More children were permanently excluded from primary schools in England last year, 45% of them for physical assault.
In 2011-12 690 were expelled – 80 up on the previous year – 230 for persistent disruptive behaviour, 200 for assaults on adults and 120 for attacking pupils.
At secondary schools, 4,390 pupils were expelled – 20 up on the previous year – 1,050 for physical assault and 1,700 for persistent disruptive behaviour.
The rise follows a steady decline in the numbers and rate over recent years.
With about 8.2m pupils in England’s schools, the number of exclusions are are small.
Boys are about three times more likely to receive an exclusion, either temporary or permanent, than girls. And pupils with a special educational need are about eight times more likely to be excluded than those without.
In September 2012, the government strengthened head teachers’ powers over exclusions by replacing the independent appeal panel with a review panel.
The independent appeal panel could overturn decisions to exclude – but the new review panel can only recommend that head teachers take a pupil back.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Heads now have more power than ever before to ensure strong discipline in the classroom.
“We have introduced new search powers, no-notice detentions, and have ensured heads’ decisions on expulsions cannot be overruled.
“The government is tackling the causes of exclusion by improving the quality of teaching, raising standards in literacy and numeracy, tackling disadvantage through the pupil premium, overhauling the special educational needs system and making radical improvements to alternative provision.”
I’m not particularly concerned with the number of exclusions, although I do believe that removing a child out of school on a permanent basis isn’t always the way forward. My concern with this primary lies with who is being excluded. As someone who was worked with children with signs of depression, MLD, ADHD amongst others in a mainstream setting, I have seen how difficult it is to provide for them. Recently I worked in a school in Torquay where we had a child with ADHD, who frequently spent time out of the classroom due to his disruptive behaviour, but he wasn’t excluded for it. I have seen schools in the past exclude children with SEN just to improve their school statistics, which is absolutely disgraceful. Fortunately that seems to be a minimum now.
The last concern I have is the reasons for exclusion. It is alarming to see 200 children being expelled in 2011-12 for assaulting an adult. But there are times when I think that the exclusion may not be the way forward, but obviously this is entirely dependent on circumstances. The statistics don’t show the severity of these assaults, but you would assume that because the children were excluded the nature was quite serious. I personally think exclusion is sometimes seen as the ‘safe way out’ when dealing with these incidents, instead of looking at the underlying causes. What if the child has serious home issues such as parents who perhaps aren’t exactly role models? Should we be providing more support to that particular child and family rather than simply tossing them aside?