Quarter of pupils at Wakefield secondary excluded from school in one year

Nearly a quarter of pupils at a Wakefield secondary were excluded from school in a single academic year.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 16th January 2022, 10:34 am

Figures show more than 23 per cent of students at Outwood Academy Hemsworth were temporarily sent home as punishment between September 2020 and July 2021.

The school has also permanently expelled 24 students over the past three years, more than any other school in the district.

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Figures show more than 23 per cent of students at Outwood Academy Hemsworth were temporarily sent home as punishment between September 2020 and July 2021.

A school governor said staff were trying to improve the situation, with the help of a boxing coach, pyschologists and a “therapy dog”.

The school’s head later said the statistics “do not reflect the positive culture” at the academy, which is one of 27 secondaries across the North under the Outwood Academies Trust.

Speaking at a schools forum meeting on Thursday, which brings together headteachers across the district, forum chairman Denis Barry expressed concern over the school’s figures.

Outwood Academy Hemsworth governor Christine Gregory told the meeting that the numbers “do look bad”, but said the school was working hard to improve things.

She said: “We have done some work on this and what’s been shown is the deprivation of the area.

“There’s a lot of anti-social behaviour in the area that the school’s cohort comes from.

“We’re working very closely with the police, we’ve got pyschologists in two days a week and we’ve got a boxing coach coming in to work with boys and girls.”

Ms Gregory also said a therapy dog had been brought in to school, to help pupils talk about the issues bothering them.

She added: “We’re recording everything. We don’t just send children home if they’re having a bad day. It’s recorded as an exclusion.

“The figures are coming down and our school population is going up, so we’re moving in the right direction.”

The meeting chair said Ms Gregory’s response was “to some extent reassuring”, but he was critical of the fact no senior member of staff from the school had attended the meeting.

Mr Barry added: “I think the forum would have been at an advantage if we’d had a member of staff from the Outwood Academy chain here to explain these statistics.

“It’s disappointing that there’s no-one here to give an explanation professionally.”

Responding later, the school said its usual representative had been unable to attend because they were ill with Covid.

Principal Toby Rutter said: “At Outwood Academy Hemsworth we take pride in the interventions and support that we implement for our students, an example of this is how we are engaging with West Yorkshire Police to implement a variety of strategies aimed at reducing temporary suspensions and we strongly believe that the exclusion data does not reflect the positive culture that is tangible at the academy.

“We have the highest of standards for our students as we believe they are capable of achieving inspirational futures and our belief is to maintain these high standards so as to not disadvantage any child, whilst working tirelessly with families and outside agencies to support students to meet these standards.

“As a result we have established a positive climate for learning, which is evidenced by the students’ grades improving year on year and temporary suspensions reducing year on year, and we believe the community support of this ethos of the academy and our increased uptake in admissions reflects this.

“Our associate executive principal regularly attends the meeting, however she was unfortunately unable to attend as she is unwell with Covid.

“Due to high levels of staff absence I was unable to send another senior member of staff to represent the academy as the welfare of our students is paramount.”

Across the Wakefield district, the number of pupils expelled during 2020/21 fell to 37 from 68 the previous year.

Council officers have attributed that decline to the pandemic, besides their own efforts in persuading head teachers to keep pupils in school.

“Persistent disruptive behaviour” remains the most common reason for expulsion, followed by physical assaults against staff and bringing weapons or prohibited items into school.

David Spereall , Local Democracy Reporting Service

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