Milly Wildish – Director of Keys to Safeguarding

A good friend and teacher I have known for 20 years said ‘I can guarantee that ‘doing a Marler’ will have happened between mates as ‘banter’ already this week, and I can also 100% guarantee that some of the young people involved will be very upset and affected by it while laughing along to keep face’.

Recent changes to Keeping Children Safe in Education recognise the serious impact peer on peer abuse has on a child’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. Abuse is abuse and should never be passed off as ‘banter’ or ‘part of growing up’.  Schools work hard to ensure children are given the skills and knowledge to understand what consent means and put strategies in place to identify and prevent peer on peer abuse.  Parents are encouraged to engage with healthy relationships education to develop their children’s attributes to keep them safe.  The DfE think PSHE is so important it is compulsory in primary schools from September 2020.

And there we are, watching the rugby with the kids and one player grabs the genitals of another player and the punditry team make a joke and erupt into laughter.  How many parents laughed along in front of their children and how many parents turned to their children and explained to them, that what they had just seen was unacceptable and not remotely funny?  As parents it is part of our job not to be a hypocrite, we can’t be giving our children lectures when they have treated a peer badly and then chortle when it happens on the playing field.  Children no matter what age need consistent messages from those who are guiding them through the most important years of their lives.

I hope when the discipline panel considers Marler’s punishment, they consider that he is a role model to many young people and he knew his actions were being broadcast to millions.  The impact of his behaviour cannot be underestimated, this is more than poor choices on the pitch. Safeguarding in sport features prominently in the media and sports organisations are fighting hard to promote a culture of safety. Allowing Marler to dilute this message should not be left unpunished.

Keys to safeguarding offer interactive CPD accredited safeguarding training, including a number of specific safeguarding in sport courses.