Misogyny, Racism and Homophobia; An Ongoing Epidemic of Ignorance in Private Schools

Trigger warning: discussions of sexual violence, rape, racism and homophobia

Private schools are seemingly notorious for having horror stories of insidious harassment of minorities. Although problems of discrimination exist in every UK school, recent evidence suggests that elite private schools, specifically the ones considered the ‘top 10 outstanding’, are becoming the worst places for minorities to be educated, as levels of harassment are on the rise. 

The most notable of these top 10 schools are Eton College, Westminster School, Harrow School, Charterhouse and Winchester College. This ‘elite’ title that is placed upon these schools has seen places of education become a breeding ground for abhorrent behaviour, fuelled by an attitude of invincibility. However, it is important to note that not every privately educated person is unwelcoming and discriminatory towards minorities, as many private schools within the UK are considered ‘low-level’ compared to the likes of Eton. It is more probable that the greater level of exclusivity the school has, the worse the levels of ignorance. Moreover, it may not come as a surprise to know the ignorance and animosity has been pushed to the extreme in recent years as the rising impact of movements such as MeToo, Black Lives Matter and the ongoing battle for LGTBQ+ rights, has subsequently changed the notion of our young society, encouraging them to become more educated on important issues and stand up against ignorance, embracing a zero tolerance attitude. The unspoken rule of taboo has subsequently poisoned private schools, fuelling the ignorance of young, privileged people.  


Private schools have been an increasingly controversial subject in recent years, due to the increasing number of scandals - one of the most notable being the scandal of privately educated Durham and Warwick University students, boasting about sexually harassing and assaulting women. The disgusting comments made in several lad group chats demonstrates the level of passiveness towards the casual derogatory comments made about women that are in these groups. The Durham group chat scandal, now deemed the ‘posh lads chat’, joked about a competition to see which male could sleep with the poorest student – a truly disturbing ‘joke’. The Warwick chat was intensely terrifying due to how comfortable these chat members were with making disturbing comments. Such as, ‘rape the whole flat to teach them a lesson’ or endless chats discussing intent of gang rape and genital mutilation. 

Screenshot taken from Daily Beast's article 'British University Scandal After Students Joke About 'Posh Lads' Competing On 'F***ing The Poorest Girl'

These scandals demonstrate the continuous problem of how comments like these are swept under the carpet by many men, labelling these insidious comments as ‘how boys talk’, it’s just ‘banter’ to them. But this is where the fatal flaw lies. 

Behaviours like this, learnt from one another in elite schools without the prospect of being disciplined, transcends into a much greater mindset of men at higher education level, which filters into general society. 

From picking up this behaviour in the playground and thinking it's ok, to becoming a walking nightmare for women on a university campus. Things have to change, progress must be made. These scandals occurred in 2018 and 2020, and I for one can see no progress or willingness to change amongst males with these insane dangerous and misogynistic mindsets, nor the boards of private schools advocating for change.

Furthermore, an increasingly popular opinion is that private schools breed ignorance towards important issues of race, sexuality and women. It’s important to clarify here that this ‘breeding’ is not taught in the curriculum, but through other, older students who younger boys look up to, as well as peer pressure from surrounding pupils to behave in a certain disturbing manner. It is a vicious cycle. And once again, it’s important to acknowledge that not every person with a private education is a horrible person with disturbing views, however recent statistics and stories of people show that some of the elite privately educated people do not have favourable opinions.

It’s not to say that private schools equate to offensive attitudes, as many state schools can and do show racist, homophobic and misogynistic attitudes. However, conclusions drawn from evidence, statistics and testimonies show us that private schools have considerably higher examples of this type of behaviour. One of the conclusions we can draw is that most issues against minorities are systematically intensified by the silence of staff and the schools itself. The issues of gender segregation and lack of oversight from many teachers in elite private schools, makes private schools a breeding ground for a culture of open and unpunished misogyny, which isn’t taken as seriously as it should. Schools such as Westminster School and Eton College seem to be the worst schools for acts of sexual harassment and an intense culture of misogyny. Our own Etonian educated prime minister has harassment claims against him, demonstrating just how far back this problem spreads and proves the depressing fact that no change has yet to occur.  

To prove to people just how rife this issue is, there is a saddening big list of testimonies which show just how severe this problem is; ‘The Westminster Testimonies’.

