VIOLENT behaviour, drugs and alcohol issues are forcing thousands of schoolchildren out of education – and leaving teachers to suffer in silence.

More than 303,000 children in state-maintained primary and secondary schools in England were handed permanent or fixed-period exclusions for assaulting a pupil or adult, or for drug and alcohol issues, between 2015/16 and 2017/18.

Chris Keates, acting general secretary of teachers’ union NASWUT, said the Government was to blame for stripping specialist support for pupils with challenging behaviour.

A youth worker with 21 years’ experience in England and Scotland claimed alternative options, which would keep children in school, are simply being ignored.

Figures from the Department for Education (DfE), and analysed by Newsquest’s Data Investigations Unit, show that in this period, more than a quarter (26 per cent) of all exclusions were because of violence, alcohol and drug problems.

Ms Keates said poor discipline of pupils was one of the main reasons why teachers considered leaving the profession.

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Chris Keates, acting general secretary of NASWUT, has blamed the Government for stripping specialist for pupils

She said: “It is common for people to assume behaviour problems are confined to secondary schools, but in fact, that has never been the case.

“Primary school teachers also face equally challenging and serious pupil indiscipline, but they are often discouraged from raising the issues, and led to believe it will reflect negatively on them because of the age of pupils.

“For too long, too many teachers have suffered in silence.”

Ms Keates added that being verbally and physically abused, in some cases daily, is impacting teacher’s mental health.

She said: “No teacher should have to go to work with the expectation they will be abused. All workers are entitled to a safe working environment, free from violence and disruption.

“The Government must take responsibility for the impact of policies which have reduced, or removed, internal and external specialist support for pupils for whom behaviour issues are a barrier to learning.”

Simon Kay, of Young Cumbria, has worked with youngsters across England and Scotland, including those with drug and alcohol misuse concerns.

He claimed exclusions are often used as a “quick-fix solution”.

“Whilst it is important to maintain a healthy learning environment for all staff and pupils in a school, evidence has shown there are far more effective ways to do this than by simply excluding any pupils who offend,” he said.

“There are a whole range of options available to schools in order to support them to work with disruptive pupils within the school environment, many of which are never even considered before a child is excluded.”

However, the DfE said the Government backed headteachers to use their powers to issue fixed-period exclusions in response to poor behaviour.

But permanent exclusions should be a last resort, the department added.

Ms Keates believes removing support from youth workers has had an impact on the handling of children’s behaviour.

She said: “These impacts have driven qualified and specialist teachers out of the profession, narrowed the curriculum offer, increased disaffection among pupils and limited their life chances.”

Mr Kay added there was little evidence to confirm exclusions helped to improve children’s behaviour and warned the potential damage caused goes far beyond their education.

He said: “We know that an above-average number of excluded young people are already living in homes which are identified as being chaotic, with higher than average levels of poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, crime, alcohol and drug abuse.

“It is far too easy for us to forget that for these children, school is about much more than just achieving exam results.”

For some children, school is the only place they can feel truly safe and access positive adult role models, Mr Kay explained.

“Removing children from school also removes them from what may well be the only stable, consistent and positive factor in their lives,” he added.

Where are children being excluded the most?

• In both Southampton and Croydon, 40 per cent of children were excluded for violence and substance-related problems in 2017/18.

• Slough had recorded the most during the previous years at 41 per cent (2016/17) and 43 per cent (2015/16).

Where pupils are excluded, the DfE said the “quality of education they receive should be no different than mainstream settings”.

A spokesman added: “The Government supports headteachers in using exclusion as a sanction where warranted. That means backing heads to use their powers to issue fixed-period exclusions in response to poor behaviour and to permanently exclude as a last resort.

“While fixed-period exclusion rates have risen, permanent exclusion rates have remained stable, and they are both lower than they were a decade ago.

“Permanent exclusion remains a rare event.”

John Jolly, chief executive at Parentkind, a charity which champions parents having a voice within education, believes it is vital they are familiar with the exclusion policy at their child’s school and are consulted before any changes are made.

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John Jolly joined Parentkind as chief executive in 2019

He also expressed concerns about the extent of communication between parents and teachers.

Mr Jolly said: “In 2018, we conducted a survey, and 92 per cent of parents told us they had an overwhelmingly negative experience of talking to their child's teacher or headteacher about an exclusion.

“This highlights the need for parents and schools to communicate well together and ensure parents feel supported in knowing what options are available to them.

“A collaborative approach would help to maintain trust and help in creating a smooth process when the pupil returns to school.”