Fewer kids being excluded from class

THERE are now fewer children being excluded from Suffolk schools than in the last decade, figures revealed today.

THERE are now fewer children being excluded from Suffolk schools than in the last decade, figures revealed today.

Statistics show that there were 117 pupils excluded from primary and secondary schools across Suffolk in 1997/8, but the latest results for 2006/07 revealed that this has dropped to just 70 exclusions.

In 2003/04, exclusion rates reached their highest, with 198 pupils expelled, which prompted Suffolk County Council to launch some initiatives to combat the issue.

The figures contradict the national picture, which shows more children are being permanently booted out of the classroom.

Neil Watts, headteacher at Northgate School, in Sidegate Lane, Ipswich, said: “Secondary schools in Suffolk are now using a variety of strategies, both on and off site, to cater for these youngsters better than we used to.

“My hope is that every youngster fulfils their potential.”

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The school's recent Ofsted report stated that excellent educational opportunities had provided pupils with focused support, resulting in increased attendance and a dramatic reduction in exclusions.

Mr Watts added: “We now use vocational placements, work experience placements and specialist providers, which takes them away from more traditional academic subjects. There is a move towards vocational training to personalise the learning more.

“Whenever you are looking at additional provisions such as these, it is more expensive. We are spending tens of thousands extra per year on this.”

David East, deputy head at Copleston High School, Copleston Road, Ipswich, added: “Our exclusion rates have gone down. There is great co-operation between parents and students, who are trying to help and support in the most appropriate way to maximise opportunities.

“There are always times you have to use exclusion for a variety of reasons. We do have a study room as a means to prevent having to go down that road of exclusion. We also have strong pastoral support which works with students before it gets that bad.”

However Martin Goold, Suffolk's secretary for National Union of Teachers, claimed the figures could be deceptive and did not necessarily spell good news for teachers.

He said: “It doesn't show there has been any decrease in unacceptable pupil behaviour. Over the years there have been pressures on teachers to retain pupils in school who have had a violent history and who would have been excluded in the past.

“The statistics also need to be looked at carefully with regard to how many allegations there have been against staff and the number of staff who have gone off ill with stress because of the number of children retained in schools with unacceptable behaviour.

“There are financial penalties for schools which exclude children and tremendous political pressure to reach targets.”

What do you think about the exclusion policy at your child's school? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Adrian Orr, Suffolk County Council's senior adviser, social inclusion, said: “Historically Suffolk has quite high exclusion rates. In 2003/04 we were one of the highest exclusion rate authorities in Eastern England. We felt we needed to tackle this issue and so put a range of things in place.

“We encouraged schools to think very carefully about whether to exclude pupils.

“Headteachers were very keen there was some resource to reintegrate the pupils back into school. If a pupil is excluded, some money from the school budget goes with that pupil to reintegrate them into a new school.”

To tackle the issue, the council set up a behaviour support service, focusing on pupils between five and 14. They also increased the number of pupil referral units from 13 to six, provided more support for pupils returning to mainstream school, worked with staff on how to handle challenging children and developed a managed move scheme. There are also inclusion co-ordinators who work closely with schools to help prevent exclusions.