EXCLUSIONS for drug and alcohol issues at Essex's 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 Essex schools excluded students 327 times for drug and alcohol-related issues in 2018/19 – 19 permanently and 308 temporarily.

This was an increase on the year before, when there were 298.

The vast majority of exclusions occurred in state-funded secondary schools, but there were six in special schools and one in a primary school.

They were among a record 12,180 drug and alcohol-related exclusions across England – an increase of 17 per cent on the year before.

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."

There were 10,987 total exclusions in Essex in 2018/19, an increase of 25 per cent on the year before, when there were 8,814.

A Department for Education 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."