West Sussex pupils excluded dozens of times for sexual misconduct
Schools in West Sussex excluded pupils for sexual misconduct on dozens of 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 West Sussex schools excluded students 24 times for sexual misconduct in 2018-19 – one permanently and 23 temporarily.
However, this was a decrease on the previous year, when there were 42.
All the exclusions occurred in state-funded secondary schools, with none in special or 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, West Sussex schools excluded pupils 5,371 times in 2018-19 – 5,232 of which were fixed, and 139 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.”