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

More than 6,600 children in state-maintained primary and secondary schools across Bracknell, Wokingham and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead were handed permanent of fixed-term exclusions for assaulting a pupil or adult, or for drug and alcohol issues, between 2015/16 and 2017/18.

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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.

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

The data shows there were 629 exclusions due to physical assault against a pupil, adult and drug and alcohol issues between 2015 to 2018 in Bracknell Forest.

In Wokingham, the total number was 690 and in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead there were 669.

Councillor UllaKarin Clark, executive member for children's services, said: “We are aware that over the course of the last three academic years there has been an increase in the number of school exclusions related to physical assault and drug or alcohol related issues.

"Wokingham Borough Council takes the safety of pupils, staff and other adults incredibly seriously and works closely with schools and other partners to best support students to remain in school settings wherever possible.

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"Exclusion is seen as a last resort in the interests of the broader school population as well as the individual children involved. "

"The increase we have experienced in Wokingham, is not dissimilar to that of some of our neighbouring authorities and is also reflective of the increase nationally over the same period."

The DfE has made it clear that permanent exclusions are a last resort.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “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.”

Simon Kay, of Young Cumbria, has worked with youngsters across England and Scotland, including those with drug and alcohol misuse concerns and claims exclusions are often used as a “quick-fix solution”.

He said: “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.

“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.”

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

Chris Keates 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.”

Nikki Edwards, executive director of people at Bracknell Forest Council, said: "

Working with schools and young people to understand the complexities of behaviours which result in exclusions, is a key priority for the Education and Learning team.

"We work hard to keep young people in school where possible and liaise with families to mitigate exclusion risks.

“There can be many underlying factors, such as severe trauma and poor attachment, that can lead to social and emotional challenges for young people.

"We continue to work closely with our schools and partners to develop local support systems focussed on understanding the needs of individuals, to ensure they have access to the education they need.”