The Westminster Testimonies tells of how horrendous and rife sexual assault and rape culture is in the country’s top private schools. Articles tell of cases of assault, and how worryingly normalised it is. The testimonies are almost 30 pages long and stories range from inappropriate comments being made, to acts of merciless sexual assault. For example, ‘the boy actually joked about raping me publicly and no one cared,’ says one entry.’ I was sexually assaulted and groped on a school trip’ reads another. ‘A Westminster boy touched me inappropriately, grabbing me under my clothing.’ They seem to get worse and worse as the pages go on, as these heart-breaking stories are from girls as young as 12. One of the most heart-breaking harrowing stories was, ‘I got fingered by a guy from Westminster at a party when I was 14. Didn’t want it to happen but I was so drunk I couldn’t move... the next day I was in agony.’ As well as, ‘I have been sexually assaulted multiple times in the last year-and-a-half at Westminster.’  

Among these are accounts of online harassment, nudes shared widely without permission among year groups, and in extreme cases, acts of sexual assault within the school premises itself. Other private boys’ schools, including Latymer Upper School, St Paul’s School, Eton and King’s College, have been exposed in anonymous tell all websites as well. In fact, the website, Everyone’s Invited, demonstrates just how rife this issue is within all schools, but most of the accounts are from grammar and private schools across the country. Whilst it is undeniably a problem in every school, there is a strong correlation with intense rape culture and privately educated boys – specifically those going to the top schools in UK, as many of these young abusers pose an attitude of that they know they can get away with it, there are never any consequences, they are invincible.  

This systemic problem isn’t gaining the recognition it needs in order for mass change to occur. In fact, the first person to speak out was the Chief of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman. She wrote to the then education secretary in 2018 and 2019, saying her organisation was unable to monitor the Independent Schools Inspectorate, who inspect elite private schools, and was concerned that this system was ‘not currently configured so that any problems can be spotted and tackled’. A 2019 study by the National Education Union found that over a third (37%) of female students at mixed-sex schools in the UK have personally experienced sexual harassment, and almost a quarter (24%) have been subject to unwanted physical touching of a sexual nature while at school. It is increasingly clear that a fear of a bad reputation of these institutions is letting their young students down.

The cases of Sarah Everard and Sabrina Nessa saw concurrently the level of misogyny in all schools rapidly increase, as well as seeing female empowerment taking over schools. Many feminist movements such as the MeToo campaign, as well as the release of horrifying statistics which depicted that 97% of women have suffered sexual assault or unwanted harassment, sparking a battle within schools up and down the country: misogynist's vs feminists. One of the fundamental problems that has created this intense culture of misogyny in private schools, is the attitudes of these privileged males. There is an overwhelming level of acceptance for inherent behaviour. Many people turn a blind eye to this ‘boys will be boys’ culture, as well as inappropriate behaviour ignored and the most horrifying of them all; intense pressure to engage with sexual acts in order to escape threats of embarrassment from their peers. This passive attitude of the school boards and failure to prosecute has created unsafe learning environments. Schools, whether they be private or state, are meant to be safe places for people to learn, yet this epidemic of harassment and culture of misogyny has robbed students of that safe place. Changed must be ensued, we must protect our young people from acts of assault and we must change the lad culture in private schools.  


Racism stalks the corridors of every school, however, in private schools, the lack of diversity allows room for ignorance and rampant racism to take charge. And in a place where ignorance goes majorly unpunished, these attitudes grow and fester. As of the 2021 Independent School Census , 35% of privately educated students were classified as minority ethnic, and while it’s important to remember that only 14.4% of the UK are people with ethnic minority backgrounds, minorities in elite private schools have to face the ignorance of privileged white students – this ultimately places minorities in a situation of disadvantage. A significant problem, that is consistent with minorities and private schools, is that the reputation of schools and issues of management obsessed with damage control is hurting minorities, and it is subsequently contributing to systemic racism, in order to get a good Ofsted mark.  

I wanted to get some first-hand knowledge, so I interviewed my friend, who spoke about his experiences in private education as a black male. I asked him:

‘Are there any instances of racism that you experienced that you vividly remember?’

