Children at a Barrow secondary school are more likely to be excluded than almost anywhere else in Cumbria, figures show.

St Bernard’s Catholic High had the second highest rate of suspensions in the county in 2020-21, according to Department for Education data.

Our analysis found that pupils there were temporarily excluded 175 times that year – a rate equivalent to a quarter of the school population.

That is second only to the Richard Rose Central Academy in Carlisle.

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There was also one permanent exclusions at the school in that period, among 19 recorded across South Cumbria.

Schools in Barrow and South Lakeland recorded 954 suspensions in that period – nearly a third of all temporary exclusions recorded in Cumbria and just over half of all permanent exclusions.

More than 3,000 exclusions were imposed across the wider county during the first year of the pandemic, including 106 linked to deliberate breaches of coronavirus regulations.

That is up from 2,515 in 2019-20.

Labour’s shadow schools minister Stephen Morgan MP said there had been a lack of clear guidance around exclusions, especially during the pandemic.

He called on the Government to ensure children are better supported to improve their life chances, adding: “No parent wants to see their child excluded from school.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said permanent exclusions are a rare but necessary way of managing behaviour – but should not mean exclusion from education.

The National Association of Head Teachers said schools following guidance were sometimes forced to suspend students in cases of persistent rule breaking and unsafe behaviour, with school leaders making tough decisions to keep everyone safe.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the union, said exclusions are always a last resort – and have fallen to an all-time low across England – but should not mean the end of the road for pupils affected.

He added: "Unfortunately cuts to health and social care services mean that the safety net for excluded young people has too many holes in it.

"This is something that the Government should address urgently.”

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In South Cumbria during 2020-21 there were 539 suspensions and 12 permanent exclusions recorded in Barrow schools and 415 suspensions and seven permanent exclusions across South Lakeland.

And in North Cumbria, there were 582 suspensions and seven permanent exclusions recorded in Allerdale schools; 1,061 suspensions and nine permanent exclusions in Carlisle, 284 suspensions and two permanent exclusions in Copeland and 122 suspensions in Eden schools.