Huge leap in fixed term school exclusions
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The number of temporary exclusions at Suffolk schools is at its highest in a decade – soaring by more than 1,500 in just five years.
The new figures, from the Department for Education (DfE), show an increase in the number of exclusions for assaults against both adults and children, abuse of drugs and alcohol, and persistent bad behaviour.
Overall, 5,369 fixed term exclusions were dished out to children at Suffolk state and special schools in 2017/18, compared with 3,770 in 2013/14 - an increase of 42%.
This cannot be put down to a rise in student numbers, as the rate of fixed term exclusions has also increased - from 3.79% of the student population in 2013/14 to 5.28% in 2017/18.
The highest number on record was in 2008/09, when 5,490 temporary exclusions were handed out for bad behaviour in Suffolk.
This number decreased year-on-year until 2012/13, when exclusion rates began to rise again.
Meanwhile, in Essex, the number of fixed term exclusions has risen by more than 2,500 in five years, from 6,140 in 2013/14 to 8,718 in 2017/18.
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The data also shows a recent spike in the number of instances of children being sent home from special schools in Suffolk - with 105 fixed term exclusions recorded in 2017/18, compared to just 38 the previous year.
What are pupils being excluded for?
An increasing number of pupils across both counties are being excluded for assaults on fellow children, verbal abuse and drug and alcohol-related offences.
In the last year alone, the number of fixed term exclusions for assaults on pupils rose by a third at Suffolk schools - from 673 to 918.
Meanwhile the number of youngsters sent home for bullying, theft, sexual misconduct and racist abuse decreased.
In Essex, assaults on adults have become more common every year since 2013/14, with the number of incidents rising by 68% in just five years.
Graham White, National Education Union spokesman for Suffolk, blamed the rise in fixed term exclusions on a lack of funding for schools.
"Schools have faced decreasing budgets in real terms per pupil and so may have less resources to put into those who exhibit the most challenging behaviour," he said.
"Teacher assistants have been cut so there are fewer staff to do 'one to one support'.
"The curriculum has been even further narrowed and is inappropriate and inaccessible to a number of pupils so they either exhibit challenging behaviour, get more involved in gang culture, or fail to attend school. All of those make them more likely to get excluded."
What do the council and DfE have to say?
Suffolk County Council did not respond to the figures directly.
A spokesman said: "We are currently reviewing the recently released data which will be used to inform our support and challenge work with schools around inclusion and pupil exclusions."
A spokesman for Essex County Council added: "Good discipline in schools is essential to ensure that all pupils can benefit from the opportunities provided by education.
"The government supports headteachers in using exclusion as a sanction where it is warranted.
"However, the decision to permanently exclude a child from school should only be taken in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school's behaviour policy; and where allowing the child to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school.
"The decision to exclude must be lawful, reasonable and fair.
"Schools have a statutory duty not to discriminate against pupils on the basis of protected characteristics, such as disability or race."
The DfE had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.