Schools expelled 10 pupils every day last year

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About 10 children a day were expelled from school for assault last year, figures published yesterday showed.

About 10 children a day were expelled from school for assault last year, figures published yesterday showed.

Statistics published for the first time by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) said 288 students were expelled for violence against teachers or other adults while 336 were expelled for attacking a schoolmate during the summer term last year. Four thousand children ­ mostly teenage boys ­ were suspended for assaulting adults, and 12,800 were excluded for attacks on other children.

The figures were published as part of a Government experiment and officials stressed they had to be treated with caution as some education authorities had submitted incomplete returns.

DfES said the real figures were likely to be even higher as there was "evidence of under-reporting". Officials said, however, they provided "useful indicative information".

Overall there were 2,400 permanent exclusions and 80,000 "fixed term" exclusions, averaging 3.5 days, in the 2003 summer term. The most common cause for exclusion was "persistent disruptive behaviour".

Within the totals some children offended more than once, 62,000 pupils in all being excluded for a time. About a fifth were suspended twice or more.

Most of those excluded (80 per cent) were boys. The most common age was 13 or 14.

DfES stressed the figures had to be seen in the context of the first fall in the number of expulsions this decade. A spokeswoman said while the figure represented less than 1 per cent of the 7.7 million school population, and most actions were for periods of just one to three days, to serve as a warning that behaviour had reached an unacceptable level.

"We believe that numbers of fixed period exclusions, as with the number of permanent exclusions, are reducing as our behaviour policies are now taking effect. The number of permanent exclusions has fallen for the first time since 1999-00 to 9,290, remaining almost a quarter down on their 1996-97 peak of 12,700."

Head teachers said it was impossible to say whether violence was a growing problem that forced them to expel more children than in times past. To do that they would need equivalent figures from previous years with which today's data could be compared, said Martin Ward, of the Secondary Heads Association.

The data was published just days after the mother of Luke Walmsley said schools should have more power to get rid of the type of "evil bully" who murdered her 14-year-old son.

Chris Keates, acting general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the assault figures came as no surprise but accused schools of trying to play down the problem for fear of being stigmatised as failing.

Ms Keates said: "The level of assaults on teachers and pupil-on-pupil violence are of deep concern. The evidence of under-reporting in the returns is highly regrettable but unfortunately comes as no surprise. Fear of being stigmatised as 'failing' if they admit to incidents of violence or use of exclusion causes some schools to suppress information."

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers said: "Government pressure on schools to cut down on exclusions may have resulted in assaults on staff and pupils not leading to them being excluded. Against the size of the pupil population, these figures are small but they are nonetheless entirely unacceptable. Any assault on a member of staff cannot be tolerated.

"There is a case for the Government establishing research into the true incidence of violent attacks against both staff and pupils. It is only when we have an accurate and complete picture that the scale of the problem can be established, and means of overcoming it developed."

¿ Children have benefited from the work of education watchdog Ofsted, particularly the million or more who attend schools that were failing before the inspectors called, a report said.

The analysis by Ofsted and London University's Institute of Education said it had helped to raise standards in England's schools Teachers' unions protested it was unfair that Ofsted was allowed to judge its own performance.