The number of children being suspended from school because of drugs or alcohol related issues has reached record levels, including dozens of pupils still in primary school. Figures released by the Department for Education (DfE) reveal a total of 9,250 school children were temporarily or permanently excluded from school in the 2015-16 year because of drugs or alcohol.
The number is an increase of nearly 500 on the previous year and the highest total since 2009-10's figure of 9,135.
Of the 9,250 suspended from school over drugs and alcohol, 35 of them were children aged 11 and under. A total of 520 secondary school pupils were handed permanent exclusions because of similar issues.
Michael O'Toole, of drugs charity Mentor UK, said: "We know fewer young people are using drugs but you can't just stand there and warn young people about their dangers.
"We need to get the message home that the vast majority of people don't take drugs. "Schools need to make sure they have a drugs policy in place to deal with this issue but at the same time we need to make sure those children who are excluded for drug offences don't suffer in the long term."
Elsewhere, the same data shows more than 2,000 children were excluded because of sexual misconduct, including five permanent primary school exclusions and 200 fixed period exclusions.
In total, there were 6,685 permanent exclusions in primary, secondary and special schools last year - up from 5,795 in 2014/15 – which roughly translates to 35 a day. The most common reason for permanent exclusion was persistent disruptive behaviour.
There were also more than 339,000 fixed period exclusions last year, mainly for disruptive behaviour, assaulting fellows pupils or abusive or threatening language to a teacher.
A DfE spokesperson said: "We want every child to have access to a good school place where they can learn without disruption and feel safe at school.
"The rules are clear that exclusion powers should only be used in particular circumstances and decisions to exclude should be lawful, reasonable and fair. Permanent exclusion should only be used as a last resort, in response to a serious breach, or persistent breaches, of the school's behaviour policy."