VIOLENCE and threatening behaviour in Bolton's classrooms is increasing, new figures show.

Saiqa Chaudhari reports.

THE number of schoolchildren excluded in Bolton for physical assault and verbal abuse/and or threatening behaviour in the "classroom" is among the highest in the Greater Manchester.

Figures released by the department for education show that the number of children being thrown out of Bolton's school is at record levels ­— with the number of secondary school children being permanently excluded being amongst the highest in Greater Manchester.

And the number of primary school children being suspended amongst the highest in the North West.

Education bosses say incidents and bad behaviour will not be tolerated in the classroom — but stress that children with behavioural issues are given the support and help the need.

They also say more instances of mental health conditions being identified ­— and schools and Bolton Council are ensuring resources are targeted to support those pupils who would benefit from extra help

And further stress that schools work "very hard" to make sure that pupils are supported before reaching the point of an exclusion, saying it is only when all else has failed and it is the last resort

In the last academic year, 1,378 pupils were temporarily excluded from school at least once, the second highest in Greater Manchester, with the city of Manchester having more such expulsions.

Worryingly ­— taking primary, secondary and special schools into account ­— there has been a significant increase in violent incidents in the classroom.

Incidents of physical assault against a children increased from 415 to 481 in the last academic year and physical assault against an adult went up by one to 218 'attacks'.

Episodes of verbal abuse and/or threatening behaviour against a child went up from 84 to 113 and against adults increased from 595 to 629 in the same period.

A total of 34 children were expelled for this type of behaviour ­— with the numbers being permanently and temporarily excluded for physical assault against a pupil and verbal abuse/threatening behaviour being amongst the highest in Greater Manchester.

A total of 1,098 high school pupils were temporarily excluded.

And 533 fixed period exclusion notices were given out in primary school ­— the third highest in the North West, only Lancashire and Manchester's figures were higher.

Persistent disruptive behaviour was the main reason for young people being thrown out of the classroom ­— with 946 fixed term exclusion notices being issued in 2017/18 compared to 782 in 2016/2017. And 29 children being permanently excluded compared to 27 in the same period.

Executive Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Christine Wild, said: “Our local situation reflects the national picture - like other parts of the country we have seen an increase in exclusions and incidents in the classroom.

“We are working to tackle these rises with schools and our partners, and interventions, such as our excellent pupil referral unit service, provide support to schools when they are faced with challenging behaviour.

“Headteachers do not take the decision to exclude lightly and permanent exclusion is only used as a last resort, after everything else has been tried.

“When they do, it is in the interests of other children and staff who have a right to learn and work in a safe environment.

“We do know that the majority of children returning to school following a fixed period of exclusion tend to remain in school due to good support from all involved.

“Reducing exclusions and tackling unacceptable behaviour remains a priority for us and we will continue to support our schools to address these issues.”

The figures were published just before a report by The Home Affairs Select Committee on violence was published.

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, said: "We need a large-scale and long-term plan that includes a new generation of youth workers, more investment in early years and troubled families programmes, better children's mental health services, a strategy to tackle school exclusions and keeping schools open for longer to help protect some of the most vulnerable children."

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, which represents the majority of schools in England, said: “This report talks about a ‘perfect storm’ of cuts to services, and that’s exactly what school leaders are seeing. Not only are school budgets at breaking point, there have also been devastating cuts to police, social services, youth services, and health. The interventions necessary to support vulnerable young people are simply disappearing.

“It is important that exclusions are considered within this wider context. Exclusion should always be a last resort, but a school’s first duty is the safety of all its students and staff. School leaders must retain the autonomy to exclude a violent pupil in order to keep everyone else safe."