Department for Education figures show Wiltshire schools excluded students 27 times for sexual misconduct in 2018/19 – one permanently and 26 temporarily. This was an increase on the year before.

In 2017/2018, there were no permanent exclusions for sexual misconduct and 21 fixed-term exclusions, representing 0.67 per cent of all FTEs.

While in the academic year 2019/20 there were only 18 fixed term exclusions and zero permanent exclusions for sexual misconduct, this is likely to have been affected by the first Covid lockdown. This represents 0.72 per cent of fixed term exclusions for that year.

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Lucy Townsend, corporate director for people at Wiltshire Council, said that while there has been no “significant increase” in these figures, the local authority takes the issue seriously.

“The local authority provides high quality advice and training in: Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE), as part of a programme of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education; effective behaviour and anti-bullying policies and how to develop meaningful opportunities for student voice where students can discuss and contribute to improving aspects of school life,” she said.

Wiltshire Council is working with the University of Bedfordshire as part of their three year “scale up” project on contextual safeguarding.

“As part of the work with the university we are working with schools and supporting them to explore how to make school environments as safe as possible,” Ms Townsend continued.

“Schools have been invited to briefings around this work and we have developed a champions network to support the delivery of work.

“We are also piloting work directly with schools to support them to explore how to make schools and the local community within which they are sited as safe as possible.”

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Of the exclusions in 2018/19, the vast majority (22) occurred in state-funded secondary schools, two in special needs schools and three in 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.