Mixed picture for school exclusions in Barnsley as the town loses its strong record for keeping pupils in class

Barnsley schools have recorded a mixed picture for exclusions last year, with the authority outperforming similar councils on some statistics but performing more poorly in other areas.

By Paul Whitehouse
Monday, 28 January, 2019, 13:02

Councillors will tomorrow (January 29) have the opportunity to question senior officials about the town’s performance when details of exclusions are put before councillors sitting on a scrutiny board, with the job of trying to establish the reasons behind the figures.

Statistics to be presented to them show permanent exclusions from the town’s primary schools fell slightly in 2017 – the most recent figures available – while nationally they increased by the same figure of 0.01 per cent, putting Barnsley in 40th position from just over 150 local authorities in the country.

However, while that performance may appear positive it remains a sharp contrast to the three years between 2013 and 2015 when the permanent exclusion rate at the town’s primaries was zero.

Figures show the 2017 performance was better than Sheffield and Rotherham, though above Doncaster.

Fixed term exclusions, where children are allowed back to school after being suspended, were above the average for England, with the gap also widening.

That put Barnsley at 135th out of the country’s local authorities on that measure, though the town had the second lowest rate of fixed period exclusions, despite the increase.

The amount of time each excluded pupil lost from their schooling also grew in 2017, which a report to councillors describes as “a significant decline”, with the council plunging from 62nd to 136th in the national league table.

The report states: “Our average number of days lost is now above the England average with the increase of 1.27 being significantly higher than the increase seen nationally and regionally.”

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In secondary schools, the council ranked 49th in the national league table for permanent exclusions – when in 2013 it had been the best in England.

Councillors will be told: “Although the permanent exclusion rate for all secondary schools in Barnsley is still below the England average the positive gap between Barnsley and England narrowed further between 2016 and 2017.”

Temporary exclusions in 2017 were “significantly above the England average”, putting the town near the bottom of the national league table, at 150th position.

School time lost to those excluded was also relatively high for secondary school pupils, with the report stating: “In comparison to other South Yorkshire local authorities, Barnsley had the highest outcome in terms of the average number of days lost per excluded pupil in 2017.”

While the time lost through exclusions has been growing in Barnsley, it has been decreasing nationally and a slight increase in the region was far lower than Barnsley’s.

The town’s position at 147 in the national league table was its worst performance in that area took it to a five year low.

Scutiny board members will have the opportunity to make recommendations and ask for updated information after questioning those who give evidence at the meeting.