SCHOOLS in Essex excluded pupils for racist bullying on more than 150 occasions last year, new figures reveal.

Department for Education data shows schools across the county excluded students 155 times for racist abuse in 2018-19. That was up from 112 in the previous academic year.

All were fixed-term exclusions, also known as suspensions, where a pupil is temporarily removed.

The figures include abuse by children at state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in the area.

In England, pupils were excluded for racist bullying on 4,900 occasions last year – a record high, and up from 4,300 in 2017-18.

Anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate said the rise in the number of exclusions due to racism is a concern.

Owen Jones, head of education at Hope Not Hate, added: “From what we have seen, there is a much better concerted effort to clamp down and take it more seriously. Students of colour are having more confidence to speak up.”

Mr Jones said racist abuse is a particular concern in rural and coastal schools, which have mostly white student populations.

Overall, Essex schools excluded pupils 10,987 times in 2018-19 – equivalent to 211 exclusions every week.

This was an increase of 25 per cent on the previous year, when they handed out 8,814 exclusions.

In Colchester, 1,379 pupils excluded across the year and in Tendring 2,338 pupils were excluded.

There is no data available for the reasons of the exclusion.

The rise in total exclusions in Essex reflects the trend across England, where the figure rose by seven per cent to 446,000.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, fears there will be further exclusions as a result of children struggling to adjust to being back at school after the coronavirus lockdown.

“Excluding a child makes them more vulnerable to exploitation by criminal gangs and less likely to leave education with the qualifications they need to succeed,” she said.

A Department for Education spokesman said permanent exclusion should be a last resort.

He added: “We know that some pupils will return to school in September having experienced loss or adversity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which is why we have also provided guidance for school leaders on how to re-engage these pupils and create the right classroom environment to help them thrive.”