Commenting on the latest school exclusion statistics, the Minister said figures show:
Permanent exclusions (removals from the register ) up to 271 (a rise of 54 per cent)
22,000 individual pupils were excluded (3 per cent)
60 per cent are excluded only once
Mr Peacock said:
'Today's figures show that headteachers and councils are using the powers at their disposal to crackdown on troublemakers by removing them from their classes.
'I have repeatedly made it clear to headteachers that I would not be criticising them or looking over their shoulders if they exclude rowdy pupils to protect the interests of teachers and the vast majority of pupils. We abolished targets to reduce exclusions, giving power to councils and headteachers and today's figures show that they are using their increased powers more.
'Our emphasis is on two things - the rights of the majority to enjoy learning and teaching free from disruption and using the approaches and sanctions that have an impact on bad behaviour to stop it recurring.
'I'm committed to working with schools, teachers, unions and councils to tackle indiscipline - that's why we've introduced a range of measures to help schools tackle bad behaviour. As well as promoting a range of initiatives - such as restorative practices, Cool in School and behaviour co-ordinators - we have provided an extra£35 million for extra support staff.
'Schools using these approaches have found the best way to tackle bad behaviour is to involve troublemakers in taking responsibility for their actions. Although exclusion is sometimes necessary, we cannot let young people see it as the easy option either. Facing up to the harm done to themselves and to others is harder, but more is learned.
'It is still the case that the majority of pupils, 60 per cent, are excluded only once. Councils must ensure that where there is a pattern of repeat exclusions, they step in to support schools to ensure behaviour is addressed and turned around, avoiding the danger that pupils fail to catch up with learning and fail to achieve their potential.
'Learning is the key to all children's future. I am pleased that many councils are taking steps to ensure that even when out of class or school, young people are still in learning. Getting children back into learning, using a range of provision including other schools, needs to become a higher priority at local level.'
Exclusions from Schools, 2004/05 is available on the Executive website.
New guidance on exclusions was issued by the Executive in November 2003. This marked the end of the national target to reduce exclusions by a third, removing pressure from teachers to artificially reduce exclusions.