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Thursday, 20 July 2017 21:37

2015-16 School Exclusions and Home Education: Medway has no strategy for dealing with record numbers

Update: See article in Kent on Sunday. Full version here

 Government statistics for Permanent and Fixed Term Exclusions, published today, show that Medway schools are for the third consecutive year amongst the worst in the country for excluding children. Taken in conjunction with the very large number of children leaving Medway schools for Elective Home Education, it is no surprise that Medway Council is unlawfully trying to hide the relevant data as explained below and in a previous article entitled: Medway Council: Incompetent Again.

For 2015-16, 81 children were permanently excluded from Medway schools, 78 of them from secondary schools. This is the highest exclusion rate in the South East of England, with the secondary school exclusion rate being over twice as large as any other Local Authority. Nationally, Medway is joint 7th worst in the country for permanent exclusions, and up 35% on 2014-15. Compare this with Kent, six times as large as Medway, with permanent exclusions down to 58, including 49 for secondary schools, see below.

There were 3,295 fixed term exclusions in Medway schools, again the highest rate in the South East, and 9th highest in the country, up 12% on 2014-15. Further, the average number of days of fixed term exclusion per Medway pupil was 7.3 days, the highest figure in the country. 

Accompanying all this are the 377 Medway pupils who ‘opted’ for Elective Home Education, many of whom will have left school against the threat of exclusion, and again a very high figure in proportion to other Authorities, and whilst a massive increase on 2014-15's figure of 239 pupils, an astonishing and frightening tenfold increase on 2013-14's 38.  

In total, this represents a frighteningly high number of Medway children being abandoned by the system, and which will inevitably lead many to troubled lives, and long term cost to society. It clear from my analysis below that Medway Council has no idea what to do about the problem, if indeed it wants to do anything. 

1) Medway Council turned down an invitation to talk this scandal through on Radio Kent, this morning (21 July). Instead they sent a brief statement, not regretting the figures, but merely pointing out that Medway has a lot of academies who they would continue to hold to account - so no change there. Apparently they haven't noticed that other Authorities also have academies. Adam Price, Medway Labour education spokesperson agreed with my observation on air that Medway has no strategy for reducing exclusion figures, and thought they ought to have one!

2) I also appeared on KM TV this evening (Friday). Medway Council contributed the following statement to the item:

Exclusion, whether fixed term or permanent is not a decision which any school takes lightly. Individual schools make their own decisions about fixed term exclusions and these are at the discretion of the headteacher. It is disappointing, to hear of the high levels of exclusions in Medway. In particular it must be noted that 88% of exclusions in 2015-16 are from academies. 

It is also disappointing that Medway Council apparently did not hear of the high level of exclusions until they were published yesterday. Perhaps this arose because,as the Council claims,  the data belongs to the government (see my previous article) and they did not notice their own claim to be the second worst Authority in the country for exclusions (see below).  The one consistent view held by the Council is that this calamity is nothing to do with them.  

Sadly, Medway Council, in an attempt to hide the deplorable figures has refused an FOI request I submitted (although there has been no problem in previous years), and is now the subject of a complaint by me to the Information Commissioner. Another of a number of previous articles on this site looking at Medway data is: ‘Will the bad news ever stop coming for Medway: Massive hike in permanent and fixed term exclusions’, looking at the previous two years' figures, with the latest ones even worse! 

In the past as now, Medway Council has sought to blame schools and academies completely, washing its hands of responsibility for what is a large social failure being created in the area.  On the other hand Kent, which also had a massive problem with exclusions a few years back, has gone in the other direction thanks primarily to active intervention by the County Council in both maintained schools and academies.

Government guidance makes clear that permanent exclusion should only be used as a last resort’, and offers advice on the avoidance of exclusion. The above data shows that in Medway, the strategy of removing pupils is used far more freely than this. 

 Permanent & Fixed Term Exclusions in Kent & Medway
Rate (%)
Fixed -Term
Rate (%)
81  0.18  3295  7.30 
60  0.14  2920  6.67 
 58  0.03 10538  4.70 
100  0.04  11050  4.98 
 6685 0.08  339360  4.28 
5800  0.07  302980  3.88 
Note: Exclusion rates compare the number of pupils excluded with the total number of pupils in the school.  
In 2009-10 there were just three permanent exclusions in Medway primary, secondary and special schools, compared to 202 in Kent. Over the past six years, the Medway figure has increased by an astonishing 27 times, whilst Kent permanent exclusions have fallen by nearly three quarters.

Unfortunately, I cannot analyse these figures more closely because of Medway Council’s unlawful refusal to provide me with the data. What I am looking for is a school by school basis of these figure, which would pinpoint where the problems are. In 2013-14, Bishop of Rochester Academy permanently excluded 14 children, 20% of the total, and in 2014-15, Brompton Academy excluded 11 pupils and Robert Napier 10, a third of the total between them. Whilst my FOI request for the relevant exclusion data for children with SEND (Special Education Needs Disability) has now been ignored for three months, government figures show that no children attending Medway Special Schools have been permanently excluded for two years.

