Fears over dozens of Wigan pupils barred for sex assaults
Wigan schools have excluded scores of pupils for sexual misconduct - but experts believe the figures do not reveal the true extent of the problem.
New research show that children have been kicked out on almost 100 occasions over a 10-year period.
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.
The statistics were released as a growing crisis emerged in schools across the country surrounding rape and sexual abuse allegations.
And now Ofsted has announced plans for a review into safeguarding policies and practices at schools following concerns about widespread sexual abuse.
More than 14,000 reports were posted on the Everyone’s Invited website where students can anonymously share their experiences of misogyny, harassment, abuse and assault.
Department for Education figures show Wigan schools excluded students 91 times for sexual misconduct between 2009 and 2019 – all of which were temporary exclusions. Of these, the vast majority (74) occurred in state-funded secondary schools and 17 in primary schools.
Three exclusions took place in 2018-19 – the year with the latest available figures.
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, Wigan schools excluded pupils 2,445 times in 2018-19 – 2,385 of which were fixed, and 60 permanent.
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.”
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