Worrying figures show rise in Leeds pupils being excluded from school

The number of pupils being excluded from schools in Leeds has risen
The number of pupils being excluded from schools in Leeds has risen
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A school governor has described the number of fixed-term exclusions at schools in Leeds as "worrying".

It follows a report, released earlier this year, showing that fixed-term exclusions - also known as suspensions - from secondary schools rose from 4,796 in 2015 to 6,601 in 2017.

Kate Blacker, a parent governor representative for primary schools, said that the problem of fixed-term exclusions should be a high priority for Leeds City Council.

Speaking at a meeting of the authority's children and families scrutiny board, she said: “We really need to get to grips with this issue. It’s worrying, especially as we’ve had an outstanding OFSTED result for social care.

“We really need to be getting it right for our children in schools as well, and look into fixed-term and internal exclusions.“

During the 2016/17 academic year, there were 14.5 fixed-term exclusions per 100 students, compared to nine per 100 students nationally.

However, permanent exclusions in Leeds schools are among the lowest in the country, with only eight made in 2017.

The latest Department of Education figures on fixed-term exclusions are from 2016/17 academic year.

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Coun Peter Carlill asked the board to look at getting more recent figures.

“The problem is that children have already left school by the time these figures come out," he said.

“The 2017/18 figures will be published in July, but even then we’re looking at exclusions that happened two years ago. Who knows when the 2018/19 figures will be going.”

Phil Mellen, deputy director for schools, said the authority is introducing a live data collection system in schools from September this year, to get clearer and more up-to-date figures on school exclusions.

The issue of internal exclusions - often known as isolation - was also raised in the meeting.

Mr Mellen said: “When it’s done well, internal exclusions are a perfectly legitimate way of managing behaviour for some students.

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“Where I’m worried is when students are constantly in and out of internal exclusion and it becomes a habitual thing.

“It possibly leads to poor behaviour in the long-term, as a student goes back into class lacking in confidence because they have missed a tranche. They don’t want to appear stupid, so they overcome that by walking out or acting up.

“We don’t get clear data on that, but we will certainly work closely with schools and if we see that the practice is happening in a negative way, we will challenge them.”

Figures on fixed-term exclusions during the 2017/18 academic year will be released in July.

The board called for a breakdown of exclusions in each school in Leeds before its next meeting on July 3.

Coun Jonathon Pryor, the executive member for learning, skills and employment, said: “There’s clearly been a lot of interest about exclusions from this board, whether that’s fixed term or permanent, so it would be incredibly useful for the scrutiny board to do a full piece of work.

“It’s absolutely something we need to get on top of.”