MORE pupils were excluded from schools in the Bradford district last year for breaking Covid-19 rules than almost anywhere else in the country, new data has revealed.

Department for Education figures show there were 494 temporary exclusions from district schools during the 2020-21 academic year due to “wilful and repeated transgression of protective measures”.

Of the exclusions, 488 were from secondary schools, four in primary schools and two in special schools.

The total equates to 50 exclusions for breaches of Covid measures for every 10,000 pupils in the district – one of the highest rates nationally.

Ian Murch, president of the National Education Union in Bradford, says: “One of the factors you have to bear in mind is that Bradford is among the locations with the lowest vaccination rates, so as you can imagine that means more people in Bradford than in other places didn’t take the threat of Covid seriously.

"People may think exclusions are extreme, but they wouldn’t have thought it extreme when lots of people were dying."

Children across England were excluded 12,965 times for reasons including non-compliance with social distancing, causing distress such as by purposefully coughing near to others, or other deliberate breaches of a school’s public health measures.

Schools were able to list multiple reasons for each exclusion for the first time last year.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said schools worked hard to keep pupils and staff safe during the pandemic.

She added that it was "not unreasonable" that young people should be expected to comply with the measures.

Mr Murch said: “Even when you have the powers to impose measures, it’s very difficult to exercise them all the time.

“You don’t know at the start whether people are ignoring the rules – it takes a while for breaches to become obvious to you.”

Figures for the most recent academic year include a period in spring 2021 when Covid-19 restrictions meant vulnerable children and children of key workers were attending school in person, with others being educated remotely.

Of the 16 possible reasons for exclusion, public health was the fourth most frequent.

Paul Whiteman – general secretary of the union – said exclusions were always a last resort and that they had fallen to an all-time low across England.

He added that they should not mean "the end of the road" for the pupils affected.