HUNDREDS of Southampton schoolchildren missed out on classes in exclusion due to physical attacks or drug and alcohol-related issues.

The city’s primary and secondary schools had the highest proportion of exclusions for these reasons out of the whole of England, figures reveal.

Analysis of Department for Education data by Newsquest's Data Investigation's unit shows there were 558 exclusions in Southampton in 2017/18 for physical assault against a pupil or an adult and drug and alcohol related-incidents. This equated to 40 per cent of all removals in city schools that year and was a 26 per cent increase in these types of cases from 2015/16.

Concerns have been raised by teachers’ union officials over the rise in violence and substance issues.

Maggie Bremner, National Association of Schoolmasters/ Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) regional organiser, said: “Pupil indiscipline is now one of the main reasons given by teachers for considering leaving the profession, making it a key contributory factor to the national crisis in teacher supply. It is common for people to assume that behaviour problems are confined to secondary schools, but in fact, that has never been the case.

“Primary school teachers also face equally challenging and serious pupil indiscipline, but they are often discouraged from raising the issues and led to believe it will reflect negatively on them because of the age of pupils. For too long, too many teachers have suffered in silence.”

She added: “No teacher should have to go to work with the expectation that they will be abused. All workers are entitled to a safe working environment, free from violence and disruption.”

A Southampton City Council spokesperson said overall levels of permanent and fixed-term exclusions across the city are down, although from 2016/17 to 2017/18 this was only a marginal decline.

“The figures on violence and substance-related issues are regrettable but they do not tell the whole picture, and in fact they obscure the significant progress that has been made over the last few years in reducing exclusions,” they said.

“The proportion of pupils in Southampton that have been excluded either permanently or on a fixed-term basis has been falling and is now below the national average.

“This is despite a backdrop of a rise in UK-wide exclusion rates and has happened as a result of a close and effective partnership between the council, headteachers and school staff, who regularly come together to share best practice and develop data-led insights into effective methods of helping those at risk of exclusion.”

Physical assaults on adults in Southampton schools led to 226 exclusions in 2017/18, up from 137 incidents in 2015/16.

The Daily Echo contacted Southampton City Council for comment.

Hampshire schools presented a similar picture, with 35 per cent of exclusions in 2017/18 coming from physical assaults and drug and alcohol-related cases.

These exclusion causes rose from 2,376 in 2015/16 to 2780 two years later, an increase of 17 per cent.