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  1. ITV Report

Lancashire has country's highest expulsion rate

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The numbers of children being expelled from school has soared in Lancashire, figures show.

Experts suggested that the hikes are being caused, in part, by pressures on schools.

Across the country, there was a 12% rise on average in the numbers of expulsions between September last year and June this year, compared with the same period the previous academic year, the TES calculated.

This is based on data gathered by the magazine from 118 local councils through Freedom of Information requests.

In terms of the numbers expelled, Lancashire had the highest number, with children permanently excluded 364 times.

Behaviour expert Jarlath O'Brien told the TES:

Some local authorities are doubling in more in one year. These are places that are demographically very different from each other.

Schools have much fewer staff than they used to. If you have to lose £700,000 in a year, you lose an awful lot of support staff and attendance officers.

So schools may feel that they have less capacity to handle issues. Instead, they're excluding pupils.

– Behaviour expert Jarlath O'Brien

Colin Harris, a retired primary headteacher who has worked as a consultant at a pupil-referral unit, suggested:

When cuts are made, the people supporting mental-health needs, behavioural needs - they get cut back first.

So what you've got is situations where children are not being supported in the way that they were.

That will lead to behavioural issues. And, most importantly, to less tolerance for maintaining children with behavioural issues in schools.

There has also been more focus on academic achievement and results in the last two years.

– Colin Harris

Although there has been a rise in exclusions, the number as a percentage of the local school population is one of the lowest in the country, a spokesman said.

A Lancashire Council spokesman said it has more schools than any other authority, which is why it is likely to appear near the top, adding:

Fewer than 0.01% of pupils were excluded last year and any increase is not statistically significant.

Although this overall percentage is very low, and in line with other local authorities, we are still committed to working with schools to reduce it even more.

– Lancashire Council spokesman

A Department for Education spokeswoman said:

Any decision to exclude should be lawful, reasonable and fair.

While exclusion can be used as a sanction for schools to deal with poor behaviour, permanent exclusion should only be used as a last resort, in response to a serious breach, or persistent breaches, of the school's behaviour policy.

The law is clear that excluding pupils due to academic attainment is prohibited.

– Department for Education