CHILDREN at a Carlisle secondary school are more likely to be excluded than anywhere else in Cumbria, figures show.

The Richard Rose Central Academy had the highest rate of suspensions in the county in 2020-21, according to Department for Education data.

Our analysis found that pupils there were temporarily excluded 376 times that year.

There were also four permanent exclusions at the school in that period, among 18 recorded across north Cumbria.

A spokesperson for the school said things have been improving after the Covid pandemic.

They said: “Over the past 18 months, we have worked hard to re-establish a culture of high expectations across our school, as students returned to their classrooms following the initial Covid lockdown.

"Our young people have risen to the challenge and the vast majority of students display excellent attitudes towards their learning on a daily basis.

"Since the 2020/21 academic year, our suspension rate has reduced significantly – demonstrating the positive, productive learning environment we have across our school now.

"This is recognised by parents and families, who continue to make us a school of choice locally."

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Schools in Allerdale, Carlisle, Copeland and Eden recorded 2,049 suspensions in that period - more than two-thirds of all temporary exclusions recorded in Cumbria and around half of all permanent exclusions.

More than 3,000 exclusions were imposed across the wider county during the first year of the pandemic, including 106 linked to deliberate breaches of coronavirus regulations.

That is up from 2,515 in 2019-20.

Labour’s shadow schools minister Stephen Morgan MP said there had been a lack of clear guidance around exclusions, especially during the pandemic.

He called on the Government to ensure children are better supported to improve their life chances, adding: “No parent wants to see their child excluded from school.”

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

The National Association of Head Teachers said schools following guidance were sometimes forced to suspend students in cases of persistent rule breaking and unsafe behaviour, with school leaders making tough decisions to keep everyone safe.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the union, said exclusions are always a last resort – and have fallen to an all-time low across England – but should not mean the end of the road for pupils affected.

He added: "Unfortunately cuts to health and social care services mean that the safety net for excluded young people has too many holes in it.

"This is something that the Government should address urgently.”

In North Cumbria during 2020-21, there were 582 suspensions and seven permanent exclusions recorded in Allerdale schools; 1,061 suspensions and nine permanent exclusions in Carlisle, 284 suspensions and two permanent exclusions in Copeland and 122 suspensions in Eden schools.

And in South Cumbria, there were 539 suspensions and 12 permanent exclusions recorded in Barrow schools and 415 suspensions and seven permanent exclusions across South Lakeland.