Schools in Hampshire suspended more pupils in the spring term last year than in any term since comparable records began in 2016-17, new figures show.

It comes as the number of pupils suspended in one term across England topped 200,000 for the first time – with The Children's Society urging local authorities to review how decisions are made and provide better help for children struggling with school.

The latest Department for Education figures show 3,932 pupils in Hampshire were suspended from school in the 2021-22 spring term – up from 2,863 across the same time period in 2018-19, before the coronavirus pandemic.

This was the highest figure of any term since comparable figures began at the start of the 2016-17 academic year.

Nationally, 201,000 pupils were suspended in the 2021-22 spring term – up from 184,000 in the autumn and the highest on record.

The Children's Society said the rising number of suspensions is concerning, with poor behaviour often indicating children are suffering from unmet special education needs or larger issues outside of school, such as poor mental health or abuse.

Iryna Pona, policy and impact manager at the charity, said: "It is important that when these behavioural changes show up, schools work with social care and other local agencies to ensure the needs of the child are understood and help is offered.

"Unfortunately, we know this often doesn’t happen and specialist support is not available, meaning a suspended child can then be more vulnerable to other risks such as grooming for sexual or criminal exploitation."

Ms Pona called on school and local authorities to review how suspension decisions are made, with a greater focus on providing children with help to address the underlying issues.

She also urged the Government to increase funding and roll out support, so children receive the help they require before problems escalate.

The Association of School and College Leaders said the dramatic increase has not come out of the blue and said the underlying issues children experience have been "exacerbated by the erosion of local support services, and the inadequacy of education funding".

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, said: "Schools, as ever, are left picking up the pieces, doing their best to support and keep pupils in school, but also having to reluctantly resort to suspensions in order to maintain a suitable learning environment for all their pupils.

"It is an invidious position, and the answer lies with the Government to improve the funding for schools and local services. This is not unachievable, but it is a political choice."

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "The Government will always support head teachers to use their judgement on how and when to use suspensions – and permanent exclusions as a last resort – so children can be taught in a calm, safe and supportive environment, free of disruption."We want to continue to help heads and teachers raise standards of behaviour, which is why we are introducing a new professional qualification, as well as guidance, on how best to manage classroom behaviour and prevent any form of disruption, so that teachers can focus on delivering the best possible education to their pupils."