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17,000 exclusions for assault in a single term

More than 64,000 pupils were excluded in the 2003 summer term, including 17,000 punished for physical assaults on staff or classmates, according to new government research.

The first termly exclusions survey of local education authorities found there were 2,400 permanent exclusions and 80,000 temporary ones at state schools, an average of 1,370 exclusions for each of the 60 days of term.

Physical assault against an adult accounted for 12 per cent of permanent exclusions (288) and 5 per cent of temporary exclusions (4,000). The corresponding figures for assault on fellow pupils were 14 per cent (336) and 16 per cent (12,800).

The study found that 62,000 pupils had one or more temporary exclusions, which lasted an average of 3.5 days. Most were excluded only once, but about 20 per cent (12,400) were excluded twice or more.

Chris Keates, acting general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "The levels of assaults on teachers and pupil-on-pupil violence are of deep concern. However, it is evident that schools are not tolerating such behaviour and are dealing with it decisively through exclusion procedures."

The Office of National Statistics, which conducted the research on behalf of the Department for Education and Skills, said the quality of the data had been compromised by incomplete returns from some LEAs.

Ms Keates said the under-reporting was no surprise. " Fear of being stigmatised as 'failing'if (schools) admit to incidents of violence or use of exclusion causes some schools to suppress information."

A DfES spokesperson said that while 80,000 temporary exclusions may appear a large figure, the number of pupils involved (62,000) represented less than 1 per cent of the 7.7 million in the country, and the exclusion periods were usually brief.

"We fully back heads' tough decisions to remove any pupil who is behaving in an unacceptable way.

"Pupils can already be permanently excluded for a one-off violent offence and we will support heads in taking tough decisions within the law," he said.

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