Almost 8,000 children were suspended from school in 2019/2020 – despite lockdown restrictions severely limiting numbers able to be taught in classrooms for a large part of the year.

The figures are an improvement on the previous year when almost 11,000 pupils were suspended – an all time high. It is thought that Covid-19 has masked much of the problem that may have been prevalent otherwise.

Only four per cent of state primary school pupils and one per cent from state secondaries were in school during closures last year. But the number of pupils expelled for persistent disruptive behaviour increased despite the lockdown. The number of students permanently suspended for persistent disruptive behaviour increased from 26 in 2018/209 to 29 last year.

The numbers given temporarily suspended for disruptive behaviour were almost as high in 2019/2020 as the year before at 2,469 compared to 2,560.

While the number of pupils suspended for bullying in Essex schools dropped from 77 in 2018/2029 to 58 in 2019/2020.

Greg Smith, head of operations at Oxford Home Schooling, said: “These new exclusion figures cover the whole of the 2019/20 school year, but with the final term being conducted during lockdown, it’s interesting to see how the data compares to previous totals.

“In many ways, the measures introduced during the pandemic, like reduced class sizes and increased supervision, have helped address the country’s bullying problem, so it will be interesting to see if schools try to adopt some of these permanently, even though restrictions are easing.”A spokesperson for Essex County Council said: “The data shows that overall the percentage of pupil exclusions, including fixed term exclusions (suspensions), in Essex has reduced across primary, secondary and special schools since the 2018 / 2019 academic year.

“The reasons for these exclusions are varied and there is no one reason why a child or young person may have been excluded permanently or on a fixed term.”