Rich-kid school exclusions on a par with those in poorer areas
Schools with the highest numbers of wealthier families are nearly as likely to exclude pupils as those in poorer areas, according to figures which show little class divide in the banning of children from lessons.
Experts say the data confirms the claim that there is no link between exclusion and bad behaviour because the decision to suspend stems from the attitude of the teacher rather than the pupil.
Around 5 per cent of children in England's most deprived areas are excluded, and 4 per cent in the least deprived, although schools with parents in the middle income bracket are more likely to hand out suspensions.
But the differences between areas are apparent at secondary level. Around 11 per cent of children in the most deprived areas are suspended, compared to just 7 per cent in the richest.
The government statistics show vast local differences in the use of permanent exclusions. Bury has the highest rate in the country - 2.8 in every 1,000, followed by Wandsworth in south-west London with 2.5, Peterborough with 2.4 and north London's Islington with 2.3.
But most authorities had rates under 0.10 per cent and there were no expulsions at all in North Tyneside, North Lincolnshire, Rutland and Wolverhampton, suggesting local authorities are advising headteachers to use alternatives.
The new statistics, for 200708, show a fall by 6.4 per cent in the number of permanent exclusions and 10 per cent for suspensions.
Liberal Democrat schools spokesman David Laws has accused ministers of "fiddling the figures" by not giving information on unofficial expulsions, thought to be rising due to new policies such as managed moves, whereby children are placed at another school with the co-operation of headteachers.
Andy Winton, president of the National Association of Social Workers in Education, said the prescriptive curriculum and inexperience of some newer teachers in dealing with bad behaviour were the main factor in children being thrown out of the classroom.
Around 90 children aged five and under were excluded.
"Exclusion is one of the great wrongs in our school system and can be prevented by better use of resource. We need better training on these issues for teachers," he said.
Academies could create "sink schools" if they continue to expel disproportionately high numbers of children, experts have said.
New figures show that the independently run secondaries exclude twice as many pupils as others in the maintained sector, and use suspensions as a punishment significantly more often.
In 200506, 5.5 pupils in every 1,000 were expelled from academies, compared to 2.4 in other English secondaries. The following year this had fallen to 4.7 and 2.1 in other schools. The latest figures for 200708 show a permanent exclusion rate of 4.2 in academies and 2.1 in other secondaries.
"Exclusions in academies worries us," said Andy Winton, president of the National Association of Social Workers in Education.
"You find a great shift towards 'sink schools' if other secondaries in the area are not academies."