According to figures from the Department for Education, the number of exclusions from Hampshire schools, including in Southampton and Portsmouth, related to drugs or alcohol rose by over 100 cases in a year.
In the 2018/19 academic year, a total of 412 student exclusions occurred in Hampshire schools in relation to drugs or alcohol. This was an increase of 113 exclusions from the previous academic year, which saw 299 exclusions. In Southampton specifically, the number of exclusions increased from 44 in the previous year to 46 in the 2018/19 academic year. This increase makes up a part of the overall record increase in drug and alcohol-related exclusions across schools in England; a total of 12,180, which was an increase of 17% on the 2017/18 academic year.
A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said:
Any decision by a headteacher to exclude a pupil is made on a case by case basis and will be a last resort having firstly exhausted other interventions.
Hampshire schools have invested heavily in education initiatives about drugs, to support pupils and families, not only at school but also in their communities.
In Southampton, Councillor Lorna Fielker, Acting Cabinet Member for Learning at Southampton City Council has stressed that significant progress has been made to reduce the numbers of exclusions in schools in the city and the Council will continue to support headteachers and school staff in bringing these numbers down too.
But the MP for Southampton Itchen, Royston Smith, has called this increase in exclusions ‘concerning’ and stated that:
I know that school leaders will do everything they can to support young people who are suffering from substance misuse but there are times where exclusion is necessary.
Royston Smith, MP for Southampton Itchen
The rise exclusion numbers has also created a rise in demand for a cross-party group of MPs to reduce avoidable exclusions from school, particularly for vulnerable children. Every exclusion from school is a learning opportunity and a change to stay in the system missed, says MP Alan Whitehead. But he also notes that although he favours a low exclusions policy, he still recognises that in some situations there are no other alternatives.