A “shocking new trend” in sexual bullying has been revealed as figures showed more than 3,000 children were suspended from school for sexual misconduct.
Around 3,500 pupils in England were given fixed-term exclusions for sexual misconduct in the academic year 2006-07 – including 260 in primary schools, statistics from the Department for Children, Schools and Families have shown.
The figures were featured in a BBC1 Panorama programame which quoted the findings of a survey of 11 to 19-year-olds by the charity Young Voice, showing one in 10 had been forced against their will to take part in sex acts.
Sexual misconduct can cover behaviours from sexually-explicit graffiti to name-calling, inappropriate touching and serious attacks.
Groping and the use of sexually-abusive nicknames have become almost part of daily life for pupils, according to the programme.
Presenter Jeremy Vine said he gathered a dozen mothers and fathers in a bar to talk about sexual bullying. “They spoke about mobiles, music and the internet, freely admitting policing TV viewing was nigh-on impossible because of the ease with which children can access programmes out of hours,” he said.
Richard Piggin, from the charity Beatbullying, said sexual bullying was “relatively common” and a serious problem. “We are looking at sexual misconduct, name-calling and also inappropriate touching, and young people being forced into sexual activity they are not comfortable with,” he said. “There is a significant number of young people we have worked with who have told us they have either experienced it, or seen it in their schools or community.”
The programme comes after children’s secretary Ed Balls asked the Anti Bullying Alliance to draw up guidance for teachers on tackling sexual bullying.
The guidance will tackle inappropriate language and advise teachers on how to manage harassment.