Schools suspend three times as many persistent troublemakers

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The Independent Online

The number of persistent troublemakers suspended from school has soared in the past four years, figures released by the Conservatives reveal.

Nearly 900 children were suspended from school more than 10 times in the year 2007-08, compared to just 310 four years previously, they show.

The Conservatives have claimed this was because schools were repeatedly suspending pupils rather than expelling them permanently, in case appeals panels order the children to be taken back into the classroom. They have pledged to abolish exclusion appeals panels.

The figures emerged as Schools Secretary Ed Balls is due to present the findings of the latest government inquiry into discipline at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers conference in Bournemouth today.

The inquiry, by a former headteacher Sir Alan Steer, will call for disruptive pupils to be sent to "withdrawal rooms" within the school where they can cool off as a first step in trying to avoid exclusion.

Nick Gibb, the Conservatives' schools spokesman, said: "Teachers want these pupils out of the classroom so other children can learn but the Government's restrictions on exclusion have caused this phenomenon of endless suspension. Suspending a pupil from school over and over again does a child no good at all. If a child has been seriously disruptive or violent they should be properly removed so they can get the specialist help they need."

Ministers deny they have made it harder for schools to expel troublemakers.

Meanwhile, some teachers believe being assaulted by a pupil if they work in a special school is just part of the job, the NASUWT conference will be told. A union survey revealed that at least one teacher was assaulted every day. Delegates will also voice "alarm" over the number of malicious allegations made against teachers in special schools.

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