Bedford pupils excluded dozens of 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 Bedford excluded pupils for sexual misconduct on dozens of occasions over a ten-year period, 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 Bedford schools excluded students 39 times for sexual misconduct between 2009 and 2019 – one permanently and 38 temporarily.
Of these, the vast majority (36) occurred in state-funded secondary schools and three in primary schools.
Just one exclusion took place in 2018-19 – the year with the latest available figures.
It was 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, Bedford schools excluded pupils 1,260 times in 2018-19 – 1,217 of which were fixed, and 43 permanent.
A Borough Council spokesperson said, "Only a headteacher has the power to exclude pupils, which means that exclusions for sexual misconduct are dealt with by the individual school where the issue arises.
"The Local Authority expects headteachers to follow national and local safeguarding processes in order to ensure that they keep all members of their school community safe.
“The term ‘sexual misconduct’ may be used to reflect a wide range of behaviours that a headteacher feels fits this category.”
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.”