‘Yes, I had an encounter with one of the pupils in my school during a PE lesson, the pupil called me the n-word once and then began to repeat it multiple times to my face. He was influenced by his fellow friends and peers to say the n-word. Bearing in mind, my school was predominantly white with very few black people in the school, and the pupil harassing me was white. The pupil thought it was a ‘bit of banter’ or a ‘joke’ but to me, it really affected me emotionally. The outcome of the situation was that I ended up punching the pupil in the face out of anger.’

‘Did your experience make you think differently about your race?’

‘Yes, majorly as I did not expect to experience such hate for the colour of my skin, especially in a school setting. It has given me a wider scope to the levels of racism black people and people of colour experience on a day-to-day basis.’

He talks about how ‘casual’ racist remarks are viewed by other pupils, which captures the very root of the problem of tackling racism in these schools: just how comfortable white, privileged males are with using racial slurs and making racist jokes, because to them ‘it’s just banter’. This is similar to most private school experiences that minorities have – the similarities between differing experiences always seem to include casual racism, the normalisation of microaggressions, and most shocking of all, the perpetrators would never admit they were racist. A lot of private school students and teachers fail to realise the damaging, emotional side effects racism within schools have. Constant harassment for the colour of your skin and your culture can break a person’s identity down. Schools are places of education and students are supposed to feel protected. But the reality is, most privately educated minorities may ‘not expect to experience such hate for the colour of [their] skin, especially in a school setting’.  

Just like issues with misogyny and homophobia, racism in private schools is an epidemic of ignorance, which is intensified by the lack of discipline, the sheer desperation of these elite schools to have a glowing reputation and most significantly, the lack of understanding of minority issues that is missing from the school curriculum.  


Homophobia within state and private schools has had a long history of being quite prominent, where being gay in any school is undoubtedly hard. Coming to terms with your sexuality whilst being surrounded by certain individuals that would harass you for being gay is undoubtedly a tarrying phenomenon, making your school life difficult to say the least. Being gay wasn’t legalised until 1967 in England, however, with Thatcher introducing Section 28 of the local government act, this legislation prevented the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools which subsequently wasn’t removed until late 2003. Because of this, many young gay people have been forced to experience a very difficult school life, which has only been intensified by the immense ignorance of certain private school pupils. And still, the private sector seems to be riddled with hushed tones on the topic of homosexuality. It’s quite clear that the ignorance towards different sexualities within schools is worsened by the lack of curriculum giving education on inclusivity. Only until recently was sex education for LGBTQ+ people introduced into school PSHE lessons. This is a slight victory, but I have no doubt that the teaching of lesbian safe sex will be sexualised and made fun of by ignorant pupils.  

An article by Pink News once again demonstrates how the added complication of money combined with a stellar reputation in private schools, ‘makes suspensions and expulsions for homophobia or any kind of bullying few and far between, despite a ‘zero-tolerance policy’. Furthermore, there is a link between the misogynistic ‘lads’ culture and homophobia within private schools. This is frightfully clear for queer, lesbian and bi-sexual women, as many recall how them coming out in private school led to accusations of ‘attention-seeking’, coupled with gross sexualisation by male pupils. Furthermore, the articles tell of how if men were ‘feminine’ they were victimised. There were no ‘soft’ men. As well as that, teachers were unprepared to deal with crises of sexuality, even if they themselves were queer.

People are mercilessly bullied. Lad culture is poisoning minds, which subsequently always affects minorities. People labelled as ‘different’ are the ones who face bullying and harassment, which can have extreme consequences. Happiness 1st Institute reveals just how serious the effects of bullying in private schools can be. It tells of how a 2014 study, found than 10.1% of privately educated students thought about committing suicide and half of those (5.2%) made plans to commit suicide. More than half of those who made plans attempted to commit suicide (2.8%). If these numbers seem abhorrent to you, you’ll be shocked to learn the frequency was about half what the researchers found for state educated children. This study was 6 years ago, so just imagine how much worse those figures would be now as the rise of racism, homophobia and misogyny has rapidly increased in recent years.  

Looking to the future

It’s unarguable that this epidemic of ignorance is destroying the rightful education of minorities, in both private and state schools. But it's evidently clear this epidemic is far more dangerous, in a place where ignorance goes persistently unpunished due to elite schools desperately wanting to maintain an elite reputation. Change must occur, as our younger generations are being poisoned, ultimately shrinking the goal of inclusivity, making private schools prejudicial playgrounds.

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