MORE than 2,600 children were suspended from schools in Kirklees last year for verbally or physically abusing their classmates or teachers, new figures show.

But the figure is down on the previous 12 months.

And education officials in the area are confident they can continue to reduce the numbers still further.

There are about 63,000 children aged between four and 16 in Kirklees schools and officials say the proportion who have to be excluded means they compare favourably with other areas.

A spokesman said: “Exclusions from Kirklees schools are consistently low by national standards and are continuing to fall.

“In terms of permanent exclusions from secondary schools, we now have one of the lowest rates in the country.

“The 2009/10 figure of 2,654 exclusions again compare very well, with only six permanent exclusions. In the previous year, for example, there were 30 permanent exclusions and 2,837 fixed term exclusions.

“We are pleased with the latest figures and the council works hard in partnership with local schools so that pupils are only excluded as a last resort.

“Headteachers in Kirklees always consider early intervention and alternatives to exclusion prior to actually excluding pupils.

“Our schools have a wide range of options at their disposal, some of which involve additional support from the local authority.

“Which steps are taken before exclusion will depend on the school's behaviour policy and the merits of the individual case and will differ from school to school”.

Schools are urged to look at alternatives to exclusion which can include restorative justice, mediation, a managed move to another school or exclusion within the school.

Early intervention can involve individual education plans or pastoral support programmes, support from an educational psychologist, assessment of special educational needs, pupils being supported in a nurture group or inclusion unit or support from the local authority support service.

The new statistics from the Department for Education show that for 2009/10, 2,125 children in Kirklees were handed out a fixed term (temporary) exclusion from secondary schools. A further 331 were temporarily excluded from primary schools and 198 from special schools.

The six permanent exclusions were from secondary schools, there were none in Kirklees from either primary or special schools.

The Department says there

were an estimated 5,740 permanent exclusions from primary, secondary and all special schools in 2009/10 nationally.

There were 279,260 fixed period exclusions from state funded secondary schools, 37,210 fixed period exclusions from primary schools and 14,910 fixed period exclusions from special schools.

The average length of a fixed period exclusion in state-funded secondary schools was 2.5 days. For primary schools, the average length of a fixed period exclusion was 2.1 days.