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147 per cent increase in Shropshire school exclusions

By Jordan Reynolds | Education | Published:

The number of pupils permanently excluded from schools in Shropshire has risen by 147 per cent in two years.

Some of the reasons for secondary school students being permanently excluded in the Shropshire Council area so far this year include sexual misconduct, drug and alcohol use, and persistent disruptive behaviour.

Between September and December last year permanent exclusions cost the authority £83,603.26 – an average of £2,812 per student, a new report set to go to the authority’s People Overview Committee has revealed.

The report has been ordered for the council committee to assess number of exclusions.

Between September 1 last year and March 1 this year, 34 secondary school students have been permanently excluded in the county.

This compares to 25 students for the same period the year before, and 17 for the period from September 1, 2015, to March 1, 2016. For the same time period this academic year, 10 primary school students have been permanently excluded, compared to four the year before and three for the period September 1, 2015, to March 1, 2016.

Meanwhile, 764 secondary school students have had fixed term exclusions in the county between September 1 last year and March 1 this year. The report says that permanent exclusions should only be used as a “last resort”, in response to a “serious breach or persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy”, and where allowing the student to remain at the school would “seriously harm the education or welfare of the student or others”.

It adds: “Exclusion always impacts a child negatively, including reduced or no access to education, social exclusion, a ‘sense of failure’, entering the criminal justice system, increased vulnerability to abuse and failure to achieve their potential.”

Students can be excluded for a fixed term multiple times, as long as the total fixed periods in an academic year do not add up to more than 45 days.

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The excluding school is responsible for taking “reasonable steps” to set and mark work for students during the first five school days of an exclusion, and alternative provision must be arranged from the sixth day of a fixed term exclusion.

For permanent exclusions, the local authority must arrange suitable full-time education for the student to begin no later than the sixth school day of the exclusion, according to the report.

In the last academic year there were 20,378 primary students and 15,773 secondary school students in the county, and between 2015 and 2016 there were 20,135 primary and 15,690 secondary students.

The figures follow a national increase in exclusion rates.

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The number of permanent exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 5,795 in 2014/15 to 6,685 in 2015/16, the latest figures show.

Chris Mathews, commissioner for education improvement and efficiency at Shropshire Council said: “Shropshire has had very low rates of exclusions over time. There is a national trend of rising exclusions resulting from a range of factors, including changes to curriculum and funding for schools, and local authorities. Shropshire Council continues to support school leaders to promote inclusion and meet the needs of their pupils.”

Exclusion a costly move

  • Cost of 18 permanent exclusions during the Autumn term – £83,603.26
  • Individual cost of permanent exclusions during Autumn term – £2,812
  • Number of children permanently excluded from secondary schools in the 2017/18 academic year so far – 34
  • Number of children permanently excluded from primary schools in the 2017/18 academic year so far – 10
  • Number of children given fixed term exclusions from secondary school this academic year –
  • Increase in the number of exclusions in the county – 764
  • From 2015 to 2018 using the period 1 September to 31 January there has been a 147 per cent increase in permanent exclusions in the council area.
  • 17 secondary school pupils have received a fixed term exclusion for racist abuse this academic year.
  • Three primary school pupils have permanently excluded for violence against adults this school year.

Primary schools

In Shropshire’s primary schools 10 students have been permanently excluded this academic year.

Three children have been permanently excluded for persistent disruptive behaviour, three exclusions were for physical assaults on adults and another three were for verbally abusing an adult. The academic year has also seen 168 primary school children given fixed term exclusions so far.

One student was excluded for sexual misconduct, two for bullying, and three for damage.

Persistent disruptive behaviour has been the most frequent reason for exclusions, with a total of 62, followed by 45 for physical assault.

Secondary schools

Between September 1 last year and March 1 this year, 34 secondary school students have been permanently excluded in the county.

Eight students were excluded because of drugs and alcohol, another eight exclusions were for persistent disruptive behaviour, six were for a physical assaults on adults, and two were for assaults on students. Sexual misconduct was the reason for one student’s exclusion while verbal abuse was the reason for another.

For the same time period, 764 secondary school students have been handed fixed term exclusions.

Verbally abusing an adult was the reason for 164 exclusions.

Plan to be drawn up over rising exclusions

Shropshire Council is set to discuss the rising number of student exclusions it is dealing with.

The authority’s People Overview Committee will discuss a report on Wednesday which highlights a huge increase in exclusions and how it can be tackled.

In the current academic year so far, 34 secondary school students have been permanently excluded in the council area.

This compares to 25 students for the same period the year before, and 17 for the period September 1, 2015 to March 1, 2016.

In the report headteachers listed reasons for the increase, including changes to a more “academic, exam focused timetable”, a reduction in vocational qualifications, a reduction in school budgets, and an increase in children and young people presenting with social, emotional and mental health conditions and issues.

It adds that Shropshire Council encourages schools to take a preventative approach and expects that a student will only be excluded as a “last resort”.

In 2017 to 2018 so far physical assaults on adults are currently the top reason for permanent secondary school exclusions, followed jointly by drug and alcohol related and persistent disruptive behaviour.

Other reasons for students being permanently excluded this year include sexual misconduct, physical assault on students and verbal abuse.

In both 2015 to 2016 and 2016 to 2017 two primary school students had fixed term exclusions for racist abuse in the county, and since September 2015, six primary students have had temporary exclusions for sexual misconduct.

Shropshire Council is currently working to formulate a bid for funding through the School Improvement Fund.

If successful, the focus of work from September 2018 will be on enabling schools to provide an inclusive environment for all students, improve behaviour and thus reduce exclusions and persistent absence from school.

The report will be discussed at Shirehall in Shrewsbury on Wednesday.

Jordan Reynolds

By Jordan Reynolds
Reporter - @jreynolds_star

Reporter for the Shropshire Star covering Shrewsbury and the surrounding areas.

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