Covid rule breaches behind nearly 200 Shropshire school exclusions last year

Breaches of coronavirus rules were behind nearly 200 school exclusions in Shropshire last year, figures reveal.

Figures show the number of pupils excluded from schools for Covid issues
Figures show the number of pupils excluded from schools for Covid issues

Labour said the Government's lack of clear guidance over pandemic measures threatened children's futures, and contributed to almost 13,000 of these exclusions nationally.

Department for Education figures show "wilful and repeated transgression of protective measures" was a reason behind 196 exclusions from schools across the county in the 2020/21 academic year.

The figures include 131 in Telford & Wrekin – 128 temporary and three permanent – and 65 in Shropshire, all of which were temporary.

In Telford & Wrekin, 129 were in secondary schools, one in a primary school and one in a special school, while in Shropshire 62 were in secondary schools and three in primary schools.

Pupils could be excluded for a variety of issues such as not following social distancing rules, coughing near other purposefully or other breaches of a school's public health measures.

Across England children were excluded 12,965 times.

Schools were able to list multiple reasons for each exclusion for the first time last year.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said schools worked very hard to keep pupils and staff safe during the pandemic, and it was not unreasonable that young people should be expected to comply with these measures.

However, Stephen Morgan MP, Labour’s shadow schools minister, said: “The Conservatives have created deep divides in school exclusions, with the lack of clear guidance, especially during the pandemic, threatening children’s futures and failing communities.

“The Government’s own independent review highlights the need to tackle exclusions and ensure children are supported in order to improve life chances.

“No parent wants to see their child excluded from school but once again the Conservatives have treated our children and their future opportunities as an afterthought.”

In Telford and Wrekin, there were a total of 2,292 exclusions for all reasons last year – 2,267 temporary and 25 permanent – down from 2,374 in 2019-20.

In Shropshire, there were 1,877 – 1,844 temporary and 33 permanent – up from 1,725 in 2019-20.

Figures for the most recent academic year include a period in spring 2021 when Covid-19 restrictions meant that only key worker and vulnerable children were attending school in person, with others being educated remotely.

Of the 16 possible reasons for exclusion, public health was the fourth most frequent.

The most common reasons were for persistent disruptive behaviour (45 per cent), verbal abuse or threatening behaviour towards an adult (20 per cent) and physical assault against a pupil (12 per cent).

The National Association of Head Teachers said schools following guidance were sometimes forced to suspend students in cases of persistent rule breaking and unsafe behaviour, with school leaders making tough decisions to keep everyone safe.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the union, said exclusions were always a last resort – and have fallen to an all-time low across England – but should not mean the end of the road for pupils affected.

He added: "Unfortunately cuts to health and social care services mean that the safety net for excluded young people has too many holes in it.

"This is something that the Government should address urgently.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said permanent exclusions are a rare but necessary way of managing behaviour – but should not mean exclusion from education.

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