EDUCATION bosses battling mounting numbers of pupils being excluded from schools have been praised for a move to provide children with more support in mainstream schools, but told it will not be a “complete solution”.

North Yorkshire County Council has unveiled detailed plans to support a sea change in the way children at risk of exclusion are handled, described by the authority as a “preventative and inclusive culture”.

The changes have proved controversial, sparking protests, and campaigners have claimed three of the county’s five pupil referral unit head teachers have resigned as a result.

The council’s leading members are considering the changes which will save them £1.2million and help offset spiralling pressures over funding children with high needs.

However, the council’s executive member for education, Councillor Patrick Mulligan, said the main reason for the changes is to cut school exclusions, which have risen by 20 per cent between 2010 and 2017, Department for Education data shows.

Rising exclusions is a nationwide issue, but the rate in North Yorkshire was above the national average in 2017/18, with 26 out of 43 secondary schools permanently excluding at least one young person.

Teaching unions have claimed government cuts to education funding have left schools less able to help children with challenging behaviour before it escalates.

Cllr Mulligan said changes to the system are needed.

He said: “Evidence shows that children and young people who are permanently excluded suffer in terms of educational outcomes, and life chances. So wherever possible we believe they should remain within mainstream education, in their local school with the right support and curriculum to meet their needs.”

The council said the new model of alternative provision will be more flexible, to meet the needs of children and young people locally.

Schools and pupil referral units have agreed changes in every area in the county apart from Harrogate, where campaigners claim all the available options would be “hugely disruptive”.

Campaigners say students and their families need security for the future and the least the council can do is to assure them that they may see out the full school year.

The spokesman added: “We believe other pupil referral units across the county have been given this assurance, so the situation in Harrogate appears grossly unfair.

“We have campaigned for nearly a year to oppose the cold budget-slashing the council seems intent upon, but our appeals have only won a stay of execution for the pupil referral service. We need the council to take action now.”