Lewisham has the third highest rate of exclusions of pupils from secondary schools of any area in England, figures have revealed.
There were 78 permanent exclusions from state secondary schools in the borough in the acamedic year 2015/16, which is more than Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Croydon combined.
This means that one in every 200 secondary pupils in the borough was permanently excluded, according to statistics from the Department for Education.
The Lewisham rate, which is triple the national average, has risen by a quarter since 2010/11. Eastlondonlines reported on similarly worrying figures two years ago, suggesting that little has changed.
Lewisham tops the rankings in London, with other deprived inner city boroughs like Tower Hamlets recording 10 times fewer exclusions.
Nearly 1,000 pupils received more than one fixed-term exlusion, which equates to one in 20 students in the borough.
Although there were no permanent exclusions in the borough’s special schools, there were also over 100 fixed-term exclusions, which is double the national average.
A Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “We are working hard to address the high level of pupil exclusions from our schools.
“There is a Lewisham-wide collaborative approach to reducing permanent exclusions which has already resulted in a 20 per cent drop between academic years 2015/16 and 2016/17,” the said.
“This is due to schools taking responsibility for reducing exclusions and targets being set as part of the Lewisham Secondary Challenge.”
Nationwide the number of exclusions in on the rise. The 5,445 permanent exclusions in 2015/16 represented a 35% increase over a five-year period.
An investigation by the Times Educational Supplement (TES) found that permanent exclusions rose as much as 300% in some areas in the latest academic year.
Across all the local authorities that responded to FOI requests, there was an 12% increase on average.
Experts say the rise is partly down to increasing pressure on schools to succeed in exam results and at inspections, as well as schools’ financial resources being stretched.
Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “The curriculum gets narrower and children’s experience of school is ever more focused on preparation for tests and exams, more students are becoming disengaged from school which in turn leads to problems with behaviour and mental health problems.
“Cuts to school and local authority budgets have led to pastoral and mental health support services being scaled back or axed. Some schools have had to reduce the number of teaching assistants employed,” he said.
“This clearly has an impact on the help schools can give to individual pupils as and when the need arises.”
He said schools should be places where “all children can thrive” in a “supportive, vibrant and caring environment” rather than “exam factories” which are increasingly leaving children feeling “demoralised”.
A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research found that at least half of children excluded from school suffer from mental health problems.
The research also revealed that excluded pupils are four times more likely to grow up in poverty, twice as likely to be living in care, and seven times more likely to have a special educational need as other children.
Government data shows only one in a hundred children who have been permanently excluded from mainstream schools go on to receive five good GCSE grades.