Schoolgirls who have been raped or sexually assaulted by fellow pupils are being forced to carry on sharing classrooms with the perpetrators, MPs said today.
Schools minister Nick Gibb admitted to the women and equalities select committee that current guidance does not state specifically that children who sexually abuse other children at school should not be put back in the same class as their victims.
Members of the committee quizzed Gibb and fellow government minister Anne Milton on what action had been taken to tackle increasing sexual violence and harassment in schools.
The committee ordered a full inquiry last year after it emerged many schools were failing to properly tackle problems with “lad culture”, with girls regularly reporting unwanted sexual touching and comments.
Chair Maria Miller said she felt current systems aimed at both dealing with and recording incidents, were inadequate and that there was no real way of knowing whether victims were reporting assaults.
“The information is not gathered either by the school or by the police,” she added.
“The lack of protocol or information or guidance as to how you deal with such a situation is leaving headteachers flummoxed.
“l find it extraordinary that young girls are being asked to go back into class with people who have raped them.”
Gibb said such incidents should not happen and that guidelines offered to schools would be revised later this year, with a view to looking at the inclusion that perpetrators of sexual harassment and sexual violence should not be put back in the same class as the victim.
He said schools in which problems were identified would be subject to special Ofsted inspections and that those who fail to protect girls from sexual harassment or sexual violence could be put into special measures.
Equalities minister Anne Milton also told the committee that work to tackle gender stereotyping “could not start early enough” in primary schools.
Miller, who is herself a former women and equalities minister, said: “Ministers’ commitment to tackling the sexual abuse of girls in schools is not in doubt. However, the committee is perplexed as to why the Government is not acting with more urgency when we are talking about girls being abused in our schools, on our watch.
“We look forward to receiving the information the ministers promised, and seeing urgent action so that schools have the information they need and girls are better protected from abuse.”