Speaking on BBC Newsnight, the school behaviour advisor to the UK Department of Education said normally those that push for all children to remain in mainstream primary schools – regardless of their behaviour – are those that “never have to deal with the consequences of working in an environment as challenging as that”. 

“Sometimes children act incredibly violently, and you and I couldn’t have this conversation if one of us were screaming at one another, or throwing chairs at one another,” he told host Kirsty Wark. 

“So, let’s not pretend that classroom teachers or schools should have to put up with this level of violence, disruption and abuse. 

“This is untenable, and we wouldn’t expect anybody else to have to put up with it,” Bennett said. 

New research by charity Chance UK found that the majority of children excluded in primary school don't pass their GCSEs in English and maths, and that by Year 10, 64 per cent were ‘persistently absent’ from class. 

Most children excluded (97 per cent) were found to have social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH). 

The charity highlights suspension rates for primary students are now at the highest level since 2006, with more than 22,000 children aged 6 and under excluded or suspended in England’s primary schools in 2022.

The charity says the system is “failing the most vulnerable children in our society”, and argues the data shows exclusions and suspensions simply do not work. 

“When we have children as young as 5 being excluded from primary school then clearly something isn’t working,” Vanessa Longley, Chance UK CEO, said. 

“For the first time we can see the incredibly devastating impact that a primary school exclusion or suspension has on a child’s life and their school careers. 

“We can’t wait until they reach secondary school to tackle this problem, we must get in early to support children who are struggling and who often have unmet social, emotional and mental health needs.” 

Speaking on the program alongside Bennett, former Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, urged that “we can’t just give up” on children who come to school with special educational needs. 

She said every case of exclusion in primary school was “a disaster”, of which most could be prevented.  

“…just moving [excluded children] somewhere else doesn’t solve the problem…” she implored.

But Bennett hit back, saying it was “incredibly insulting” to the teaching profession to claim that schools were giving up on students. 

“The vast majority of children do remain in school environments … a tiny, tiny percentage of children get excluded, and its only for extreme behaviours, no school gives up on children…

“Schools do everything they can not to exclude children,” he countered. 

Bennett also took issue with Longfield’s ‘demonisation’ of alternative and special education providers. 

“These aren’t bins where children are dumped, these are intensive care units, these are places where people are trained, where they have the staff ratios to deal with the incredibly complex challenges of these children. 

“I would like to stand up for pupil referral units and alternative provision and to stop them being demonised … pupil referral units can be life-saving places,” he said. 

Meanwhile, inclusion advocates in Australia have backed a Bill before Queensland parliament, which is seeking to overhaul school disciplinary laws by handing parents the right to appeal short suspensions when 11 days are accumulated within a school year. 

The Bill proposes schools must create student support plans for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, children with a disability, as well as for Preps who are suspended or excluded.

But educators at the chalkface say the changes would be untenable to implement and detrimental to all those that work and learn in schools. 

Last year Bennett outlined a case for Australia to adopt a stand-alone ‘behaviour curriculum’, whereby good behaviour – and the values that underpin it – is taught as a subject in its own right.