Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
Drop in school exclusions
Schools have been told to reduce the number of exclusions
Exclusions from school have fallen for the first time since figures began being collected.
Since exclusion figures were first gathered in 1994-95, the numbers of pupils expelled from school had continued to rise, prompting the government to set a target for exclusions to be reduced by a third by 2002.
Of the total for 1997-98, 84% were boys - mostly between the ages of 12 and 15.
Primary school exclusions unchanged
Doncaster and Kensington and Chelsea are the two education authorities whose schools expelled the most - 0.37% of their school populations - closely followed by Westminster (0.36%). At the other end of the table, the East Riding of Yorkshire's schools expelled 0.05% and Rutland's only 0.02%.
The drop in the exclusion figures was almost all in secondary schools. Although far fewer primary school pupils were excldued, the number was almost the same as the previous year.
Black pupils make up 3.28% of the school population but 10.21% of those excluded.
"This doesn't lessen our determination to tackle the continuing over-representation of black pupils amongst those excluded from school, by, for example, promoting community mentoring in minority ethnic communities," Mr Blunkett said.
"It can have a significant impact on the development of individual young people, especially those in danger of becoming disaffected."
Pupils whose ethnic group is given as Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi are a much larger minority but were far less likely to be excluded. They make up almost 6% of the school population but 3.09% of those excluded.
White pupils make up almost 87% of the total and almost 84% of those expelled. Chinese pupils were expelled least of all - 0.1% of the total.
To set the exclusion figures in context, the total number of primary and secondary school pupils in England was 6,638,603.
The figures also show a slight improvement in the rate of exclusions among children with special needs, from eight times to seven times the rates for children without special needs.
Among the causes to which the rise in exclusions had been attributed was the pressure on schools to show a good performance in exam league tables.
There have been claims that schools had sought to improve their performance figures by expelling disruptive or low-achieving pupils.
The government, which still has a long way to go to achieve its target for reduction, has invested £500m in projects to cut exclusions, following a report into truancy and expulsions from the Social Exclusion Unit.
It says the money will help schools to introduce a range of measures such as in-school centres for pupils who are at risk of being excluded, mentoring for difficult pupils, and better liaison between schools and parents.