SCHOOLS in York have excluded fewer pupils due to bullying incidents than in the previous year, new data shows.

Figures from the Department for Education (DfE) show York schools excluded students five times for bullying in the 2019-20 academic year – all of which were temporary exclusions. This was a decrease on 12 the year before.

Of the exclusions in York, three occurred in state-funded secondary schools and two in primary schools.

Councillor Ian Cuthbertson, City of York Council’s executive member for children, young people and education, said that the city's schools and academies take bullying "incredibly seriously."

Cllr Cuthbertson said: "We recognise the huge negative impact it can have on young people’s lives and we want to ensure that pupils are safe from all forms of bullying. The use of sanctions such as exclusion provides evidence that schools do not tolerate inappropriate behaviour.

“While we all understand that talking about these issues can be extremely difficult, I would urge anyone who experiences bullying to speak to a trusted adult and seek help. Help is available at individual schools, via our trained school wellbeing team or through external partners."

Across England, 2,438 suspensions for bullying were recorded in 2019-20. This was down from 3,510 the year before - and the lowest number since records began in 2005-06.

The Anti-Bullying Alliance, which coordinates 'Anti-Bullying Week' every year, said the number of exclusions fell dramatically in 2020 as schools shut during the pandemic.

But, Martha Evans, director of the organisation, said this doesn't mean bullying disappeared from schools, with a survey carried out this year showing a rise in cyber-bullying.

The director said: "Sadly, we estimate that at least one child in every classroom is experiencing frequent bullying behaviour from others. We know this experience can affect children’s mental health and have a lingering effect well into adulthood.

"But, we must also remember that the majority of children know that bullying is never okay, and they want positive and respectful relationships with their friends and classmates."

Meanwhile, the Childline charity said the pandemic changed the landscape of bullying - with much of it now occurring online.

Alex Gray, head of volunteer operations at Childline, said: “We know bullying can have a profound impact on children and for some it can cause them to develop mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

“For others it can hinder their friendships as they don’t feel accepted by their peers, it can make them wary and suspicious of others and for some it can affect their performance at school."

The DfE added that it is supporting schools to tackle all forms of bullying through providing funding to anti-bullying charities and ongoing work to improve behaviour.