RESEARCH released by the BBC earlier this month has shown a worrying rise in the number of fixed-term exclusions for school children.

According to ACE Education, a fixed period exclusion from school means that a pupil is not allowed in school for a set number of days for disciplinary reasons.

Fixed period exclusion is one of the sanctions a school can give if a child misbehaves.

Most exclusions are for short periods of five days or less – but they can be for longer.

Worse still, across the country there are 50,000 pupils now taught in alternative provision schools outside of mainstream education.

The national trend is mirrored in Northumberland – pupils were permanently excluded from county schools at an average of one a day during the first half-term of this academic year.

Just 41 pupils were permanently removed in 2015-16 which rose to 75 in 2016-17 before jumping to 115 last year, at a staggering cost of £1.5 million to the council.

The problem is worsened in Northumberland due to the geographical challenges pupils could face getting to the next school.

The permanent exclusions have risen by of 203 per cent over the last three years, while fixed-term exclusions increased by 209 per cent.

Even the massive cost isn’t the biggest concern. A report to the council’s family and children’s services committee earlier this month explained that the impact for children is long lasting.

The report stated that the impact had “permanent and negative implications on their education as well as on social outcomes and physical and mental health.”

Disadvantaged children are disproportionately affected, as are those with SEND (special educational needs or disabilities).

Last year, 70 per cent of permanent exclusions were from schools rated as requiring improvement or inadequate by Ofsted.

Speaking at the committee meeting on Thursday, November 8, Dean Jackson, the council’s director of education, said: “This is one of our absolute priorities now.

“We need to try to find our own solutions to this. Our headteachers are keen to work with us on this.

“If our secondary schools had more money, they could do more to help those very troubled children.”

The council’s report also revealed that more than half of last year’s fixed exclusions were at one school – Blyth Academy.

In 2017/18, the academy recorded 2,409 fixed term exclusions – well over half of the county-wide total of 4,514.

In comparison, Ponteland High School’s figure sits at around 20 to 25 per year.

The school’s headteacher, Kieran McGrane, said the school didn’t have much of an issue with exclusions. Permanent exclusion is used as a last resort by Ponteland High School, with very few per year.

Mr McGrane said: “We are in the fortunate position that our fixed term exclusions are very low when compared to most secondary schools. Over the last few years we have averaged between 20-25 per year.

“We do make use of permanent exclusion when we have exhausted all other options and where we feel it is the right thing to do, but again these tend to be low each year, usually one or two.”

The district’s other high schools – Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth High School, Prudhoe Community High School, and Haydon Bridge High School – were all contacted for comment, but declined to provide one.