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Heads should not be undermined on exclusions

NASUWT says schools must continue to have the right to use fixed term exclusions where necessary

Published on 21st February 2018

Head-teachers’ powers to exclude pupils should not be undermined by Ofsted, NASUWT has warned.

After it emerged that Ofsted would be writing to head-teachers in areas where there are high rates of exclusions to raise concerns about the numbers of children being excluded, NASUWT said it is also critical that no action is taken to undermine the confidence of schools to use fixed-term exclusions where appropriate.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said: “While it is important that decisions to exclude pupils are carefully considered, it is vital that schools must continue to have the right to use fixed term exclusions in circumstances where the objective professional judgement of school leaders and teachers indicates that it is justified.

Ofsted's regional director for the North East, and Yorkshire and the Humber, Cathy Kirby, will write to all 114 secondary school head teachers across the eight areas raising concerns about the levels of children being excluded.

She said: “I fully appreciate variations between individual secondary schools and recognise that there may be valid reasons for schools to exclude pupils.”

“But it is difficult to understand why fixed-period exclusion should be so much more necessary in these eight local authorities compared with others," said Kirby.

“Schools should only ever use exclusions as a last resort. If not properly applied, being removed from school can disrupt a child's education and affect their future life chances,” she added.

The 10 local authorities with the highest secondary-school fixed-period exclusion rates in England:

  • Middlesbrough: 13%
  • Barnsley: 11%
  • Redcar and Cleveland: 8%
  • Doncaster: 9%
  • Knowsley: 9%
  • North-East Lincolnshire: 8%
  • Sheffield: 8%
  • Telford and Wrekin: 8%
  • North Lincolnshire: 7%
  • Rotherham: 7%

Chris Keates said: “It is important not to jump to any premature conclusions about practice in the local authorities named by Ofsted as having particularly high exclusion rates. Stakeholders should work together to examine the causes of these apparently high rates of exclusion and what, if any action, is appropriate.

“Barriers placed in the way of local authorities’ ability to monitor exclusions, introduced since May 2010, have been unhelpful, as have the cuts to specialist support services for young people and the dismantling of local partnerships focused on promoting good behaviour and attendance in all local schools.  

“Teachers and head-teachers are facing enormous challenges as a result of the cuts to essential services .All of these factors will have an impact on exclusion rates. The Government must face up to the fact that it has removed essential support from schools to assist with the management of pupil behaviour.

“There have been cases across the country where some schools have attempted to exclude pupils on the basis of concerns about the school’s ranking in performance tables, rather than the specific behaviour of individual pupils. Such practice is not acceptable and should be challenged when it is discovered. However, this is yet another consequence of the Government’s deregulation and fragmentation of the system which has removed important checks and balances.”

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, added: “Rising numbers of exclusion is a worrying trend and one to which the Department for Education must give serious and constructive consideration. Schools should be places where all children can enjoy their learning in a supportive, vibrant and caring environment where they are supported to achieve their best.

“Instead the system is failing many children with the creation of an exam factory environment leading to some students feeling demoralised and lost. Chronic cuts to school and LA funding have also  resulted in many support services schools relied upon to cope with serious behavioural or mental health issues either closed down or drastically reduced.

“While there is not one magic solution the Education Secretary needs to address the ever narrowing curriculum and relentless focus on test and exam preparation. Schools and LA also need to have the funding necessary to give the support some families and children need to ensure they achieve their potential.”

 

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