Sheffield councillor backs national call to lower school expulsions

A Sheffield councillor has backed the national call to lower the number of school expulsions, after an independent study revealed almost eight out of 10 children who have been permanently excluded in England are from vulnerable backgrounds.

By Alana Roberts
Thursday, 16 May, 2019, 11:52
Clr Abtisam Mohamed , the newly appointed cabinet member for Education and Skills

Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, the newly appointed cabinet member for Education and Skills, said she welcomed the review by former children’s minister Edward Timpson, having campaigned for many years against the ‘disproportionate’ levels of exclusions amongst vulnerable groups.

She added: “Tackling the rate of exclusions is a key priority for the Council and we recognise that there is still a lot of work to be done to reduce school exclusions.

Cllr Mohamed has backed the call to lower school expulsions

“I am pleased that a new approach for reducing exclusions is now being developed in partnership with schools which I will closely monitor.

“It is essential that all children have access to consistent, high quality education and we share a commitment with Sheffield schools to ensure that is the case."

The long-awaited review of exclusions in England found that 78 per cent of permanently excluded pupils either had special educational needs (SEN), were classed as ‘in need’ or were eligible for free school meals.

Cllr Abtisam Mohamed , the newly appointed cabinet member for Education and Skills

Ministers from the Department for Education commissioned the review last March amid concerns that teachers are using school exclusions to get rid of students who they fear will bring the school’s results down.

The review, which was published on May 7, found that children with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs were 3.8 times more likely to be permanently excluded compared to a child without SEN.

It also found that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds were 45 per cent more likely to be excluded than other pupils.

And, although children from some ethnic backgrounds were over-represented in certain areas, after accounting for other factors, pupils from a black Caribbean background were 1.7 times more likely to be permanently excluded than white British children.

Those from Indian, Bangladeshi or other Asian backgrounds are also less likely to excluded than their white British peers, along with those who have English as an additional language who are 33 per cent less likely to be permanently excluded compared to those with English as a first language.

Timpson’s review also found that a small minority of schools are using ‘off-rolling’, in which children are illegally removed from the register without a formal exclusion meaning many are pushed out of education altogether and exposed to potential safeguarding risks.

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Education Secretary Damian Hinds acknowledged this was happening, but said it was on a ‘relatively small scale’ and made it clear that headteachers should retain the right to exclude pupils as a last resort.

He confirmed that the government would act on the review’s recommendation that schools should in future be made accountable for the pupils they permanently exclude.

He also ‘unequivocally’ backed headteachers who have to make the ‘difficult decision’ to exclude a pupil.

A consultation is set to be launched later this year to identify the most effective way forward.

The landmark study, which makes 30 recommendations, found huge variation across the school system.

In Sheffield, the rate of fixed term exclusions in terms of incidents per pupils in primary education reduced from 2.5 per cent in 2016/17 to 2.3 per cent in 2017/18.

In secondary education, this reduced from 21.7 per cent to 16.9 per cent in the same period, whereas for pupils in specialist schools this fell from 7.2 per cent to 6.4 per cent.

The overall rate of permanent exclusions also reduced in the same period, however there was a slight increase in the rate for primary school, rising from 0.06 per cent in 2016/17 to 0.08 per cent in 2017/18.

But, there was a larger decrease in secondary school, falling from 0.5 per cent to 0.4 per cent in the same period.

There were no permanent exclusions in specialist schools.

The current position for 2018/19 also shows a reduction in fixed-term exclusions compared to the previous academic year.