More than 220 local pupils suspended

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More than 220 children - including primary school pupils - were suspended from Newtownabbey schools during the last academic year.

Among the reasons given for the suspensions are bullying, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, and physical attacks on both staff and fellow pupils.

The figures form part of findings uncovered by The Detail - an investigative news and analysis website - obtained in response to a Freedom of Information request.

The figures cover the last academic year 2016-2017 and cover children from Primary 1 through to Year 12.

The majority of the suspensions relate to local secondary schools with 47 pupils suspended at Abbey Community College; 13 at Ballyclare Secondary School; eight at Belfast High; 28 at Edmund Rice; 56 at Glengormley High School; 64 at Hazlewood College; and 10 at Rosstulla Special School.

There were no suspensions at Ballyclare High School.

Among the reasons given for the suspensions were substance abuse (Abbey Community College, Belfast High, Edmund Rice, Glengormley High); bullying (Belfast High, Hazlewood College, Glengormley High); and physical attacks on pupils (Abbey Community College, Ballyclare Secondary School. Belfast High, Edmund Rice, Glengormley High School, Hazlewood College, Rosstulla Special School.

Other reasons given for suspensions at the schools include stealing; damage to school property; verbal abuse of pupil; verbal abuse of staff; and ‘persistent infringements’.

There were also suspensions at several local primary schools - Abbots Cross PS; Ashgrove PS: Ballyhenry PS; Fairview PS; Hollybank PS; Rathcoole PS - with physical attacks on staff; physical attacks on pupils; disruptive behaviour, and verbal abuse cited as the reasons for suspension at both schools.

Exact figures are unavailable as the official data only includes when there are more than five suspensions at a school.

All schools must submit statistics on suspensions and expulsions to the Education Authority.

The Detail requested a breakdown of this data from the Department of Education – including detailed information on the suspensions recorded by each school.

Each suspension period can cover up to five days and some pupils will have been suspended more than once.

The report by The Detail noted that “schools set their own discipline policy” with the Department of Education stating that discipline policies and their application are typically not comparable between schools.

A Department of Education spokeswoman said: “It is a matter for the school principal and board of governors, in consultation with pupils and their parents, to set a policy which reflects the school’s unique circumstances and needs.

“Schools have a legal right to impose sanctions for breaches of discipline, in line with their policy and, depending on the nature of the breach and the pupil’s previous disciplinary history.”

She said that sanctions might include a reprimand, a letter to parents or carers, removal from a class or group, loss of privileges, confiscation of inappropriate items (a mobile phone or music player), detention, suspension or expulsion.