exual abuse should never be dismissed as “boys being boys” or “banter”, the children’s commissioner for England has urged.

Ministers and school leaders are facing growing calls to tackle sexual harassment and violence against young people following thousands of allegations of sexual abuse by students.

Dame Rachel de Souza warned that “many children are harassed from a young age” – including on their way to school, in the classroom or on the playground.

She said: “The growing number of children revealing they have been sexually abused or harassed at school is alarming, and a reminder that MeToo does not begin at 18.”

Her comments came after more than 10,000 reports were posted on the Everyone’s Invited website, where students can anonymously share their experiences of misogyny, harassment, abuse and assault.

The growing number of children revealing they have been sexually abused or harassed at school is alarming

In a new blog, the children’s commissioner highlighted safeguarding guidance that states that a victim should never be given the impression that they are “creating a problem” by reporting sexual violence or sexual harassment, “nor should a victim ever be made to feel ashamed for making a report”.

Dame Rachel said: “Abuse should never be dismissed as ‘boys being boys’ or ‘banter’.”

She added: “The guidance is also clear that schools should not wait for outcomes of children’s services or police investigations before they take steps to protect a child and that even if no further action is taken, schools should continue to offer support to victims.”

MPs and sector leaders have called for an inquiry into the allegations of a “rape culture” in a number of independent schools, but Dame Rachel says the priority should be offering support to children who have suffered abuse now.

She said: “There have been calls for an inquiry, although I think the immediate focus now must be on what we can do to help children who have suffered abuse, and children who are at risk of abuse, and be careful not to kick the problem into the long grass.”

Dame Rachel added that the schools inspectorate should focus on safeguarding concerns in their “light touch” inspections after the Easter break.

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