Primary school pupil behaviour becomes more violent, according to new figures


Primary school children are being suspended from school increasingly often for assaulting their teachers and classmates, according to official figures.

Around 89 youngsters aged between five and 11 were ordered out of the classroom each day for these reasons in 2010/11, Department for Education (DfE) statistics show.

In total, 850 children of all ages are given fixed term expulsions every day for assaulting or verbally abusing their classmates and teachers,

And almost 11 pupils are permanently excluded for verbal or physical attacks.

The statistics, published by the Department for Education, reveal the state of behaviour in England's schools, and suggest that the situation in primaries is worsening.

Primary age pupils were suspended 9,160 times in 2010/11 for physically assaulting another child, up from 9,030 occasions the previous year.

They were also given fixed exclusions on 7,830 occasions for attacking a member of staff, an extra 600 times, compared to 7,230 in 2009/10.

This is equivalent to 89 pupils suspended each school day for these reasons.

In comparison, attacks on pupils and staff by secondary school pupils have fallen.

Today's statistics show that overall, primary, secondary and special school pupils were suspended 161,540 times in 2010/11 for assaulting, or verbally abusing teachers and pupils - the same as 850 pupils a day.

This figure includes physical and verbal assaults, threatening behaviour and racist abuse.

Pupils were also expelled on 2,060 occasions for these reasons - the equivalent to almost 11 pupils a day.

The latest figures show that rising numbers of young children in general are being suspended on at least one occasion.

In total, 10,090 children up to the age of eight were given one or more fixed suspensions in 2010/11, compared to around 9,520 the year before.

This includes 670 children aged four and under who were suspended at least once, along with 1,470 five-year-olds.

In other older age groups, the numbers of pupils facing suspensions has dropped.

The rise in primary-age pupils being suspended for physically assaulting classmates and school staff is likely to fuel concerns that younger children are becoming more aggressive.

Earlier this year, Alison Sherratt, junior vice-president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), suggested that violent and addictive computer games are making children more aggressive and luring youngsters into a fantasy world.

Pupils as young as four and five are acting out graphic scenes of violence in the playground and lashing out in the classroom after watching or playing inappropriate games, she said.

And an ATL survey found that behaviour in schools generally has worsened in the last five years.

It suggested that poor parenting could be fuelling bad behaviour in schools, with a third of teachers dealing with physical violence recently.

Today's statistics also show that:

:: Boys are around three times more likely to be expelled or suspended than girls;

:: Pupils who are eligible for free school meals - a key measure of poverty - are nearly four times more likely to be expelled than those who are not eligible for the dinners, and around three times more likely to be suspended;

:: Rising numbers of parents are winning appeals against a child's permanent exclusion. There were 480 appeals lodged in 2010/11, a fall of 8.1%. Of the cases heard, 26.5% were determined in favour of the parent, compared to 24.1% the year before;

:: In total, there were 5,080 permanent expulsions in 2010/11, a fall of 11.5%;

:: And there were 324,110 suspensions, a decrease of 2.2%.

:: The most common reason for an exclusion was persistent disruptive behaviour, which accounted for 33.7% of expulsions and 24.8% of suspensions.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, said: "Clearly, the continued fall in pupil exclusions is a positive trend, providing that it is as a result of schools receiving early intervention support and not because schools are feeling pressured to contain, rather than exclude, pupils.

"However, the figures show that persistent disruptive behaviour is the most common reason for pupil exclusion, demonstrating the continued need for action to tackle this issue."

Ms Keates added that teachers want more support from parents and school leaders to help them keep order in the classroom.

"Parents must understand that their responsibility for their child's behaviour does not end at the school gate," she said.

"Too many pupils come to school not ready to learn. Sending children to school on time, with basic equipment and clear expectations of how they are expected to behave, is a critical part of the job of all parents."

Barnardo's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: "Even badly behaved pupils deserve an education and exclusion from mainstream education simply doesn't deal with the underlying issues, merely the symptoms.

"Disruptive or even violent behaviour is never acceptable, but children who act like this are often facing problems at home and experience has taught us that intervening early to support the whole family is the most effective approach.

"What is more, there is a risk that exclusions can compound disadvantage, with pupils eligible for free school meals being nearly four times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion than others.

"Exclusion should only be used as a last resort and we need to see the numbers fall even further if we want to ensure that vulnerable children are being given the best possible opportunity to achieve their potential."


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