Even four-year-old child are excluded from primary schools for 'inappropriate sexual behaviour,' UK watchdog Ofsted has revealed.
Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted), a government body, inspects and regulates care for children and young people. Its report "The school's approach is key to avoiding exclusion of young children," has raised concerns all round.
A study of 69 schools by Oftsted showed that 14 of them had witnessed unacceptable behaviour among tiny tots.
In eight school, pupils had been suspended or expelled as a result. Two schools reported a 'worrying lack of response from social workers.'
One head teacher was told that a child of five or six whose behaviour was displaying 'sexual elements' was 'too young for a referral and he might grow out of it'.
Ofsted report urges teachers to keep details of every child expelled for this kind of problem and monitor any action taken by the relevant support services.
Mick Brookes, the National Association of Headteachers general secretary, said: 'Some of it could be innocent childish behaviour, but there are some quite worrying things going on.'
Ofsted investigated after figures revealed more than 4,000 children under the age of five were expelled last year.
Inspectors found that some primaries had suspended the same children more than ten times in a year.
Schools reported youngsters biting, persistent disobedience, swearing, running away from staff, kicking or hitting staff, throwing chairs and climbing over the school fence.
The report criticised one school for branding a child 'feral' in behaviour records and writing a behaviour policy with a 'negative tone'.
But some schools insisted that sometimes sending children home was necessary to impress on pupils and parents that certain behaviour was unacceptable.
Schools with high levels of exclusion often had unstable staffing, the report adds.
At one school, nine-year-old pupils had experienced 24 different class teachers in five years.
Ofsted recommended schools introduce 'calming tents' for disruptive children to reduce the number of expulsions and suspensions.
The method, which allows pupils to go to a separate area to cool off if they get angry or frustrated, is praised in the latest report by the education watchdog.
Also highlighted as a feature in schools with low exclusion rates is the use of 'circle time', where children sit in a ring and discuss their feelings.
Among the key recommendations from the report are that schools should minimise the exclusion of young children by developing a range of strategies to manage behaviour, from low-level disruption to challenging behaviour. The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) should analyse exclusions data annually on a school by school basis and use the information obtained to question local authorities about the challenge and support they provide for primary schools with high numbers of exclusions.
Nearly all the schools visited served communities with high levels of deprivation; 39 of the 69 visited were in the highest 20 per cent for pupils' eligibility for free school meals. These schools faced many challenges. All had children whose families had had high levels of involvement from local authorities' children's services regarding child protection, domestic violence and family breakdown. All of them had some young children with complex behaviours that could stop them from taking part in learning. In the best scenarios, these children's behaviour was managed well, they were given the support they needed and exclusion was avoided. Whether the schools did or did not exclude depended upon whether they believed exclusion was appropriate for young children, their ability to cope with challenging behaviour and sometimes the support received from their local authority.
The 27 schools that had not excluded any young children shared common characteristics also evident in the schools that had managed to significantly reduce their previously high levels of exclusion. The schools were welcoming and children were made to feel valued, there were high expectations of the children and staff went out of their way to provide a model of appropriate behaviour. Exclusion was viewed only as a last resort.
The survey found that relationships with parents were pivotal in preventing or reducing exclusions. Almost all the schools visited worked hard to build positive relationships, particularly with parents whose children were the most challenging to manage.
Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, said: "Exclusion of children aged under seven is still very rare. Ofsted inspectors found that almost all children in the schools they visited knew how to behave properly. Only a small number of children found this difficult but, with proper guidance and support, the need to exclude them can be avoided. As our evidence shows, many schools are skilled at promoting positive behaviour and attitudes in all young children, and giving them a good start to their education. It is important that others can learn from this best practice."