21% rise in number of school expulsions
By Craig RobinsonNEW figures have shown the number of permanent exclusions from schools across Suffolk have risen by more than 20% in the past year.They revealed there were 194 permanent exclusions from Suffolk schools in 2003-4, compared with 161 in 2002-3, an increase of 21%.
By Craig Robinson
NEW figures have shown the number of permanent exclusions from schools across Suffolk have risen by more than 20% in the past year.
They revealed there were 194 permanent exclusions from Suffolk schools in 2003-4, compared with 161 in 2002-3, an increase of 21%.
The figures, in a report for Suffolk County Council's learning for life overview and scrutiny committee, also showed the number of pupils suspended from school for a fixed period increased from 4,219 in 2002-3 to 5,382 in 2003-4, a rise of 27.5%.
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This is above the national average, which has seen the number of pupils being suspended fall by 3% this year and by 24% since 1998.
Tony Lewis, the council's portfolio holder for children and young people, said: “Obviously the exclusion rate is higher than you would expect for a location like Suffolk and I have to say the results of the report surprised us all.
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“But it has to be said that Ofsted inspectors have found that behaviour is good in the majority of schools in Suffolk.”
He added: “The important thing is that we are not ducking the issue of the minority of pupils who do disrupt the classroom and are excluded and we know that we need to do more to work with schools, parents and other partners to improve inclusion and prevent exclusion.
“It is vital that teachers are supported and that young people are able to learn effectively in school and are given the right type of help to achieve this.”
As a result of the report, council bosses have introduced a £1.4million behaviour support service for Suffolk and invested more than £1m in new pupil referral units.
The aim of the scheme is to work in partnership with parents, students and schools that experience behavioural problems to help manage difficulties in the classroom before they reach a stage where permanent exclusion is the only answer.
The initiative has been in operation since September and units have already been placed at a number of locations, including schools in Ipswich, Lowestoft and Brandon.
Specially-trained teachers and behavioural staff work in the units, which provide support out of the school environment for young people who have difficulty in coping with the demands of mainstream education and who have emotional, social or behavioural difficulties.
A flexible curriculum has also been introduced for 14 to 16-year-olds so that traditional learning is supported through a programme of practical and vocational training.
Gary Nethercott, assistant director of learner support at the council, said: “The majority of students are extremely well-behaved, but there are schools around where challenging behaviour makes it difficult for all concerned.
“It is a very complex issue and unfortunately there is no silver bullet. It would be lovely if we could blame the schools, children, parents or ourselves, but it's not that simple. We have to work in partnership to make a difference.”
Mr Lewis added: “The new service is unique and has never been tried before in Suffolk. So far the results have been very encouraging and all the schools have given us a very positive response.
“At the end of the day we want to make an improvement to the lives of the children and ensure that they get a better chance to go through school and come out with the skills and qualities they need to find a job and to live independent lives.”