BBC report highlights the prevalence of peer-on-peer sexual assaults in schools

A BBC investigation reveals that thousands of sexual assaults have taken place in schools in the past three years, with over a fifth of the incidents carried out by pupils on other pupils.

The BBC report – covered in Sunday’s 5 Live Investigates (listen here) – reveals that more than 5,500 alleged sex crimes in UK schools were reported to police in the last three years. Freedom of Information requests sent to all UK forces showed there were nearly 4,000 alleged physical sexual assaults and more than 600 rapes.

At least a fifth of offences were carried out by children, in so-called "peer-on-peer" abuse.

PSHE Association Deputy CEO Jenny Barksfield, discussing the investigation on BBC Breakfast on Sunday morning, said that "pupils are not learning about consent and healthy relationships in many schools due to PSHE education’s non-statutory status. Without this, schools are under no obligation to provide lessons on these issues, and when they do they are often delivered by untrained, unprepared teachers". A 2013 Ofsted report revealed that PSHE provision was substandard in 40% of schools.

Current legislation only requires schools to teach about sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, and only applies to maintained secondary schools (which, with the increasing number of schools becoming academies, constitute less than half of all secondary schools).

Jenny stressed that “All young people, whether they go to maintained schools or academies, need to learn about healthy relationships and consent. That’s why we need statutory PSHE to guarantee lessons in all schools.

Although the PSHE Association has produced comprehensive guidance on the teaching of consent, this guidance won't be implemented in enough schools without the adequate curriculum time, resources and teacher training that would result from statutory status".

Speaking on 5 Live, Chief Constable Simon Bailey - the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on child protection and abuse – suggested that these figures are only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and that inappropriate behaviour must be tackled in schools at an early stage to prevent it escalating into more serious issues.

The government is due to respond to the Education Select Committee recommendation that PSHE education be made statutory.

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