Reporting sexual offences in schools: an incomplete picture

Published: 19th Aug 2016

In brief

Claim

The reports of sexual offense in schools have almost trebled over four years, others say it has more than doubled.

Conclusion

These are correct but the figures are incomplete, so don’t show the full picture across the UK.

“Reports of sexual offences in UK schools more than doubled in four years, figures obtained by Plan International UK revealed.”

Plan International UK, August 2016

“School sex crime claims treble in four years, with kids as young as five accused of offences.”

The Sun, 7 August 2016

“The number of sex offences in schools reported to police has almost trebled in four years, a study has shown.”

The Guardian, 8 August 2016

These claims are correct, but the figures they’re based on don’t show the full picture.

The figures were also reported in a number of other papers including the Mirror, the Daily Mail, Sky, and the Daily Express.

The number of sexual offences reported in schools increased from 719 in 2011/12 to 1,955 in 2014/15 according to research obtained by Plan International UK from a number of Freedom of Information requests to UK police forces.

This is more than double, but not quite triple, the numbers from four years ago.

Offences are being reported more, but that doesn’t mean they are increasing

The key thing to note about these figures is that they represent reported sexual offences, they can’t confirm whether the number of sexual offences in schools is increasing or decreasing. What they show is that more offences are being reported to police.

This could be because more offences are taking place. It could be because people are more aware of the potential for sexual offences to occur in schools and so report them more, due to recent high profile cases of child abuse or police awareness drives. It could be both.

The point is we just don’t know.

The information is incomplete so it’s impossible to see the whole picture

The information was gathered from 34 of the 45 police forces across the UK. Police Scotland and a number of other forces did not provide any data and so the figures for all years will be higher than has been reported.

We spoke to Plan International UK and they also said that a number of cases couldn’t be allocated to individual years. From 2011/12 to 2014/15 there were 4,711 sexual offences reported to the 34 police forces.

The way crimes are recorded often changes from police force to police force. We found the information provided to Plan International by some of the police forces.

For example, the Metropolitan Police’s response notes that their data shouldn’t be compared with other forces because of this. West Yorkshire Police say that their information might not cover all sexual offences in schools, because they don’t always have to record where the offence took place.

The Mirror and the Guardian both reported that 29% of reported offenders were pupils and 15% were teachers and other school staff. This is based on figures released by Plan International UK in their press release.

But Plan International also told us that not all of the 34 police forces who responded to them answered all of their questions about, so the picture is incomplete.

 


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