By Liz Stephens
Schools have repeatedly suspended pupils as young as four for inappropriate sexual behaviour, an Ofsted inquiry has found.
Investigating an increase in exclusions from primary schools, school inspectors unearthed high incidences of children touching other children inappropriately and using sexually explicit language as well as swearing, attacking staff and damaging property.
The inquiry, published today, followed figures released last night by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, which confirmed that 41,300 children were temporarily excluded from primary schools in 2007 - a rise of 10 per cent since 2004.
Ofsted said some schools do not have the "capacity" to deal with the psychological problems of their pupils and, without the right support, the growing rate of exclusions is unlikely to diminish.
Miriam Rosen, director of education at Ofsted, said "Sexualised behaviour can indicate a child protection issue, so the important thing is that they refer to the social services so they can deal with the problem."
However, when headteachers contacted social services with their concerns they were often turned away and one headteacher was told a child would "grow out of it", the inquiry revealed.
Inspectors visited 69 primary schools, 30 of which had above average rates of temporary exclusion in the four to seven age group. Nearly all were in inner city areas with a high number of children living below the poverty line.
The inspectors reported high levels of "trauma", such as family breakdown, and domestic violence.
Ofsted appealed to the government "urgently" to produce advice for schools on the issue.