Revealed: Nearly 300 sex offences recorded on Norfolk school grounds in past five years
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The scale of sex offences recorded on school grounds in Norfolk over the past five years has been revealed.
According to police data, 279 sex crimes - both recent and historic - were recorded between 2016-2020.
The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, come as campaigners hope changes to sex and relationships education will help reinforce “the importance of consent”.
From September, the government made it compulsory for English secondary schools to teach relationships and sex education (RSE).
For schools insufficiently prepared for the curriculum change due to the pandemic, a “flexible” deadline of summer 2021 was announced in June.
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Half of the suspects were aged 11-16.
In 71 of the 279 offences, the gender of the alleged perpetrator was not recorded. But among the remainder, 98pc were male.
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The data also shows most reports do not end in a criminal prosecution, with a “positive resolution” reached in just 91 of the 279 cases.
Of the recorded offences, 190 related to female victims and 72 to male victims - with 17 reports simply referring to “a child”.
For the schools with the highest number of recorded offences, headteachers stressed that RSE had been taught long before it became compulsory - and that a lot of the cases ended up being “groundless”.
One headteacher explained: “It would be standard practice for any school to contact the police if unlawful activity occured on its premises and work in partnership with them.”
A high school which reported 13 sex offences to police between 2016-2020 said many of the offences on school grounds did not involve students, or happened outside school hours.
Another said the 10 cases at their school were separate reports relating to two incidents, and that the numbers “looked worse than they were”.
A further school with nine reported offences said they went beyond what was required in the RSE curriculum, and regularly reviews ways of “preparing pupils for life beyond the classroom”.
All, however, said they take incidents of a sexual nature “very seriously”.
For police, investigating reports of sexual violence involving children is complex.
“When a sex offence takes place between pupils we need to consider whether the offender and victim are both under 16 or the act is consensual,” said a spokesman for Norfolk Constabulary.
“As part of an investigation officers will liaise with the school and partner agencies to look at the needs of the children involved, and then put the appropriate levels of support into those families before action is taken.
“In any event the concerns of the victim are always at the forefront of our policing.”
For charities, however, schools need to do more in creating safe spaces where students feel able to report inappropriate behaviour.
Plan International UK’s ‘Learn Without Fear’ campaign aims to end violence in schools.
Rosie Caldwell, CEO of the charity, said: “We are saddened yet not surprised by these findings.
“Though girls continue to outperform boys in attainment, we know they are held back by sexual harassment in school.
“This doesn’t stop outside the classroom - two in three girls have experienced harassment in a public place, and of those, around 35pc experience it while wearing a school uniform.”
She added: “Girls and boys must be educated about, and feel able to report, illegal behaviour - so we welcome the changes to the RSE curriculum.”
Likewise for Rebecca Hitchin from End Violence Against Women, which runs the #MeToo at Schools campaign, teachers must get into the habit of “analysing risk through the lens of sexual violence and harassment”.
She said: “We need to move away from the phrase that “boys will be boys” and point out problematic male behaviours.
“Effective RSE will let children know what is acceptable, stop the reliance on pornography as their main sex educator and hopefully enable better analysis by young people of what porn contains and most notably what it doesn’t - consent.”