Page last updated at 10:46 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

360 pupils suspended over alcohol

Teenagers drinking alcohol
Thomas Burns said both teachers and parents must take action over alcohol

Over a five year period, 360 pupils were suspended from secondary schools in Northern Ireland because of alcohol abuse, it has been revealed.

The figures were released in response to an assembly question which was asked by the SDLP MLA Thomas Burns.

Mr Burns said he was "shocked" by the number of suspensions which he described as "totally unacceptable".

"The last thing anyone wants to see is schoolchildren staggering drunk in the street," he said.

The South Antrim MLA added: "Alcohol abuse and binge drinking, particularly among young people, is an ever increasing problem in our society. It is quite shocking to learn this behaviour is not just restricted to town centres on Friday and Saturday nights, but has now made it into our schools as well.

Parental responsibility

"If children are getting so drunk on a regular basis it is affecting their schooling then serious action needs to be taken by both head-teachers and the parents.

"Harsh discipline needs to be brought to bear both inside and outside the school. The issuing of suspensions in these cases is totally justifiable and that needs to be backed up with further punishment at home," he said.

The statistics cover the academic years from 2003/04 to 2007/08 but no details are available on whether the pupils involved were under the influence of alcohol on their school premises.

Suspension and expulsion figures for the 2008/09 school year will be published in the coming weeks.

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