happened to them.

The question was whether people their age are sent pictures or videos that they do not want to see. It’s unclear how students might have interpreted that in their answers so we can’t say that the figure refers to the number of girls, or even students, that this has happened to.

Ms Miller’s office told us that her claim was based on Ofsted’s press statement and its review. We subsequently explained why Ofsted’s statement and review did not support Ms Miller’s claim. She has now added a clarification to her original tweet.

Ms Miller is by no means the only person who misinterpreted Ofsted’s research. As we said in our original fact check, the i, Mirror, Metro, Times, Telegraph, Mail, BBC and ITV all made the same mistake in their reporting.

The day after we published our first fact check, the BBC amended its article and added a clarification.

The fact that many people misunderstood Ofsted’s research in the same way suggests that its press statement and review were not easy for others to understand correctly.

We contacted Ofsted to ask whether it planned to clarify the press release or reach out to news outlets to correct these mistakes. However, Ofsted denies that its communication was misleading, and has told us that it will not clarify it.

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