Teachers are winning the war on bad behaviour in schools, ministers say, with a huge drop in the number of pupils suspended in Southampton.

The number of children given a “fixed period exclusion” has fallen by one third since 2010, figures show.

There were 2,870 suspensions in 2009-10, falling to 1,910 in 2012-13, the department for education (Dfe) said.

There was also a big fall in Hampshire (from 8,290 to 6,160) but the Isle of Wight saw a sharp increase (from 630 to 1,200).

Across England there has been a 19 per cent fall in the number of suspensions overthree years.

Nick Gibb, the Conservative schools reform minister, was quick to seize on the statistics as evidence that its changes to stamp out bad behaviour were working since coming to power in the last General Election.

The minister said heads and teachers had been given “more power than ever before” to impose discipline and cut the need for suspensions.

Mr Gibb said: “We have introduced new search powers, no-notice detentions and have put schools back in charge of exclusion appeals.”

But Labour’s Dan Jeffery, Southampton City Council’s Cabinet member for education, said: “I have not heard it described in that way by teachers.”

He suggested more schools were setting up their own ‘pupil referral units’, as an alternative to suspension, giving the example of Chamberlayne College for the Arts.

He added: “It is wrong to say this is the result of one policy – a hard-nose approach to discipline. Heads have a policy of not wanting to exclude if they can find alternative ways.”

Across England there were also more than 1,000 fewer pupils permanently expelled in 2012-13 – 4,630, down from 5,740 in 2009-10.

In Southampton the figure has also fallen from 30 to 20. The figure is unchanged in Hampshire at 70.