Shock rise in school violence

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

More than eight per cent of the borough’s secondary schools students were suspended at some point last year for incidents such as attacking teachers, sexual misconduct and racial abuse.

The most common reason for suspension was persistent disruptive behaviour (362 incidents) closely followed by verbal abuse/threatening behaviour towards an adult (349 incidents). There were 39 incidents of physical assault on an adult.

Other reasons included drug or alcohol related incidents (58), sexual misconduct (17) and racial abuse (8). Bullying accounted for only 16 exclusions.

The figures of how many pupils were suspended have remained high despite a scheme being introduced last year aimed at reducing numbers.

The figures have dropped slightly since last year, but 8.16 per cent of pupils in the borough’s secondary schools were suspended at some point – down from 9.76 per cent last year.

A total of 1,538 pupils aged between 11 and 16 were suspended in 2010/11, as supposed to 1,866 the previous year.

While the figure has dropped it was hoped that the Engage in Education project would have a significant impact on the number of pupils being suspended and excluded in the borough.

However, the figure is slightly lower than the North West average of 8.88 per cent of 11-16 year olds being suspended at some point last year.

Primary schools saw far fewer pupils suspended in 2010/11, with only 1.04 per cent (264 pupils) missing school through exclusion at some point.

However, it was still far higher than the North West average of 0.78 per cent of primary schools pupils being suspended.

Nationally, 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.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “Some children are arriving unprepared for what it means to be in a large group of people.”

Earlier this year Alison Sherratt, junior vice-president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, warned that violent and addictive computer games were making young children more aggressive and luring them into a fantasy world.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “One of the Government’s key priorities is to improve behaviour in the classroom.

“We have given teachers more powers to ensure the balance of authority lies with the adult rather than the child and given headteachers more discretion about when to expel a persistently disruptive pupil.”