A PROGRAMME to reduce school exclusions is being used to counsel families in crisis and divert young people from crime.

Launched at a handful of secondary schools in Dundee, the Inclusion Plus scheme is aimed at curbing the number of students who are removed from classrooms.

By working alongside social workers and the schools themselves, the project aims to keep youngsters engaged in their education, while helping to plan a tangible future for school-leavers.

As a result, it is hoped young people will reject drugs, alcohol and offending.

Lorna Holmes, from the social support group Includem, said: "Those young people who are excluded from school often face a greater risk of offending, becoming homeless or being drawn into substance abuse.

"We work with those who are at risk of being excluded to ensure they don't become drawn into these disruptive behaviours."

Inclusion was first launched in Dundee as the city had the highest rate school exclusions in the country, at more than three times the national average.

Dundee City Council's education convener, councillor Stewart Hunter, said: "Pupils are being helped to address their behaviour, realise the negative impact that is has on them, and then move forward."