MORE than 8,000 pupils were excluded from school Hampshire in one year, new figures have revealed.

Overall, Hampshire schools excluded pupils 8,449 times in 2018-19 – equivalent to 162 exclusions every week. This was up 6% on the previous year, when they handed out 7,960 exclusions.

Meanwhile, Southampton schools excluded pupils 1,528 times in 2018-19 – equivalent to 29 exclusions every week. This was an increase of 10% on the previous year, when they handed out 1,392 exclusions.

The rise in total exclusions in Southampton and Hampshire reflects the trend across England, where the figure rose by 7% to 446,000.

The figures show that schools in Hampshire excluded pupils for racist bullying on more than 100 occasions last year - among the worst figures the country.

Schools excluded students 128 times for racist abuse in 2018-19. ​That was up from 98 in the previous academic year.

The data shows Southampton's schools excluded students 13 times for racist abuse in 2018-19 -down from 14 in the previous academic year.

All were fixed-term exclusions, also known as suspensions, where a pupil is temporarily removed. The figures include abuse by children at state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in the area.

Anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate said a national rise in the number of exclusions due to racism is a concern, but that schools are clamping down on the behaviour.

Owen Jones, head of education at Hope Not Hate, said the number of additional racist abuse exclusions last year was "worrying".

However, he added: "From what we have seen, there is a much better concerted effort to clamp down and take it more seriously.

"The process of exclusion is fraught for everyone involved, but the tolerance for that behaviour is reducing.

"Students of colour are having more confidence to speak up. It's not just about the 'n' word, it's about comments made throughout the day which make students feel unwelcome."

Mr Jones said racist abuse is a particular concern in rural and coastal schools, which have mostly white student populations.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, fears there will be further exclusions as a result of children struggling to adjust to being back at school after the coronavirus lockdown.

"Excluding a child makes them more vulnerable to exploitation by criminal gangs and less likely to leave education with the qualifications they need to succeed,” she said.

A DfE spokesman said permanent exclusion should be a last resort.

He added: “We know that some pupils will return to school in September having experienced loss or adversity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which is why we have also provided guidance for school leaders on how to re-engage these pupils and create the right classroom environment to help them thrive.”