EXCLUSIONS for drug and alcohol issues at Herefordshire's secondary schools have risen, figures reveal.

A rise in the number of exclusions across England has prompted the creation of a new cross-party group of MPs, to reduce avoidable expulsions of vulnerable children.

Department for Education figures show Herefordshire schools excluded students 24 times for drug and alcohol-related issues in 2018-19 – all temporarily.

This was an increase on the year before, when there were 13.

All but one of the exclusions occurred in state-funded secondary schools, with one in a special school.

They were among a record 12,180 drug and alcohol-related exclusions across England.

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics said the statistics were "worrying", and unless the underlying causes were addressed the number excluded may continue to rise.

Dr Piers Henriques, head of communications at the charity, said: "So often, for young people, substance misuse occurs as a coping mechanism for wider challenges, such as mental health problems or family discord.

"School exclusion will be justified in individual cases.

"However, it is only with improved support and inclusion for young people with hard lives that we will begin to see these numbers fall.

"We need better, earlier interventions in schools that seek to support rather than bluntly punish these young people."

The total number of exclusions nationwide also increased between 2017-18 and 2018-19, from 419,000 to 446,000, prompting the formation of an all-party parliamentary group on exclusions in recent months.

There were 1,020 total exclusions in Herefordshire in 2018-19, an increase of 4% on the year before, when there were 982.

A DfE spokesman said: “We are clear that expulsion should only be used as a last resort, and should not mean exclusion from high quality education or support.

“We will always back headteachers to use expulsion when required as part of creating calm and disciplined classrooms, which bring out the best in every pupil."