Social services rapped over response to sexualised behaviour

An Ofsted report into school exclusions of pupils aged four to seven has uncovered a “worrying lack of response” by some social workers after children were referred to them over concerns about their sexualised behaviour. 

Ofsted called on the government to take urgent action to ensure that all child protection services responded appropriately to young children who displayed inappropriate sexual behaviour at school.

Of the 69 schools examined in the report, eight said that they had excluded children for sexually inappropriate behaviour, with the majority also instigating child protection procedures. A further six schools referred cases directly to social services without excluding the child.

Lack of social services response

However, two schools reported a lack of response from services to “seemingly serious incidents”.

One headteacher of an infant school was told by a local authority specialist support agency that a child was “too young for a referral and he might grow out of it”. Ofsted discovered that the same child had subsequently moved to a junior school where he was again referred for the same types of behaviour.

Ofsted urged the Department for Children, Schools and Families to issue guidance for schools on identifying and responding to children’s sexually inappropriate behaviour and said that teachers should consider the reason for such behaviour as part of their child protection training.

In addition, the regulator said that local authorities should record all exclusions of young children due to sexually inappropriate behaviour and keep track of the situation after referring cases to social services.

Report highlights importance of integration

Helen Patterson, policy lead on behaviour and attendance for the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said that the report highlighted the importance of integrating children’s services to allow teachers to seek advice from specialists.

She added: “Many schools have social workers on site or have direct links to duty teams and co-location of services is on the increase.

“That only two schools cited a lack of response from social workers as a problem suggests that in most places, integrated children’s services are bringing real benefits to children and young people.”


Almost all the schools in the report served communities with high levels of deprivation and dealt with children who had complex and challenging behaviour. However, 27 schools were found to have not excluded any young children.

Chief inspector Christine Gilbert said that exclusion of children under the age of seven was still rare. She added: “As our evidence shows, 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.”

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