VIOLENT behaviour, drugs and alcohol issues are forcing thousands of Worcestershire schoolchildren out of education.

Data from the Department for Education (DfE) shows a rising number of primary and secondary school children being excluded.

Newsquest’s Data Investigations Unit analysed permanent and fixed-term exclusions data from the DfE.

The data shows that in Worcestershire’s state-maintained schools - between 2017 and 2018 - 2,850 pupils were excluded. Worcestershire was recorded as being one of the highest percentages of exclusions due to violence and substance misuse with 39 per cent (1,124).

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This has increased from 1,082 in 2016/17 and 1,005 in 2015/16.

Seven hundred and three pupils were excluded due to a physical assault against a pupil and 323 pupils were excluded because of violence against an adult. There was a total of 98 schoolchildren who were excluded due to drug and alcohol related issues.

Mark Pollard, headteacher from Bishop Perowne CE College said: “It’s not one that is replicated in our school specifically, although this might have something more to do with the journey of the school and the improvements we have seen overall in behaviour compared to a few years ago; exclusions have fallen here in the same period.

“There is a pressure on schools to deliver an ambitious, academic curriculum for all and this means there is less flexibility to find appropriate courses, programmes and qualifications that interest some of the most challenging students.

“I would also suggest that there are increasing levels of social deprivation which can lead to real disengagement with school from some students and their families and there is the significant rise in the number of young people suffering with poor mental health which can impact behaviour negatively.”

Chris Keates, acting general secretary of NASWUT teachers’ union, has blamed the government for cutting specialist support for pupils with challenging behaviour.

She claimed the government’s actions have “driven qualified and specialist teachers out of the profession,” and increased “disaffection among pupils”.

However, the Department for Education (DfE), said the government backs headteachers in using their powers to issue fixed-period exclusions and to permanently exclude as a last resort.

Lindsey Cooke, headteacher from Hanley Castle High School, said: “Schools need to provide a safe environment for young people to make mistakes, and to learn from these mistakes, in order to allow them to grow up into responsible citizens able to make a positive contribution to society.

“However, when this poor behaviour has a detrimental impact on other students - and students who are violent, or who have drug and alcohol related problems can have a very negative impact on the young people around them - schools correctly take action, including exclusion, to protect their wider school communities.”

Councillor Marcus Hart, cabinet member with responsibility for education and skills, said: “School attendance and ensuring children reach their full potential within education are top priorities for the county council. To exclude a child from school, for any period of time is a last resort due to the impact this can have on all members of the school community.

“The most recent figures show children in Worcestershire have lost fewer days per exclusion in comparison to both national and local regional figures in the last year.

“We are aware of the increase and concerns regarding exclusions in association with physical assault and drug and alcohol related incidents and will continue to work with members of the school community, children and families to closely examine the reasons behind the increase. We are committed to minimising permanent exclusions and ensuring the effective and consistent use of fixed term exclusions, as reflected in our Education and Skills Strategy 2019-2024, in order to continually improve education for every child across Worcestershire.”