EXCLUSIONS for drug and alcohol issues at Bradford’s schools have hit a record high.

Department for Education figures show the city’s schools excluded students 146 times for drug and alcohol-related issues in 2018-19 – three permanently and 143 temporarily.

This was an increase on 100 the year before, and the highest since records began in 2006-07.

There were 5,920 total exclusions in Bradford in 2018-19, an increase of 25% on the year before, when there were 4,743.

All exclusions occurred in state-funded secondary schools, with none in special schools or in primary schools. Exclusions from independent schools are not involved in these figures.

A Bradford council spokesperson said: “Drugs and alcohol in schools is sadly a national problem. A lot of good work goes on in our schools around this issue, and others, such as mental health, which may lie behind discipline problems.

“Across the district we have a range of agencies working together to help children and young people who may need additional support.

“We have Schools’ Safer School Police Officers and individual support is offered through mentor support where needed and referrals to agencies such as the Bridge Project which helps young people who have problems due to their own, or someone else's drug use.

"The Young People's Drug and Alcohol Service also provides alcohol and other drug related advice information and support to young people and their parents and carers amongst others.”

A record 12,180 drug and alcohol-related exclusions occurred across England – an increase of 17% on the year before.

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics said the statistics were “worrying”, and unless the underlying causes were addressed the number excluded may continue to rise.

Ian Murch, president of the National Education Union in Bradford, said: “The real problem is stopping the supply and chain which gets to the children and into the schools.

“I have known staff at schools contact us as a union about what to do about the fact people are selling drugs to their pupils. The advice is you should tell the police. You can’t just ignore it.

“It goes back a long time the problem of people selling drugs to kids at school gates and shops willing to sell alcohol to children.

“It takes a lot more policing than you can do when you are in the school. You clearly look out for it but you can’t stop it getting to the schools, that’s the problem.

“If it is more than taking drugs and alcohol, if they are dealing things then they do need to be permanently excluded because you have to stop that as soon as you can.

“It does look worryingly like a trend and you have to look for reasons in the trends."

The total number of exclusions nationwide also increased between 2017-18 and 2018-19, from 419,000 to 446,000, prompting the formation of an all-party parliamentary group to reduce avoidable expulsions of vulnerable children.

A DfE spokesman said: “We are clear that expulsion should only be used as a last resort, and should not mean exclusion from high quality education or support."

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.

The council spokesman added: "Discipline in schools is essential to create the best environment for children to learn. Every school in the Bradford district takes this seriously and fixed-term or permanent exclusions are only ever used as a last resort.

“We work in partnership with our schools to look at exclusion levels and the reasons behind them. This helps us spot if any specific assistance may be required.

“We also work with schools to support an excluded pupil to continue their education."