The number of children permanently excluded for attacks on school staff has plunged by 40 per cent in just three years, new figures have revealed.
Headteachers expelled 580 secondary school pupils for violence against teachers and support staff in the 200910 academic year, compared to almost 1,000 in 200607.
The figures on exclusions for violence were accompanied by a warning from ministers that abusive behaviour and weak discipline was still a "significant problem" in schools.
But unions and educationalists welcomed the drop in the most serious exclusions, suggesting they showed that behaviour had improved and that schools were being more creative in tackling disruption.
"Discipline and behaviour in schools is very good; the vast majority of children complete their education in a mature and sensible way," said Malcolm Trobe, policy director of the Association of School and College Leaders.
Carl Parsons, visiting professor of social inclusion studies at Greenwich University, said that schools were contributing to the fall in exclusions by tailoring curriculums to disruptive pupils and using managed moves to other schools.
"More and more are also developing their own internal exclusion centres, like their own pupil referral units," he said.
The fall followed pressure from the previous Labour government to avoid excluding children. The proportion of pupils expelled for all reasons, not just violence against teachers, was down by a third between 2007 and 2010.
However, classroom unions have warned that the positive trend was under threat from policy changes and cuts being imposed by the Coalition.
"There have been improvements, but these figures are still too high. Every exclusion shows a child has struggled," said Alison Ryan, policy adviser for teaching union the ATL.
"Unfortunately the schemes which have helped reduce exclusions, such as extended schools and local behaviour partnerships, are going. So we might have had a successful year in 200910, but I don't know if this can be repeated."
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said exclusion would be increasingly used by schools because support services provided by local authorities to help teachers tackle bad behaviour were being cut or changed.
"If it is serious about tackling pupil indiscipline, the coalition Government should be investing in these proven services, rather than frittering away public money on its obsessive pursuit of bank-rolling private providers to experiment with free schools for excluded pupils," she said.
The Government has repeatedly stressed its desire to tackle bad behaviour, even though figures suggest the situation is improving.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said the Government would back headteachers in excluding persistently disruptive pupils. "With thousands of pupils being excluded for persistent disruption and violent or abusive behaviour we remain concerned that weak discipline remains a significant problem in too many schools."
Original headline: Exclusions for attacks on staff plummet by 40%
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