Shock at number of school sex offences

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POLICE were called to deal with a report of a sexual offence in a county school almost every month last year.

Newly released figures have revealed that Lancashire Police received 28 reports of sexual offences – including rape and sexual assault – between 2011 and 2015.

There were six allegations of sexual offences on school premises recorded in 2011/12, six in 2012/13, five in 2013/14 and 11 in 2014/15 with two suspects being charged.

The figures were obtained by global children’s charity Plan International UK, which is calling for more lessons on sex and consent in schools.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Dent, of the Lancashire Constabulary Public Protection Unit, has moved to play down the severity of the figures. There were six reports of sexual offences on school premises recorded in 2011/12, six in 2012/13, five in 2013/14 and 11 in 2014/15 with two suspects being charged.

Reported incidents included rape, sexual activity involving a child and sexual assault on a child.

Mum of two, 26-year-old Sarah Hamilton, from Leyland, was shocked by the figures, and said they are far worse than she thought they would be.

“You hear of it every now and again but this is more than I expected,” she said.

“Any sexual offence is bad and it scares me to think my children are at risk when I send them to school.”

And Morgan Symth, 30, from Ribbleton, Preston, agreed, saying school should be the safest place for children other than at home.

“I know schools take things like this very seriously and I just hope if there was ever anything to worry about, parents would be made aware,” said the mum of one.

But 34-year-old dad Michael Davis, from Cottam, Preston, thinks the figures could be misleading.

“I don’t think young children even differentiate between genders,” he said. “I just hope some of the cases included in these figures aren’t harmless incidents made out to be something they’re not.

“We don’t want young children thinking they’re doing something really wrong if they just playing games and having fun with their friends.”

Plan International UK is calling for the government to commit to mandatory sex and relationships education which covers sexting, consent, healthy relationships and the law.

“This shows that we’re failing young people when it comes to learning about healthy relationships and consent,” says Plan International UK Head of Girls’ Rights Kerry Smith.

“Quality sex and relationships education helps young people to develop healthy attitudes towards sex and relationships while helping to tackle inappropriate and aggressive sexual behaviour.”

Paula Garratt, 40, from Kirkham, who has a 12-year-old daughter, said: “It’s always something I worry about with having a daughter, not because I’ve ever been given any reason to worry but just because of how often you see it on the news. Sex is everywhere and all I hope is that my children and others are educated on the topic properly.”

But Heather Banning, 29, from Deepdale, says she doesn’t think enough is done in schools to teach children about sex.

She said: “We didn’t do enough at school and I don’t think they do now either. The more they know the better, otherwise they try and find out themselves and that’s when the problems can start. “

An NSPCC spokesman said: “Schools should be safe places where pupils can fulfil their potential, so it is worrying that children have been victims of sexual offences.

“These figures should prompt schools to review their safeguarding procedures and ensure all pupils feel able to speak out and seek help whenever they need it.

“And all children need to be educated about what sexual abuse is and how to get help immediately if they or someone they know has suffered abuse at school.

“Help for children and young people concerned about abuse is available confidentially from Childline on 0800 1111.”