Only 60 child victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) have been identified by authorities out of thousands of new cases since last September, prompting fears parents are adopting new tactics to evade detection.

Statistics collated by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that since FGM data started being collected from NHS trusts in September last year, a total of 3,963 new cases have been identified.

But of these just 60 of those identified have been under 18, which equates to 1.51 per cent of the total.

John Cameron, head of child protection at the NSPCC, said there is emerging anecdotal evidence that families intent on their children undergoing the procedure are having it carried out on them at younger ages.

“What I’m hearing is that children aged between five and six are being cut as opposed to 12 to 14.

“For five- to six-year-olds it’s very difficult to speak up so it makes it harder to identify,” he said.

He added that it was important that teachers, including those at primary school, and other children's professionals “keep an eye out for changing behaviour”.

“Typical changes could be a child has a period of absence, they have gone abroad and return complaining of tummy pains and can’t participate in PE,” he said.

“But it is a challenge. You then need to have a conversation with that child who may say they went on holiday and were ill.

"That will present professionals with a challenge. Is that enough to go to children’s services with a concern?”

To find out more about FGM, pre-order 'Female Genital Mutilation - A handbook for professionals working in health, education, social care and the police' by Sharon Raymond at https://www.pavpub.com/female-genital-mutilation/