Two children under five are suspended from school for assaults on fellow pupils or teachers every hour of the school day, according to a new analysis of exclusions published today.
The latest figures show a 6 per cent rise in pupils under five excluded for violence compared with the previous year. The analysis, carried out by the Conservatives, shows that 2,610 children aged between three and five were suspended for a fixed term – 1,650 for assaults on adults and 960 for assaults on classmates. Thirty of them were just three years old.
Headteachers' leaders warned that more and more children were arriving at school incapable of socialising with other children.
"It is disappointing to see there is an increase in these figures," said Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers. My colleagues are telling me there are more and more children arriving in school with very little idea of social behaviour."
He added that the increase in poor behaviour presented heads with "difficult decisions".
"The headteacher has to bear in mind their overriding duty to all of the children and staff in the school as well as the youngster concerned."
He said that anyone who watched the BBC One comedy series Outnumbered – where a mother and father are constantly plagued by the behaviour of their three children aged 12, seven and five – would have an idea of the dilemma facing heads.
Mr Brookes said the introduction of the "nappy curriculum" – laying more stress on the three R's in nursery and early schooling – could have played its part in increasing the pressure on children to behave.
Earlier this week, The Independent revealed how the Government was planning to send guidance to all nurseries and childminders advising them to get the youngest boys to take more interest in writing, scribbling and drawing.
Mr Brookes added: "What appears to have happened is that they [the young children] are placed in a very different environment to home when they come to school. School is a place where there are rules and you have to obey them. Sadly, that is not the case in all homes."
The figures appear to back up a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers which also found that children were becoming more aggressive at an earlier age.
More than half of primary school teachers said behaviour had deteriorated over the past five years.
Three-quarters of teachers said their jobs had been made more difficult by disruptive pupils and two-thirds said they had witnessed acts of physical aggression by pupils.
Michael Gove, the shadow Education Secretary, said: "Children cannot learn if there are other pupils in the class that are acting violently.
"There is a real and increasing problem with the behaviour of the youngest children in primary schools and it makes life impossible for their teachers. We want to make teachers' lives easier by giving them more powers to keep order so that as far as possible problems with behaviour can be nipped in the bud before they spiral out of control."
In an interview with The Independent just before Christmas, Mr Gove said that one of the first acts of a new Conservative government would be to strengthen teachers' powers of restraint against unruly pupils.
A breakdown of today's figures shows that 1,120 five-year-olds were excluded from school for assaulting adults and 630 for assaulting pupils. In the case of four-year-olds, the figures were 520 and 310 respectively. The biggest increase in suspensions is among five-year-olds.
Ministers have advocated the setting up of parenting classes as part of the school curriculum to prepare pupils for adulthood.Reuse content