Central Bedfordshire pupils excluded more than a dozen times for sexual misconduct as Government launches review into issue in schools
Charity Rape Crisis said the figures do not show the true scale of sexual abuse inside schools
Schools in Central Bedfordshire excluded pupils for sexual misconduct on more than a dozen occasions in just one year, figures reveal.
But charity Rape Crisis said the figures do not show the true scale of sexual abuse inside schools, following thousands of allegations by students across England.
Department for Education figures show Central Bedfordshire schools excluded students 13 times for sexual misconduct in 2018-19 – all of which were temporary exclusions.
However, this was a decrease on the previous year, when there were 18.
Of the exclusions in 2018-19, the vast majority (11) occurred in state-funded secondary schools and two in primary schools.
They were among 1,972 sexual misconduct exclusions – which include incidents of sexual abuse, sexual bullying and sexual harassment – across England that year.
Though a 13 per cent drop on the year before, Rape Crisis said the number of exclusions will not show the true scale of sexist bullying and sexual violence being perpetrated in schools, particularly against girls.
Katie Russell, national spokeswoman for the charity, added: "We’ve known for a number of years about the high prevalence and serious impacts of sexual violence and abuse in schools.
"The Women and Equalities Select Committee published a comprehensive report into this issue with clear recommendations back in 2016, some of which are yet to be implemented.
"No-one in the Government can claim not to have known about this situation and action clearly should have been taken before now.”
More than 14,000 testimonies have been posted on the Everyone’s Invited website, where pupils can anonymously share their experiences of abuse and assault.
Some students have accused their establishments of not tackling a “rape culture”.
Website founder Soma Sara said the number of students who have the confidence to report incidences of sexual misconduct pales in comparison to the number who have suffered.
The Government announced an immediate review into sexual abuse in schools in the wake of the allegations, while an NSPCC helpline and an Ofsted review were also launched.
Children's charity Barnardo’s said young victims of harmful sexual behaviour often feel embarrassed or fear they won’t be taken seriously.
Javed Khan, chief executive, said: “In some cases exclusions are necessary, but all children displaying inappropriate sexual behaviour must have access to therapeutic support so they can understand, confront and change their behaviour through trauma informed rehabilitation."
He added that the introduction of statutory relationship education in September was an important step, but much more is needed to prevent harm.
Overall, Central Bedfordshire schools excluded pupils 2,162 times in 2018-19 – 2,112 of which were fixed, and 50 permanent.
A Central Beds Council spokesperson said: “The council takes these incidents very seriously and ensures that appropriate support and advice is offered to schools, parents and pupils when these situations have occurred, to both address what has taken place and to help prevent further incidents.
“This would happen irrespective of whether there has been an exclusion or not. Incidents are investigated at a school level, in line with their policies, and support is sought from the council or police as required.
"We are continuously reviewing the protocols, guidance and training available to our schools to ensure they are well equipped to recognise, identify and respond to any incidents of sexual misconduct.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “Where schools do not meet the strict safeguarding standards that we have in place, we will take swift action and we will always back headteachers to remove a pupil from the classroom where this creates a calm and disciplined environment.
“We would encourage anyone who is aware of any specific incidents – and feels comfortable reporting their concerns – to do so.”