Nursery pupils excluded for being sexually explicit in class

Teachers fear child abuse may be to blame for 'worrying' behaviour
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Children as young as five are being excluded from school for indulging in explicit sexual behaviour, a report by inspectors reveals today.

A survey by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, says more than one in five primary schools have reported "inappropriate sexual behaviour" by children aged four to seven. At eight schools, children had been excluded as a result of their behaviour.

The incidents have raised fears about child abuse, although some teachers' leaders believe the "sexploitation" of children by commercial organisations could be to blame.

Two schools expressed concern about a "worrying lack of response" by local authority support services to "concerns about seemingly serious incidents". One school was told a five-year-old was "too young for a referral and he might grow out of it" .

The report calls on authorities to record details of each child excluded for sexually inappropriate behaviour and monitor all subsequent actions taken by support services.

Mick Brookes, the National Association of Headteachers general secretary, said: "Some of it could be innocent childish behaviour but there are some quite worrying things going on."

The survey was prompted by figures showing that more than 4,000 children aged under five were excluded from school last year, 1,450 for assaults on adults and 1,010 for attacking children. Some children had been excluded more than 10 times in a year.

Reported incidents included biting, a persistent refusal to follow instructions, swearing, running away from staff, kicking or hitting staff, climbing the school fence and throwing chairs.

Inspectors examined the records of 13 children who had been excluded for more than 10 days or more than five times in a year and found all were boys and five had special needs.

The inspectors visited 27 schools that had not excluded any pupils. They attributed their success to close relationships with parents and clear behaviour policies, and praised the schools for introducing "circle time" where pupils were encouraged to talk together about anything troubling them.

Christine Gilbert, the chief schools inspector, said: "Many schools are skilled at promoting positive behaviour and attitudes in all young children and giving them a good start to their education. It is important that others can learn from this best practice."

Mr Brookes said a measure of the increasing behaviour problems came from a teacher interview with a three-year-old and his mother at an early years centre, during which the child told his parent: "Fuck off, you bitch!"