SCHOOLS in Dorset excluded pupils for sexual misconduct on a dozen occasions in just one year, figures reveal.

Department for Education figures show Dorset schools excluded students 12 times for sexual misconduct in 2018-19 – two permanently and 10 temporarily.

However, this was a decrease on the previous year, when there were 14.

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The exclusions in Dorset were among 1,972 sexual misconduct exclusions – which include incidents of sexual abuse, sexual bullying and sexual harassment – across England that year.

Though a 13% drop on the year before, Rape Crisis said the number of exclusions will not show the true scale of sexist bullying and sexual violence being perpetrated in schools, particularly against girls.

Katie Russell, national spokeswoman for the charity, said: "We’ve known for a number of years about the high prevalence and serious impacts of sexual violence and abuse in schools.

"No-one in the Government can claim not to have known about this situation and action clearly should have been taken before now.”

All the exclusions occurred in state-funded secondary schools, with none in special or primary schools.

The Government announced an immediate review into sexual abuse in schools in the wake of the allegations, while an NSPCC helpline and an Ofsted review were also launched.

Cllr Andrew Parry, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Early Help, said: "Schools in Dorset always take any form of sexual misconduct seriously.

"Schools in Dorset work hard to ensure that there is a culture in school where children and young people respect each other and promote an open and listening culture where they feel they can speak out about things that happen which are not right.

"Every school is keenly aware, and responding to, the national issues of sexual abuse, bullying and harassment in schools. Dorset schools have behaviour policies that promote the best of behaviour in school, with a clear focus on respect and equality.

"Where behaviour falls short of that which is appropriate schools do take action and use the range of sanctions available to them. Every school encourages its students to speak up when there are issues for young people and inappropriate behaviour can be reported to any adult working in a school.

"Schools welcome the focus on this matter and the work by the NSPCC, government and Ofsted is helping school leaders to make our schools a safer and happier place for all students."

Overall, Dorset schools excluded pupils 3,426 times in 2018-19 – 3,341 of which were fixed, and 85 permanent.