Sharp rise in pupils kicked out of schools in North East Lincolnshire
A SPECIAL committee is investigating pupil exclusions in North East Lincolnshire – which have been among the highest in the country for two years running.
The number of permanent exclusions at primary and secondary level in this area rose from eight in the 2009-10 academic year to 66 in 2010-11.
In the 2011-2012 academic year, the figure was even higher, with 69 exclusions, and a special committee has been established to investigate the issue.
And Councillor Chris Shaw the leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, has claimed that "exclusion levels have surged" since schools started converting to academies.
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He said: "I am worried that academies are excluding children who are more challenging or not as bright as others as an easy way of lifting attainment figures.
"If the committee finds out that these exclusions are to help them climb the league table, we will take a very dim view.
"Academies have a responsibility to educate all children, not just the ones who fit in with their attainment aims. Every child matters."
Recently-released figures from the Department of Education (DoE) state that the number of exclusions in 2010-11 in this area was 50, but this still works out at 0.21 per cent of the student population – and therefore the highest in the country.
An NELC spokesman said that the council will "explore" the reasons for the discrepancy – but the authority is confident its own figures are correct.
These figures include six exclusions for physical assault on an adult, six for verbal abuse or threatening behaviour towards an adult and five drug or alcohol-related exclusions, and show there were 1,290 temporary exclusions in the same year.
Exclusions cause a problem for the local authority which has a duty to find educational provision but cannot force academies to accept excluded students.
Special educational provision, such as a place at a pupil referral unit, is funded by NELC.
The news comes after the last remaining local authority-maintained secondary school in the area – St Andrew's College – announced plans to convert to an academy.
Councillor Shaw said he will "make academies pay" for the education of students they exclude.
"We are not trying to punish academies but want to make sure that every child has access to an education," he added.
NELC and its education partner, Serco, have launched the Behaviour and Attendance Collaborative (BAC) to help deal with the crisis in which all academies and schools meet on a weekly basis to share ideas on dealing with challenging behaviour.
A special committee has also been formed to investigate the reason for such high exclusion rates.
The chairman of the committee – which has representation from all three political parties – Councillor Matthew Brown, said: "The statistics are very worrying and we have a duty to monitor them and reassure the public.
"We are in the very early stages but will invite representatives from schools to help us understand why this has happened."
Panel members are currently visiting a total of eight schools to find out the reason for the sudden rise and how schools are dealing with problem students, and will report back at their next meeting in November.
Councillor Iain Colquhoun (Con, Waltham) said: "From half a dozen to nearly 70 a year is some rise and puts us among the worst in the country.
"We are investigating what has changed but also how schools are dealing with students that present a problem for them.
"Obviously, in extreme cases, children will need specialist care that a mainstream school can't provide but we need to look at ways in which schools support children, rather than excluding them."
'We consider all no matter what ability'
EXCLUDING pupils from school is a "last resort", say two successful academies in North East Lincolnshire.
Their comments were made after it was revealed a special committee is being set up by the council to investigate the high number of exclusions in this area.
In the 2010-11 academic year, a higher percentage of students were excluded from schools in North East Lincolnshire than in any other authority in the country, according to Department of Education (DoE) figures.
In the 2011-12 year, the number of students excluded rose from 66 to 69 – a rise from two years ago, when only eight students were excluded in 2009-10.
Council leader Chris Shaw has claimed that the "surge" in exclusions coincides with schools converting into academies.
But David Hampson, the chief executive of the Tollbar Family of Academies, says the schools considers all students "no matter what their ability".
He said: "Our exemplary results could not be achieved unless less able students achieve exceptional attainment.
"However, to ensure that all children can learn and progress in an atmosphere of total care and control, a small number of students have to be permanently excluded in the interests of the majority."
The newly-converted Cleethorpes Academy was responsible for a third of the exclusions in 2010-11.
However, last year it excluded only five students for "serious breaches of the code of conduct" and principal Martin Brown said that action is a "last resort".
He said: "The academy tries to support students wherever possible but we take a strong position against those whose conduct impacts on the learning of others and sadly, this can lead to exclusion."
Councillor Shaw has expressed concern over the figures, linking them to the conversion of academies, which are autonomous institutions, not funded or governed by the council.
However, once academies exclude pupils, NELC has a duty to ensure these children find an alternative school or education service, such as a pupil referral unit – but cannot force academies to accept these students. Councillor Shaw said: "We still perform a lot of support functions for academies and will be taking a more robust approach.
"I will be making sure the academies, who get a funding allowance per child, pay for that education.
"We are not trying to punish academies but want to make sure that every child has access to an education.
"Academies are in the private sector now and I can't force a chief executive to take children – but it doesn't diminish their responsibility."
North East Lincolnshire Council's special committee is currently investigating the issue.
Jack Blackmore, strategic director for people and communities at the authority, said: "This support aims to improve the management of pupil behaviour, support the needs of individual pupils in mainstream schools and support pupils who need to be educated outside mainstream schools.
"It uses the expertise of teaching and support staff and values the input from a wide range of stakeholders. The support model is flexible, focused, accessible and will ensure a clear and obvious positive impact.
"We are determined to work closely with all schools and academies to make sure that we develop alternatives to permanent exclusion for pupils with emotional, social and behavioural difficulties."