Physical Assault of Adults the Number 1 Reason for Exclusion in Primary Schools, New Data Shows


Latest suspension and exclusion statistics show physical abuse of adults a top reason for exclusions in England schools, ahead of Children’s Mental Health Week 2024.


In light of Children’s Mental Health Week (5th-11th February), Education Solicitors, IBB Law, explored government data to obtain a clearer picture of the state of child behaviour, looking at the worse areas and reasons for expulsions and suspensions within schools throughout England.


The relation between children’s mental health and their behaviour is known to be closely linked. It is common for stress and worry within children to manifest into behavioural issues which could affect their school performance, or worse, see them reprimanded with a suspension or exclusion.


The latest data from the Department of Education surrounding school disciplinary actions was analysed. It showed that the top reasons for exclusions by school type were:


By school type, the most common reasons for exclusion were:

  • Special schools:
    1. Physical abuse of an adult (195 exclusions)
    2. Persistent disruption (114 exclusions)
    3. Physical abuse of a pupil (78 exclusions
  • Primary schools:
    1. Physical assault against an adult (1,812 exclusions)
    2. Persistent disruptiveness (1,737 exclusions)
    3. Verbal abuse of an adult (831 exclusions)
  • Secondary schools:
    1. Persistent disruption (11,877 exclusions)
    2. Physical assault against other pupils (6,078 exclusions)
    3. Verbal abuse against adults (3,846 exclusions)

Shockingly, physical abuse of adults is a key player, followed by persistent disruption, and physical abuse of pupils. Verbal abuse is also a top reason.


These reasons were consistent throughout the regions, apart from Inner and Outer London where, concerningly, possession of offensive weapons was amongst the top reasons for exclusions. Sexual misconduct was the reason for 3 times as many exclusions than bullying in state-funded primary schools.


Interestingly, the areas with the highest levels of suspensions and exclusions by number of pupils were all located in the North, and the areas with the lowest figures were in the South, including areas such as City of London, Wokingham, Kingston upon Thames and Isles of Scilly.


The same results are shown when comparing the wider regions in England, with the worst regions being the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber, and the bottom regions with the lowest percentage of disciplinary action being South East and Outer London.


State-funded secondary schools showed the highest percentage of suspensions and exclusions when compared to the pupil count, with around 5% of pupils receiving disciplinary action. This was followed by special schools, at 4%, whereas state-funded primary schools had just 1%.


When comparing the statistics over the past five years, all regions (excluding Outer London) have seen an increase in the number of disciplinaries given out in the academic year 2021/22, potentially highlighting issues with behaviour within schools since the pandemic.


Celia Whittuck, Senior Associate at IBB, says, “The data revealing the causes behind suspensions and expulsions in UK schools underscores the critical need for a balanced and fair approach in addressing disciplinary issues. It is imperative to recognise that behind every statistic is a student’s future at stake.


“Beyond disciplinary measures, we need a holistic understanding that considers the socio-economic, cultural, and mental health aspects influencing behaviour, especially following the pandemic.


“The disruptions to normalcy, isolation, and the shift to virtual learning have created unprecedented challenges. Many children have experienced heightened stress, anxiety, and a sense of disconnection, leading to observable changes in behaviour. 


“The relationship between suspensions, exclusions and special educational needs (SEN) should also not be overlooked. SEN is a factor in some suspensions and exclusions. 


“To address the state of children’s behaviour, it is crucial for educators, parents, and policymakers to collaborate, emphasising the importance of holistic education that goes beyond academics.”


If you’re a concerned parent of a pupil you feel has been wrongfully dismissed from school, then speak to a member of our team of experts on 01895 207230 or email