Vital support is being provided to pupils excluded from Bucks schools, the county council has insisted, after it was revealed expelled youngsters may be at “serious risk” of becoming involved in violent crime.

Figures unearthed by children’s charity Barnardo’s found there were no spaces at Bucks’ Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) – which look after excluded youngsters – in 2017/18.

Excluded children are put at risk of becoming involved in knife crime as well as “being groomed and exploited by criminal gangs” if they are not provided with support, according to the charity.

A total of 47 councils who responded to the charity’s request for information had no spaces in PRUs, while the government says a review into exclusions and the impact they have on pupils is ongoing.

Last year all 36 PRU places in the county were filled, as well as 204 spaces at Alternative Provision Academies – government-funded PRUs.

However cabinet member for education at BCC, Mike Appleyard, said there are currently PRU places available in Bucks.

He added when there are no places at PRUs an excluded pupil will be provided with a “package of support” tailored to their needs until a space becomes available.

He said: “We are working hard to reduce the numbers of children excluded from school in Buckinghamshire and are pleased that last year saw a 38% reduction in the number of permanent exclusions.

“If a child is excluded from a Buckinghamshire school they will get a place at a Pupil Referral Unit, where they receive a specialist level of support. We currently do have spaces at PRUs in the county.

“Were there no places available then we would create an individual package of support which would vary depending on that pupil’s needs until a space at the PRU or another suitable school became available.”

Barnardo’s research, which was carried out alongside the All Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime, shows a 56 per cent rise in exclusions in England since 2014.

BCC has been working on an action plan to reduce the number of pupils kicked out of school – after exclusions increased by 100 per cent in recent years.

East Wycombe Independent councillor for Ryemead and Micklefield on BCC, Julia Wassell, said she is making “immediate enquiries” regarding the limited PRU places.

She said: “Whatever point of the school year a child or young person needs a PRU place, they should be immediate availability.

“Clearly excluded pupils would be vulnerable without a package of educational support to meet their needs.

“Failing in education would compound other problems and then they could be targeted or at risk. Sadly there is evidence that they can be drawn into crime or exploited.

“Buckinghamshire needs to make education for all children particularly the most vulnerable. Every child matters.”

Chief executive of Barnardo’s, Javed Khan, said excluding pupils should be a “last resort” and urged the government to improve the quality of alternative provision across the country.

He said: “Preventing serious youth violence is “everyone’s business” – and schools along with Police, charities and others have a key role to play.

“Exclusion must be a last resort, and all children must have access to high quality full-time education, that gives them the best possible chance of achieving good grades, and staying safe from harm.”