BREACHES of coronavirus rules were behind dozens of school exclusions in Oxfordshire last year, figures reveal.

Department for Education figures show ‘wilful and repeated transgression of protective measures’ was a reason behind 75 exclusions from schools in Oxfordshire in the 2020/21 academic year – 73 of which were temporary exclusions and two permanent.

Of these, 68 were in secondary schools and seven in primary schools.

Children across England were excluded 12,965 times for reasons including non-compliance with social distancing, causing distress such as by purposefully coughing near to others, or any other deliberate breach of a school’s public health measures.

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Schools were able to list multiple reasons for each exclusion for the first time last year.

In Oxfordshire, there were a total of 4,301 exclusions (4,286 temporary and 15 permanent) for all reasons last year – down from 4,498 in 2019/20.

Figures for the most recent academic year include a period in spring 2021 when Covid-19 restrictions meant that only key worker and vulnerable children were attending school in person, with others being educated remotely.

Of the 16 possible reasons for exclusion, public health was the ninth most frequent.

The most common reasons were for persistent disruptive behaviour (35 per cent), verbal abuse or threatening behaviour towards an adult (20 per cent) and physical assault against a pupil (17 per cent).

A Department for Education spokeswoman said permanent exclusions are a rare but necessary way of managing behaviour – but should not mean exclusion from education.

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This story was written by Liam Rice, he joined the team in 2019 as a multimedia reporter.

Liam covers politics, travel and transport. He occasionally covers Oxford United.

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