Pupil suspensions reach six year high following lockdown

Teenagers in class - Getty Images/Maskot
Teenagers in class - Getty Images/Maskot

Pupil suspensions have reached a high of at least six years as children struggle with behaviour issues after pandemic lockdowns.

There were 183,817 suspensions in the autumn term, the highest level since the Department for Education started recording termly figures in 2016-17.

It follows warnings from teachers about a rise in poor behaviour in the aftermath of the pandemic, including a lack of respect for teachers and failure to follow instructions.

Almost half of the suspensions given across state primary and secondary schools were for persistent disruptive behaviour. The other most common causes were verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult, and physical assault against a pupil.

There were 2,301 suspensions for sexual misconduct, of which 160 were in primary schools. A further 4,669 suspensions were made for use or threat of use of an offensive weapon or banned item, of which 327 were in primary schools.

The NASUWT teachers’ union warned in the summer of a “general sense among members that rudeness, verbal abuse and disruptive behaviour from pupils have increased since the pandemic”.

Over half of young people have said they are now less motivated to study and learn as a result of the pandemic, with a quarter saying they feel a lot less motivated, according to research by UCL and the Sutton Trust.

The number of suspensions fell during the pandemic with children working from home during lockdowns. However they have now risen above the level seen in autumn 2019, when there were 176,412 suspensions.

Government figures showed that while suspensions have risen, the number of permanent exclusions has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

There were 2,097 permanent exclusions in the last autumn term, below the 3,167 exclusions in autumn 2019. The most common reason for permanent exclusions was persistent disruptive behaviour, followed by physical assault against a pupil and verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult.