SCORES of Wigan school children – some as young as five – have been excluded from schools across the borough for serious sexual abuse, watching pornography and sharing inappropriate images of themselves.
The shock figures revealed 57 youngsters in the borough were excluded between January 2010 and September 2013. The revelations come following an investigation by the Press Association.
While local authorities have been careful not to disclose any details of sexual misconduct through risk of identifying potential victims, the Press Association investigation has been able to offer a glimpse into the nature of some behaviour within England’s classrooms.
The vague term “sexual misconduct” is used to describe incidents from graffiti in the school toilets to serious offending, such as sexual abuse and using pornography in school.
The figures show children as young as four and five have been reprimanded between January 2010 and September 2013, while the number of boys involved in sexual misconduct outnumbers girls by a rate of around 10-1.
A spokesman for Wigan Council said: “Like any local authority, Wigan Council is concerned when any incidents of sexual abuse or misconduct are reported by our children and young people or the adults that work with them.
“We have a number of support measures in place to give schools the confidence to identify, respond to and refer when any issues occur.
“The Wigan Safeguarding Children’s Board (WSCB) website can be accessed by members of the public and by schools. It offers information and advice on a range of topics including cyber bullying, e-safety – safer working practice, Click clever, click safe. There is also a comprehensive e-safety policy that has been developed with and for our schools and this is supported by a range of training opportunities available for schools and other professionals.
“WSCB also has information on indicators to look out for and processes for keeping children safe from sexual exploitation that can be accessed via the website: www.wiganlscb.com/e-safety.asp
“In addition, WSCB is currently putting together a training package which will be presented by the WSCB young apprentices in schools, on keeping yourself safe on line. WSCB has recently responded to a request from a High School in the local area to present sessions to the school assembly on ‘Age of Consent for Sexual Intercourse’ and ‘Keeping Yourself Safe in the Community’.
“If schools or professionals are concerned about sexually harmful behaviour they are able to use the AIM process (Assessment, Intervention and Moving On) in Wigan and further training is being developed to support with this assessment tool. Wigan Council staff work in close partnership with Brook to refer children that may need additional support. In addition, we also commission services from Barnardos - Safer Futures Project for children and young people that may need a more therapeutic approach.”
The figures have brought about strong concerns from children’s charities.
Jon Brown, head of tackling child sexual abuse at the NSPCC, said: “The extent of sexual harassment, inappropriate sexual behaviour and in the worst cases violence by children is extremely concerning.
“Exposure to extreme, sometimes sexually violent and degrading material is now only a few clicks away and this can warp young people’s views of what is normal and acceptable sexual behaviour. Sexting (sending sexual text messages) is now the norm for many young people who may find once they start sending explicit pictures of themselves the situation spirals out of control.
“We need good quality, age appropriate education in schools to help young people develop healthy, positive relationships with each other, so that children understand consent, do not feel so pressurised to behave in a sexualised way, and respect themselves and others.”