Several Freedom of Information requests I submitted to Kent and Medway Councils have produced considerable and alarming information on school exclusions, especially in Kent. You will find the full article, comment and background here. The headlines, which relate to children with SEN, academies and the startling differences between Kent and Medway are that:........
* The first two new style academies created in Kent top the list of permanent exclusions, headed by Westlands School in Sittingbourne with 12. Next is Canterbury High School with eleven permanent exclusions. Both these schools previously had outstanding Ofsted reports, so it is difficult to believe they have difficult disciplinary problems. Other schools with high numbers of permanent exclusions over the year are: Chaucer Technology School, also in Canterbury (11); Hartsdown Technology College (converting to an academy; the Marlowe Academy (both in Thanet); Dover Christ Church Academy; Maplesden Noakes School in Maidstone, Sittingbourne Communty College, all with eight; and and Astor College for the Arts in Dover and The Community College Whitstable both with 7.
* Of particular concern is the number of children with statements of special education needs (SEN) who continue to be permanently excluded, in spite of government policy that “schools should avoid permanently excluding pupils with statements, other than in the most exceptional circumstances”. While I don’t yet have figures for this year, in 2009-10 out of a total of 168 secondary exclusions 22 were of statemented children, a further 68 being of other children with SEN, together over half of the total. However, the most astonishing and alarming statistic in this whole survey is that nearly all of the 34 Kent primary school exclusions in the last school year were of children with Special Education Needs, with 13 statemented children and another 18 with SEN. Although I don’t have more detailed information, and it is unlikely to be available, it is likely that most of the statemented children permanently excluded are thrown out because of behaviour arising from their medical condition of autism, over which they will have no control. Clearly we are not making proper educational provision for these children.
In total there were 197 secondary school permanent exclusions, 39 primary, and 15 Special.
I have now received through the Freedom of information act, data on Kent school exclusions for the year 2008-9, which contain some worrying details. In 2007-8 Kent had the second highest proportion of permanently excluded (expelled) children in the South of England outside London. Whilst this this has now fallen for 2008-9 (comparative national figures are not available) there were still 253 children permanently excluded from mainstream schools and Academies in the County.Worryingly, 20% of these were children with Statements of Special Education Need, and a further 24% on SEN School Action Plus. This is in spite of the Government imperative that states: “Other than in the most exceptional circumstances, schools should avoid permanently excluding pupils with statements”. Indeed the figure for statmented children rises to 54% (20 out of 34) for primary schools. These shocking figures for the exclusion of statemented children are likely to rise with the phasing out of Special Units (see below).
One school, the New Line Learning Academy had 25 permanent exclusions in the past school year, and another four since September, more than twice as many as any other school in the county.
DCSF statistics for 2006/7 show that children with SEN are far more likely to be permanently excluded than pupils with no SEN. 36 in every 10,000 pupils with statements, 42 in every 10,000 with SEN but no statement are permanently excluded compared with 4 in every 10,000 with no SEN.
In 2006/7 there were 1050 appeals against permanent exclusion. 25% were determined in favour of parents, although reinstatement was only directed in some 40% of successful appeals.
I will only get involved in a limited number of exclusions, where I consider that there are extenuating circumstances, or that the school has acted inappropriately. In such cases, I am prepared to advise parents on the best way to proceed, and/or to represent them at appeal panels.
- Sadly, I have lost two just two of these in recent years, both children with severe Special Needs. The most recent child was on School Action Plus, but when we requested his Special Needs file (eventually received after three requests) it showed the school had taken no action whatever to support him in 15 months, despite the parent being on record several times as pleading for help.
In many cases before a permanent exclusion is considered, the school will propose a Pastoral Support Programme. DFES guidance on this is helpful, and can be seen here.