VIOLENCE in the classroom is on the increase ­— with violent behaviour, drugs and alcohol issues in class accounting for nearly a third of all school exclusions in Blackburn with Darwen.

More than 500 children in state-maintained primary and secondary schools in the borough were handed permanent or fixed-period exclusions for assaulting a pupil or adult, or for drug and alcohol issues between 2015/16 and 2017/18.

And the number of total exclusion notices being handed out by schools has risen year-on-year in the same time period ­— from 464 to 784.This includes persistent disruptive behaviour, theft and other reasons.

The rise in exclusions is being blamed on the Government for stripping special support for pupils with challenging behaviour.

Figures from the Department for Education (DfE), and analysed by Newsquest's Data Investigations Unit, show that violence in Blackburn with Darwen schools has increased.

The number of exclusions handed out due to physical assault against a pupil rose to 142 in 2017/18 compared to 111 in 2016/17. And that figure for physical assault against an adult was 79 an increase of 30 on 2017/18.

The number of exclusions due to drug and alcohol related issues was 16, up from six in 2015/16.

The total number of exclusions due to physical assault against a pupil, adult and drug and alcohol related rose from 121 in 2015/16 to 237 in 2017/18 ­— accounting for 30 per cent of all exclusions.

Three children were permanently excluded for physical assault against a child/adult and 218 fixed notice exclusions were handed out for the same reason.

Jo Siddle, interim head of education, said: “These numbers are obviously concerning and we are seeing a rise nationally in the number of school exclusions both permanent and fixed period. However, although we are not complacent, Blackburn with Darwen’s number of exclusions are below the regional average.

“Exclusion is however very much a last resort for schools.

"The council has no control over the decisions to exclude made by individual schools or academies, as these decisions rest with head teachers and governing bodies and each individual school will have its own behaviour policy.

“However, Blackburn with Darwen Council does work in partnership with our schools to help look at exclusion levels and the reasons behind them, and we are committed to continuing to work with schools and supporting any excluded pupils to find the best way to continue their education in various other settings.”

Nationally, more than 303,000 children in state-maintained primary and secondary schools in England were handed permanent or fixed-period exclusions for assaulting a pupils or adult, or for drug and alcohol issues, between 2015/16 and 2017/18

Chris Keates, acting general secretary of teachers’ union NASWUT, said poor discipline of pupils was one of the main reasons why teachers considered leaving the profession.

She 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.”

Ms Keates added that being verbally and physically abused, in some cases daily, is impacting teacher’s mental health.

She said: “No teacher should have to go to work with the expectation they will be abused. All workers are entitled to a safe working environment, free from violence and disruption.

“The Government must take responsibility for the impact of policies which have reduced, or removed, internal and external specialist support for pupils for whom behaviour issues are a barrier to learning.”

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

But permanent exclusions should be a last resort, the department added.

Where pupils are excluded, the DfE said the “quality of education they receive should be no different than mainstream settings”.

A spokesman added: “The Government supports headteachers in using exclusion as a sanction where warranted. That means backing heads to use their powers to issue fixed-period exclusions in response to poor behaviour and to permanently exclude as a last resort.

“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.”