NINE exclusions from schools in Bracknell Forest last year were for sexual misconduct, shocking new figures have revealed.

During the 2016/17 academic year, a total of nine exclusions for engaging in sexual misconduct were made across the borough's schools, three times as many as the previous year.

According to data released by the Department for Education, exclusions in Bracknell Forest have mirrored national trends, which have seen cases increase by nine per cent.

Sexual misconduct includes cases such as sexual assault, abuse and harassment, but could also include behaviour that is not directed towards another pupil, such as lewd behaviour.

Although exclusions for this specific offence are not broken down by sex, boys accounted for the vast majority of overall exclusions in England.

Nationally, most of the exclusions were in secondary schools, although some were in primary and special schools.

A spokeswoman from the Department for Education said: "It is vital every child understands the importance of healthy relationships and have the confidence to say no, or to recognise when someone else has not given consent.

"That is why our new Relationships Education in primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education in secondary schools will teach pupils the building-blocks and then concepts of consent in an age-appropriate way, with the knowledge on how to form healthy relationships.

"We have also provided new guidance for all schools and colleges on sexual violence and sexual harassment between pupils, including how to support young victims.”

Nikki Edwards, director for children, young people and learning at Bracknell Forest Council, said: “The number of exclusions quoted within this report details the number of instances a fixed term exclusion has occurred, not the number of children who have been excluded during the year.

“Bracknell Forest Council works closely with families and schools to ensure that every child gets the best possible start to life and exclusions are only made in exceptional circumstances; this is reflected by the fact that the total number of exclusions for sexual misconduct in Bracknell Forest is lower than both the national and regional average.

“However, we take reports of sexual misconduct in schools very seriously and therefore, if a child is excluded on these grounds we support the school with its investigation and, where appropriate, advise on an ongoing action plan to prevent further risk of exclusion.

“The term sexual misconduct covers a broad range of issues and we’re aware of the circumstances behind each instance; it would be inappropriate to discuss the details of each case but we’d like to assure parents that we’re taking every step possible to prevent and address any inappropriate behaviour.”