CHILDREN as young as nine have been excluded from schools in Mansfield and Ashfield for alcohol-related incidents in the last five years, Chad can exclusively reveal.
Figures, obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, show that four primary school pupils and 119 secondary school children have been given temporary bans from the classroom since September 2006 and the end of the 2010/11 academic year.
A total of 75 boys and 48 girls have been given suspensions by education chiefs following incidents involving booze with 30 cases recorded during the last school year.
Suspension lengths vary from one week to 44 days with the figures showing little sign of improvement since 36 kids were excluded during the 2006/07 period.
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Former Mansfield Woodhouse headteacher John Peck, who is a spokesman for the National Association of Head Teachers, said that he feels it is important that teaching staff take a hardline stance on drink-related incidents.
“The figures do appear to show a worrying rise in the number of school exclusions for alcohol-related incidents during the past year,” he said. “However, the figures will reflect the fact that schools invariably take a no tolerance attitude in such cases and will most likely move straight to exclusion.
“I don’t believe there is a huge alcohol problem in schools but headteachers and staff need to be alert, because we do know that underage binge drinking is a growing problem in this country. I also suspect there are still a small minority of shops where it is also all too easy for youngsters to obtain alcohol.”
Laurence Jones, group manager for Targeted Support and Youth Justice Services at Nottinghamshire County Council, says that schools have a responsibility under the national curriculum for providing alcohol education to pupils as part of Personal Health and Social Education.
“Nottinghamshire County and Bassetlaw Primary Care Trusts work with Nottinghamshire County Council to commission bespoke drug and alcohol intervention services for young people, provided by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust,” he said.
“This will give schools a single route of referral for young people experiencing difficulties so that all of their issues can be dealt with as early as possible.
“We are also strengthening the assessment model used by education welfare officers to ensure that all young people are screened on referral for alcohol issues. Any that screen positive will have immediate access to intervention services from a substance misuse specialist in Targeted Support.”
Targeted Support also works with children and young people and their families at risk of anti-social behaviour and crime, who go missing from home, who are homeless, young carers or who are at risk of being out of education, training and employment in the long term.
“One model being used by some schools is to arrange a contract with the child and their parents to agree to intervention for their alcohol problems as an alternative to exclusion,” added Lawrence.
“This has been effective in a number of cases and is a strategy which is hoped will expand over the coming year. The investment in front line drug and alcohol services for young people increased in 2011-12 and is expected to be maintained at the same level in 2012-14.”
Nottinghamshire Police has adopted a proactive partnership-based approach towards alcohol abuse in Mansfield and Ashfield for several years including work with Trading Standards.
“We ensure action is taken against retailers who sell alcohol to under 18s, returning children we find drinking alcohol to their parents and referring cases to Social Services where necessary,” said a spokesman.
“Through the Pubwatch scheme, we work with licensees to ensure there is action taken when there is evidence of underage drinking or drug use.
“We also review licensed premises regularly and this will be one of the issues that we will explore during that process.”
The force has four dedicated youth issues officers who go into the secondary schools in Mansfield and Ashfield to raise awareness of a range of topics, including alcohol abuse.
“One initiative we have been heavily involved in is a Dragon’s Den-style project in Ashfield which aims to generate social responsibility among young adults,” added the spokesman.
“One of the outcomes of that initiative was the creation of a youth club in Stanton Hill to provide a range of positive activities for young people in the area.
“In addition, Nottinghamshire County Council has identified ‘Partnership Plus’ areas, including wards in Sutton, Kirkby and Mansfield, which have particular issues with crime and antisocial behaviour.
“Among the issues that will addressed by the police and its partners include those which are specific to young people.
“Ultimately, of course, we use deterrent and enforcement, notably through Operation Animism, with uniformed officers targeting areas with high-levels of alcohol-related antisocial behaviour.
“But this, again, is operated in conjunction with partners by involving Ashfield’s Community Protection teams and Mansfield’s Warden Service.”