Medway Council will argue that as all but one of its 17 secondary schools and 41/79 primaries are academies, it has no control over events. The Medway SEND and Inclusion Strategy 2016-2020, apparently sets out how Medway will effect change to reduce its exclusion rates. In Paragraph 2.6 entitled ‘Permanent and fixed term exclusions from Medway schools and academy provision’ it records: ‘In the year 2013-14, 70 children and young people were permanently excluded from a Medway school. This exclusion rate, 0.16% of the state-funded school age population, is the highest percentage bar one other authority. During the same period, 2.48% of the Medway state-funded school population received fixed term exclusions, compared with 3.5% nationally . Although below the national average, the average number of days of fixed term exclusion per Medway pupil was 7.37 days: the highest in England’. With the permanent exclusion figures set out in the table above, the 2015-16 figures for fixed term exclusions are almost identical to those of 2013-14, at 2.54% of Medway pupils excluded and average level 7.3 days.  So there can be no doubt the Authority knew, and presumably still knows, it has a massive problem.

The Council bemoans in this strategy the fact that because the two Pupil Referral Units are completely full of excluded pupils (121 last year), and other schools are unhappy about accepting excluded pupils, there is nowhere for them to go. It offers no strategies whatever for reducing numbers, in contrast to Kent (see below). See also my comment about Elective Home Education below, details of which, Medway Council is again refusing to provide. The massive increase in numbers 'electing', from 239 to 377 in just one year surely deserves some explanation from the schools where this is happening, but Medway wants it kept a secret. 

At the turn of the decade, I was arguing very strongly and publicly against Kent’s high rates of permanent exclusions (210 pupils in 2011-12), and exclusions of pupils with SEND (41 statemented children). Resultant media pressure and the personal intervention by the Leader of KCC, Paul Carter, saw KCC come up with policies and targets to reduce these figures sharply, to produce the total 58 permanent exclusions of 2015-16, including 14 pupils with SEN statements or EHC plans (surprisingly 10 of these are from primary schools). For 2015-16, Kent had just one school with more than four permanent exclusions - Folkestone Academy with seven (but see below). For 2014-15, there were five schools: Ebbsfleet Academy (8); and High Weald Academy, Knole Academy, New Line Learning Academy, and Salmestone Primary Academy, all with five. Even a glance at a KCC ‘Prevention of Exclusion’  briefing document  issued this week, shows a whole range of proven strategies for preventing exclusions. 
Elective Home Education
There is an unfortunate side effect of the pressure to reduce permanent exclusions, in that some schools will use other tactics to remove disruptive pupils or those likely to perform poorly in their GCSEs rather than try to manage them, such as encouraging Elective Home Education (EHE, unlawful), or de-rolling them to Pupil Referral Units. I have covered these issues as they related to Kent in two previous articles: The scandals of Oasis Academy, Isle of Sheppey and Kent Pupils vanishing from schools before GCSE. The 2015-16 Kent EHE figure is alarming, at 987 pupils, up from 754 in 2014-15. Not surprisingly, all the 2014-15 secondary high excluding schools now feature at the top of the 2015-16 EHE list. Unfortunately, whilst I know the number of Medway pupils leaving for EHE in 2015-16 was 377 (proportionally far higher than Kent), up by over a third on 2014-15, and a TENFOLD increase on 2013-14's 38, I do not have details of individual schools yet, as the Council has so far refused to supply them. 
Last modified on Monday, 07 August 2017 17:58


  • Comment Link Tuesday, 29 August 2017 20:46 posted by Peter

    From a very happy family. Afte a dreadful few days reeling from the shock of being told our daughter could not return to Year 13, a friend told us about your article.

    we went in to see the Head of Sixth Form who looked at it and informed us you didn't know what you were talking about. Later that day ww had a phone call. The school had revisited our son's performance and record and decided to make an exception in his case. It was made crystal clear this was nothing to do with you. So clear in fact that it was obvious your advice had made the didference Thank you. PETER: My pleasure. With Radio Five and the Guardian on board, this whole scandal looks like unravelling and many young people's academic futures saved.

  • Comment Link Friday, 21 July 2017 18:51 posted by Kieran

    Pete, Just seen you on KM TV. I liked your answer when asked what Medway was doing about having one of the worst exclusion figures in the country.

    My son was at Hoo Academy, and we were forced into removing him from the school for Home Education because otherwise he would be expelled.
    You said "DAmn All". I completely agree. THey were useless when I asked for help. said it was an academy, I chose to go there, nothing to do with them

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