Nearly 50 primary school pupils a day are suspended for assaulting teachers, it has been revealed.

Department for Education figures show that children aged five to 11 were suspended over 9,000 times for assault against an adult in 2012/13, up 5 per cent from 2011/12.

The total number of suspensions in state primary schools rose slightly year on year but fell in secondary schools for the sixth year in a row.

State school pupils permanently expelled from primary and secondary school also fell, from 5,080 in 2011/12 to 4,570.

Figures show that boys are three times as likely to be permanently or temporarily removed from school as girls.

Incidents in primary schools included a boy under ten who threatened a female teacher with a knife in Richmond, South West London. Another staff member had to grab the blade from his hand.

However, new figures published by the DoE reveal that thousands fewer pupils have been excluded from school since 2010, after the government strengthened heads’ powers to enforce discipline.

The latest data, which is for the 2012 to 2013 academic year, shows that compared to the 2009 to 2010 academic year:

  • more than 1,000 fewer pupils were permanently excluded – there were 4,630 in the 2012 to 2013 year, down from 5,740 in the 2009 to 2010 year
  • there were more than 60,000 fewer fixed-term exclusions – there were 267,520 in the 2012 to 2013 year, down from 331,380 in the 2009 to 2010 year
  • there were more than 11,000 fewer fixed-term exclusions for physical assault – there were 69,060 in the 2012 to 2013 year, down from more than 80,400 in the 2009 to 2010 year

The statistics highlight how the government’s reforms to give heads and teachers the powers and confidence to stamp out poor behaviour at an early stage are working.

School Reform Minister Nick Gibb said: “A tiny minority of disruptive children can absorb almost all of a teacher’s time and attention, and have an enormously negative impact on the education of other pupils.

“We have given heads and teachers more power than ever before to ensure strong discipline in school, so they can take action before exclusion becomes necessary. We have introduced new search powers, no-notice detentions and have put schools back in charge of exclusion appeals.

“We are also tackling the causes of exclusion by improving the quality of teaching, tackling disadvantage through the pupil premium, overhauling the special educational needs system and making radical improvements to alternative provision.

“These figures give further confirmation that our reforms are starting to have a real impact on improving behaviour in schools and this is supported by teachers on the ground – in 2013 more teachers rated their school’s behaviour as good or very good than when previously surveyed in 2008. And 130,000 fewer pupils are persistently missing class than in 2010.”

The reforms to allow heads and teachers to tackle bad behaviour at an early stage include:

  • scrapping ‘no touch’ behaviour policies that stopped teachers removing disruptive pupils from class
  • giving teachers powers to impose no-notice same-day detentions
  • making behaviour management a crucial part of a head’s training

In September 2012, the government also removed the rights of appeals panels simply to send expelled pupils back into schools against the wishes of heads.

This has ensured heads’ authority is no longer undermined, because they are now back in charge of exclusions. Previously, exclusions could be overturned by these external panels, stripping schools of the confidence to deal with discipline. But under the new system the final decision on reinstatement now lies with the school itself.

Today’s figures reveal a dramatic drop in the number of excluded pupils reinstated by external appeals panels – it is now at its lowest number since records began.

The number of pupils reinstated on appeal has halved in maintained schools – from 40 in the 2011 to 2012 academic year to just 20 in the 2012 to 2013 year, while the number of appeals lodged fell from 420 to 180 in the same period (figures for academies have not been available until today’s statistics).

School attendance has also drastically improved, with 7.7 million fewer school days lost to absence last year compared to the 2009 to 2010 academic year, and with 92% of schools rated good or outstanding by Ofsted for behaviour.

This approach is supported by pupils – the My Education survey of 2013 showed that more than three-quarters of pupils prefer tougher discipline in schools.