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Thursday, 12 January 2012 20:56

Permanent exclusions in Kent

Kent County Council is today debating a paper submitted which provides alarming figures for permanent exclusions in Kent, and especially for children with statements of Special Education in Kent.  Of course there is nothing new in this paper for browsers of this website or readers of Kent on Sunday, for last June I published an article highlighting these issues, although I did not at the time have end of year figures. As a result of my article, Radio Kent headlined the issue and Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, was interviewed on the BBC Politics show where he described the figures as unacceptable. 

Seven months later, ........

KCC has now published a report, presumably as a result of Paul Carter's promise of action, showing that the number of exclusions rose by 21% across the county in 2010-2011, a figure which should have been expected from the data I published. There is now some more up-to date- evidence taking the story up to October 2011, but this merely indicates that the problems have continued. 

Several of the key issues I identified were:

1) The shocking comparisons with Medway Council - of whom I am often critical, although not in this case. They have proved that, with appropriate management, the number of exclusions can be reduced dramatically using as a final stage the 'managed move' where the child is transferred by agreement to another school, without the bureaucracy, the formality, stigma, or alternatively, the badge of honour, of the formal permanent exclusion. Last year Medway Council had eight permanent exclusions in total (all from two secondary schools, seven of these from a school in serious difficulties). This compares with a figure of 250 in Kent, up from 202 in 2010/11.

2) The high number of permanent exclusions in Academies, who have no accountability to KCC over such matters. These included the two highest excluding schools in the county. I am sure it is a coincidence, but subsequent to the publicity, neither of these schools excluded additional children in the two summer terms. KCC figures show that there is a wide discrepancy between East Kent and the rest of the county, EK academies accounting for 43 out of 63 secondary exclusions in academies across the county, and EK mainstream schools accounting for 71 out of 132 in total. Those proportions have continued into 2011/12. Of course the figures were produced when there were significantly fewer academies than there are this year, so if the trend continues we can expect the figures to rise further.  Overall academy exclusions account for over half of the total, although only a third of the pupils. 

3) The shocking number of permanent exclusions of primary school children, which stands at 44 at the end of the school year.

It may be argued that these exclusions are schools taking a firm line, but there has been clear policy from government for many years, that permanent exclusions are a last resort, and there are many strategies to avoid these, as demonstrated in Medway and by the fact that Kent is consistently above the national average in terms of exclusions.  However as one headteacher confirmed to me: "headlines about the high number of permanent exclusions in my school show parents I operate a good discipline". In Ashford the five secondary schools agreed a policy to manage pupils at risk of permanent exclusion, and saw the figure drop to just 3 last year, as distinct from Canterbury, where it is 41 (although to be fair over half of this total comes from just two schools). Dartford remarkably has just 2 secondary permanent exclusions, but 4 in the primary sector!

4) My fourth point, which was the main one picked up by the media, was over the shocking number of children with statements of Special Education Need. These are amongst our most vulnerable children, often their 'crimes' are outside their own control, and there is a government imperative that such exclusions should only take place in exceptional circumstances. I discovered that Kent did not actually keep figures for statemented children being excluded, but eventually uncovered the data through several FOI requests for 2009/10. This showed that Kent excluded 51 statemented children,  over a quarter of the total number of exclusions. Nationally just 7% of the total of statemented children was excluded. I am pleased to see that, once again, since I highlighted the issue the number of statemented children has fallen sharply in 2010/11, to 21, but is still far too high and well above the national average for the previous year ( national 2010-2011 figures not yet available).

I am delighted that at long last Kent is going to focus on this issue, but too late for many children whose lives may have been blighted by an unnecessary permanent exclusion. Remember, that an excluded child has to be accommodated in another school, arrives with a reputation, and is therefore likely to be so much more difficult to manage. Kent has a policy to avoid individual schools becoming 'dumping grounds', but  as more and more become academies, this is all the more problematic.  Government contribution to the problem is to remove the right of parents to go to an independent appeal over a permanent exclusion, so that the high excluding schools and academies can continue without fear of sanction! 

KCC sees three main outstanding issues as:

*higher levels of exclusion in secondary academies

* high levels of exclusion in some areas (e.g Canterbury), with few in others (such as Ashford & Dartford)

* devising new programmes to reduce numbers of permanent exclusions of children with SEN. 

I would agree with all these issues. Work is to be commissioned to tackle all these issues, with a target that by 2015, there will be fewer than 50 children permanently excluded from school including a proportional impact on those with SEN. This amounts to a challenging reduction of 80%. As econd target is to see no permanent excluson of Looked After Children.

Whilst I applaud the targets, sadly I see that, with the independence of academies and the government scrapping of independent appeal panels which keep a check on the valididy of permanent exclusions, KCC's ability to influence school behaviour is unlikely to be sufficient to achieve them. As a result we shall continue to see in Kent too many young people head for adulthood with damaged lives, to the detriment of all of society. 











from the evidence provided the problems have continued. 

Key issues are:

* Primary school permanent exclusions continue to run at too a high level, with seven in September & October alone;

* Permanent exclusions in 2010/11 for secondary academies are nearly half the total, although  

Last modified on Sunday, 11 October 2020 14:26

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