Police Joanne teaches eight- and nine-year-olds in an inner-city state primary. Part of the curriculum requires her to take her class for swimming lessons.
In , the number stood at In , it had risen to 1, The statistics came out as a result of a freedom of information request made by the charity Plan International UK, and cover 34 out of the 45 police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
They include a five-year-old girl who was accused of sexual assault on a boy under 13, and a five year-old boy who was accused of sexual activity involving a girl under In Wales, police also investigated claims a five-year-old boy had sexual activity with a five-year-old girl. An NSPCC survey in reported that two-thirds of all school staff — which includes not just teachers, but classroom assistants, those in administrative posts and governors — had reported a safeguarding concern over the past 12 months.
The system for making written reports is now well-established, and is reinforced by compulsory training every two years, with a current Department for Education consultation looking at increasing the frequency to once a year. Commonsense no longer seems to be enough.
It takes up a load of time that could be spent working with the children And younger colleagues, especially those fresh out of college, are, Jannine feels, much more inclined to file a written report about even the most minor episode than use their judgment.
It leaves no room for innocence. Frances retired last summer after 30 years service in the same school. But by the end, I had got to a stage where it was made clear that it was no longer acceptable to act that way. Under the national curriculum, it is compulsory only from the age of 11, and even then parents are allowed to withdraw their children from parts of it.
Some primaries start it as young as five or six, but others do the bare minimum in Year Six to meet their obligations. It is all, most teachers would say, a question of striking a balance. In the past, they may have been given more freedom to make their own decisions, based on knowledge of the pupil and their background.
But as we are now learning through a rush of high-profile cases of historic abuse, children were suffering but it was not being paid sufficient attention in schools. As professionals on the front-line, with daily contact with young children — especially at a time when cutbacks have reduced social services provision in many local authorities — teachers are now expected to be much more vigilant.
And they are held responsible for any oversights. But has the pendulum swung too far, with alarm bells being set off by games of Kiss Chase and Doctors and Nurses? Natalie is in her second year a reception year classroom teacher. Over that period, she says, she had made only two written reports. They were just exploring, so I talked to them about not letting people touch them in private areas, and not touching other people there either.
But I did report it to my safeguarding officer and then we discussed it with both sets of parents. It takes up a load of time that could be spent working with the children. Though they are not given any specific details of those concerns, it puts the teacher on their guard for sexualised behaviour that may be a sign that they are being abused outside school. Though the current procedures may be driving up the number of reported incidents happening in schools to the worrying levels revealed this week, Joanne defends them, despite the extra burden they add to her workload.
It gives you the evidence you need if a case needs to be put together. Sometimes our report forms can even be used in court to protect children.