Schools' failure to report assault places children at risk, report finds

Schools attempting to protect pupils from criminalisation by not reporting incidents of assault or sexting to police are placing them at risk, a new report has found.

In one instance, a school failed to report assaults involving a 15-year-old pupil, who was later stabbed to death following exclusion and criminal exploitation.

The Department for Education today released analysis of serious case reviews from 2014 to 2017.

The report relates to 368 cases where child abuse or neglect was suspected or known about, and when a child either died or was seriously harmed.

It found that in some cases schools had attempted to manage incidents such as “minor assault or sexting” in-house, in order to “avoid criminalising young people”.

This practice “leaves other professionals without the full picture and less able to safeguard the adolescent”, the report warned.

The report analysed four cases of criminal exploitation that resulted in the deaths of four teenage boys, three of whom had been excluded from school.

According to the report, criminal exploitation in these cases was “closely linked to school exclusion, going missing, substance misuse and previous experiences of loss and separation”.

However, the report went on to state that “the circumstances of individual adolescents are complex and it is not possible to speculate about causation, only to identify commonalities between the serious case reviews examined”.

One of these cases involved a 15-year-old black British boy who was stabbed to death after being criminally exploited.

He had spent the majority of his childhood abroad, and upon returning to the UK, he “became disruptive, was excluded from school, started going missing, was using and dealing drugs, carried weapons and became involved with gangs”. It was also known that his older brother had served a prison sentence linked to gang involvement and crime.

The report states that it was “clear that there was a lot of key information that was not shared”, including assaults at schools “which were not shared with police”.

This meant that when he attended emergency departments with injuries, few questions were asked, as they were “not aware of any other concerns”.

The report concluded that schools’ attempts to protect children from criminalisation can leave “other professionals without the full picture and less able to safeguard the adolescent”.

“Lack of information sharing could also relate to systems failures in the use of electronic databases and the accuracy and completeness of data held within them, as well as familiar problems of the interpretation of confidentiality,” the report added.

“Being a victim and a perpetrator can be very closely related and young people require both support and safeguarding.”