Pupils were kicked out of North East schools nearly 1,000 times for breaching coronavirus regulations, figures suggest.

“Wilful and repeated transgression” of Covid-19 rules saw children in our region suspended 977 times during the first year of the pandemic.

And Department for Education figures show three youngsters were permanently excluded from school over breaches of Covid rules.

Children across England were excluded on almost 13,000 occasions for reasons including failing to comply with social distancing and causing distress by coughing purposefully near others.

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In the North East, 90 per cent of exclusions involved secondary school children, with primary aged pupils punished 62 times and special school students on 40 occasions.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was not unreasonable to expect young people to comply with protective measures.

She said schools worked “very hard” to keep pupils and staff safe during the pandemic.

Middlesbrough had the highest number of suspensions linked to “wilful and repeated transgression of protective measures” in the North East – 223 pupils were temporarily kicked out of the classroom for breaches.

The Covid-19 related exclusions are among more than 27,000 recorded in the region during 2020-21, up 20 per cent on the year before.

Analysis by RADAR and the Echo found the most common reason behind exclusions in our region was persistent disruptive behaviour.

Labour’s shadow schools minister Stephen Morgan MP called on the Government to do more to tackle exclusions and ensure children are supported to improve their life chances.

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He added: “The Conservatives have created deep divides in school exclusions, with the lack of clear guidance, especially during the pandemic, threatening children’s futures and failing communities.

“No parent wants to see their child excluded from school but once again the Conservatives have treated our children and their future opportunities as an afterthought.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said permanent exclusions are a rare but necessary way of managing behaviour – but should not mean exclusion from education.

Government taskforces have been established to provide targeted support to pupils at risk of crime or exploitation, to keep them engaged in education.

The figures for the most recent academic year include a period in spring 2021 when Covid-19 restrictions meant that only key worker and vulnerable children were attending school in person, with others being educated remotely.

They show there were 184 Covid-19-related exclusions in County Durham; 39 in Darlington; 18 in Gateshead; 29 in Hartlepool, 223 in Middlesbrough, 158 in Newcastle; 10 in North Tyneside; 53 in Northumberland, 97 in Redcar, 36 in South Tyneside, 45 in Stockton and 88 in Sunderland. 

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