NEW FIGURES have revealed a rise in exclusions from Cumbrian schools for drink and drug offences.

A rise in the number of exclusions across England has prompted the creation of a new cross-party group of MPs, to reduce avoidable expulsions of vulnerable children.

Department for Education figures show Cumbria schools excluded students 195 times for drug and alcohol-related issues in 2018-19 – five permanently and 190 temporarily.

This was an increase on the year before, when there were 143. All exclusions occurred in state-funded secondary schools, with none in special schools or in primary schools.

Simon Kay, who is supporting young people said that it was a worrying trend. He said: “For many young people that are vulnerable, taking drugs or not, school can be a very safe place."

The charity is operating despite the challenges of Covid-19 and it is proving to be a safety net for many young people who are struggling.

Simon said: “During lockdown, some young people I’m coming into contact with feel trapped in home they don’t necessarily feel safe in.”

He added that exclusion should only ever be “a last resort” but that schools are playing a vital role in the protection of vulnerable children.

“In some cases it’s the only hot meal they get in a day. Schools are brilliant they’re often doing a lot of the pastoral care as well.”

The total number of exclusions nationwide also increased between 2017-18 and 2018-19, from 419,000 to 446,000, prompting the formation of the all-party parliamentary group on exclusions in recent months.

The Centre for Social Justice, which will act as secretariat for the group, said the future looks “desperately bleak” for many children forced out of school.

James Scales, head of education at the CSJ, said: “Just 4% of pupils who sit their GCSEs in alternative providers get a standard pass in English and maths.

“By bringing together cross-party voices and sector leaders, this new parliamentary group gives us a chance to put that right – both by acting earlier to reduce avoidable exclusions and by being more ambitious for excluded pupils.”