A Bath charity has called on schools to take a different approach after it was revealed that exclusions for drug and alcohol related incidents have risen 65% in the last five years in the West of England.
Across Bath & North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Bristol and Wiltshire, school exclusions associated with drugs or alcohol have risen from 170 in 2012/13 to 281 in 2016/17, the last year for which data is currently available.
In the statement, Developing Health & Independence (DHI) said: “We worry that removing the structure of a school day from a young person who is misusing substances will often only serve to exacerbate the problem.
“We believe that the best course of action when a young person is misusing drugs or alcohol is to talk and, more importantly, to listen.”
Rosie Phillips, Chief Executive of DHI, said: “These statistics are of real concern to us. We run two specialist drug and alcohol services for young people: Project 28 in Bath & North East Somerset, and Motiv8 in Wiltshire.
“We’ve seen demand for those services rising to the point where we are working with double the number of young people we are funded to work with.
“I know that schools don’t take the decision to exclude pupils lightly, but I hope that they will consider what we’ve said and think about what other approaches are available.
“Schools, charities like ours, and parents all just want what’s best for young people; and we will achieve far more by working closely together.”
In March, DHI held an event, Just Say It, in Bath to hear the views of young people about the issues they work with, including a question on school exclusions for drug use.
One young person, who had been excluded from school for a drugs incident, said at the event: “Someone like me, who’s never been excluded before, who tried hard with my school work and kept a reputation as a friendly person made one quite big slip up and then everyone turned their back on me.
“People should talk [to people like me], speak to them and ask them why they’ve [taken drugs]. DHI asked me questions that no one else had asked me before.
“They want to help me, while people at school don’t care. I feel that schools should help people who make mistakes rather than turn their back on them.”
This follows research by the charities Volteface and Mentor UK, which has shown school exclusions rose by 57% nationally over the same period.