Racial abuse, sexual harassment and assaults on staff were among the reasons children were kicked out of Powys primary schools last year.

New figures obtained through a Freedom of Information Request have revealed that more exclusions are being handed out to our youngest children.

They also show the total county-wide figures for both fixed-term and permanent exclusions, at 533 and 15 respectively, hit five year highs in the 2016/17 school year.

Pupils aged 11 and under were suspended a total of 154 times – a 141 per cent rise on the 64 suspensions recorded in 2015/16.

The most common reason given was disruptive behaviour, followed by physical assault, though one child was suspended for racial harassment and one for sexual harassment.

The primary schools dishing out the most suspensions last year were both in Newtown – Maesyrhandir CP School with 32 and Treowen CP School with 30.

The 2016/17 school year also saw five primary pupils in the county permanently excluded, including one Foundation Phase child for assaulting a member of staff.

It was this Key Stage, made up of children aged seven and younger, that saw the most significant rise in suspensions, jumping 450 per cent from eight to 44 in one year.

The county’s high school pupils fared better. Key Stages three to five saw a 10 per cent decrease in suspensions from 423 to 379, and a drop in permanent exclusions from 11 to 10.

Llandrindod High School gave out the most suspensions among the high schools for the third year running, but it has seen a notable drop from 130, to 83, to 60.

In contrast, Ysgol Bro Hyddgen in Machynlleth – the county’s only all-through school – stood out with just two suspensions in each of the last two school years.

As with the primary schools, the most common reason behind being suspended from high school was disruptive behaviour. This was followed by physical assault and verbal abuse, but again there was a small number of suspensions for more serious reasons. Two high school pupils were suspended for sexual harassment, two for theft and one for racial harassment.

Of the 533 suspensions given out across Powys, 36 were from two of the county’s three special schools – down from 58 in 2015/16.

Cabinet Member for Schools, Councillor Myfanwy Alexander, said: “Every school must have a behaviour policy. Headteachers are responsible for determining measures to secure good behaviour and governors have powers to draw up general principles and provide guidance for head teachers on disciplinary matters. The head is responsible for dealing with individual disciplinary cases.

“During 2016/17 there were 15 permanent exclusions in the county compared to 11 in 2015/16 and there were 533 fixed-term exclusions in 2016/17 compared to 487 in the previous year.

“The permanent exclusion rate for the county is 0.5 per 1,000 pupils.

“Although the authority expects schools to make every effort to retain learners within mainstream schools, we acknowledge that cases do arise when, for the well-being of the young person and his or her peers, an exclusion is the correct outcome of the process.”