Council 'determined' to support pupils as figures show rise in school exclusions

Council chiefs have responded after figures revealed the numbers of pupils excluded from schools in Leeds has risen this year.
The numbers of pupils being excluded from schools has risen, in Leeds and nationally.The numbers of pupils being excluded from schools has risen, in Leeds and nationally.
The numbers of pupils being excluded from schools has risen, in Leeds and nationally.

As reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post yesterday, Department for Education figures show Leeds schools excluded students a total of 6,533 times in 2018-19, an increase of 25 per cent on the year before, when there were 5,206.

The figures are in line with national data, which showed total cases rising from 419,999 to 446,000 - and has prompted the formation of a new cross-party group of MPs to try and reduce avoidable expulsions of vulnerable children.

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Despite the year-on-year increase in Leeds, the city remains one of the better performing local authorities for permanent exclusions, ranking six out of 151 authorities for secondary exclusions.

A Leeds City Council spokeman said they are far from "complacent", despite the comparatively low figures, and remain "determined" to provide the right support to pupils.

"We know that there continues to be a range of different issues and factors in a child’s family and personal life that can have a negative impact and subsequently may lead to issues at school.

"This year the current impact of coronavirus and the changes that have had to be made to school life has also presented new challenges and we remain determined that the right assistance is made available to support pupils and their individual needs.

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“In terms of exclusions, Leeds continues to be recognised nationally as having relatively low figures for permanent exclusions but we certainly are not complacent.

"We continue to monitor closely data by school and area to identify where further targeted assistance may need to be undertaken."

As reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post, the Department for Education figures also showed that schools excluded students 164 times for drug and school-related issues in 2018-19 - three permanently and 161 temporarily. Most of these were in state-funded secondary schools, with four in special schools and none in primary schools.

This was an increase on the year before, when there was a total of 129.

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These figure were also in line with national findings when a record 12,180 drug and alcohol-related exclusions took place across England - and increase of 17 per cent on the year before.

A Leeds City Council spokesman said: "It must be remembered that not all exclusions are for the same reason and it is vitally important that the factors that influenced the final decision are fully taken into account and analysed.

"We continue to work in close partnership with all of our schools to identify what these challenges may be to pupils and that appropriate steps and help whether it relates to school work, mental health or other issues, are in place before any final decisions regarding fixed term or permanent exclusion are made.

"Support can include access for example to Mindmate and the Market Place.”

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The Centre for Social Justice will act as secretariat for the cross-party parliamentary group which has been set up to look into the issues of national school exclusions.

James Scales, head of education at the CSJ, said the future looks "desperately bleak" for many children forced out of school.

"Just four per cent of pupils who sit their GCSEs in alternative providers get a standard pass in English and maths.

"By bringing together cross-party voices and sector leaders, this new parliamentary group gives us a chance to put that right – both by acting earlier to reduce avoidable exclusions and by being more ambitious for excluded pupils."

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A DfE spokesman said: “We are clear that expulsion should only be used as a last resort, and should not mean exclusion from high quality education or support.

“We will always back headteachers to use expulsion when required as part of creating calm and disciplined classrooms, which bring out the best in every pupil."

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