Children as young as five years old are being accused of sexual assault according to new research.

 

The number of sexual offences being reported in UK schools has nearly trebled in the last four years.

 

Among the reported children was a five-year-old girl in England who was accused of sexually assaulting a boy.

 

Children's charity, Plan International also learned of two five-year-old boys who were accused of sexual activity with girls.

 

The number of sexual allegations involving schools have seen a massive increase going from 719 reported cases in 2011-2012 to a huge 1,955 in 2014-2015.

 

 

Plan International's UK girls' rights campaign manager, Lucy Russell said in a statement:

 

“We are very concerned about these findings, sadly we are not really shocked because we have heard time and time again from girls in the UK that sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools is sadly quite commonplace.

 

“Clearly the very young cases are extremely unrepresentative of the wider data and very much the exception rather than the rule.

 

“Certainly … there are limits to what is being recorded.”

 

However some are questioning the results like Professor Alan Smithers of the University of Buckingham who says that there is a worry about the dangers of over-reaction.

 

“Society has become very sensitive to sexual assault and sexual abuse and there is pressure on teachers to report every incident, if they don’t they are potentially at risk themselves.

 

“But the net effect is that the sort of sexual exploration that children can engage in out of curiosity becomes categorised as assault," he told the Telegraph.

 

“One doesn’t know the circumstances but if this little girl did anything I suspect it was out of curiosity.”

 

 

With high-profile cases like that of Jimmy Savile highlighting how authorities didn't take claims seriously, some fear that those reported these new cases could be trying to over-compensate.

 

“Society has become very litigious, that almost gets in the way of head-teachers and teachers applying their professional understanding," said Prof. Smithers.

 

“Discretion is being taken away from responsible people: somebody feels obliged to report it, the person it is reported to feels obliged to act, it then comes through for some formal action.

 

“I think quite innocent exploration from children can be misinterpreted. As their sexuality develops there is a curiosity there and it must be kept within bounds but one could apply a bit more common sense to it all.”

 

 

However, Lucy Russell did not agree saying:

 

“I don’t think there is that atmosphere, I think there is a much stronger understanding of what sexual assault is and I think that is the change – the feeling that something you feel suspicious about is worth reporting.

 

“I think that is a healthier attitude.”

 

A Department for Education spokesman has said:

 

“Schools are safe places and crime is very rare but any offence must be reported to the police.

 

"No young person should feel unsafe or suffer harassment in any circumstance.

 

 

"Sex and relationship education is already compulsory in all maintained secondary schools and many academies and free schools teach it as part of the curriculum.

 

"We are looking at all options to raise the quality of personal, social and health education (PSHE) teaching."

 

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