The Board received a report which outlined the level of exclusions nationally and those in Halton over the last four years.
It was reported that the Department for Education (DfE) provided National Statistics on permanent and fixed period exclusions in England, with the most recent being for 2016-17 which were published on 19 July 2018 and updated on 6 August 2018. The information in Table 1 showed the significant increase in both permanent and fixed term exclusions over the last three years from 2014-15. This trend had been confirmed in a recent press article which noted the national rise of pupils being excluded and sent to pupil referral units and suggested that this was a result of the pressures placed on schools to show good results.
Members were advised that in Halton the information available was up to the end of the academic year 2017-18 and showed that although permanent exclusions had increased from 15 to 32, as there were 53 exclusions in 2016-17, the total number of permanent exclusions reduced in 2017-18. This trend continued in the case of fixed term exclusions.
The report also presented information on the primary sector in Halton which saw an increase in exclusions; comparisons over the years were displayed in charts 3 and 4. The report provided information on the reasons for permanent and fixed term exclusions in Halton.
It was reported that following a review of exclusions, the House of Commons Education Committee published a report ‘Forgotten Children: alternative provision and the scandal of ever increasing exclusions’ in July 2018. A summary of its conclusions was provided in the Officer’s report.
The Board discussed the rates of exclusions in Halton in both the primary and secondary sectors and the steps that were required to be taken to promote a more positive approach to behaviour management and to encourage greater inclusion within schools. Paragraph 6.1 outlined these steps.
During presentation of the report the following points were discussed:
· The low rate of exclusions in Halton’s special schools and what could be learnt from them;
· Although there was a reduction in secondary exclusions the rise in primary exclusions was a concern particularly at Year 4, where there was a spike in permanent and fixed term exclusions;
· The most common reason provided by schools for exclusions was persistent disruptive behaviour. The Board discussed the possible reasons why disruptive behaviour was on the increase and why schools appeared to be less tolerant than previously and discussed whether the new curriculum, performance measures and funding were key factors;
· The Council had a new ‘In Year Fair Access Protocol’ and tracked and shared details of all in year secondary admissions which may have contributed to the recent dip in secondary exclusions;
· Members discussed the steps taken by schools leading up to an exclusion and the process for asking the LA for assistance once a child had been identified as a possible exclusion;
· It was suggested that advocacy was needed for the excluded pupil and their parents;
· It was noticed that nationally the academy sector had a culture of excluding pupils;
· Parents did not challenge exclusions and were not aware of their rights, eg. appealing the decision;
· The skills and knowledge and confidence of school staff in dealing with pupils with challenging behaviour was discussed; and
· Members agreed that the subject needed to be raised with School Governors.
Overall the Board was pleased to receive the report outlining the positive steps taken to bring down the exclusion rate in Halton and supported the work, the focus on schools and the drive to reduce exclusions across the Borough. The following was asked:
What was the gender split in exclusions?
Historically this was predominantly male, however this had changed. The exact split was not to hand so this information would be sent to the Board following the meeting.
Was the rise in primary schools exclusions reflective of parents’ inability to cope?
This could be the case but there had also been a new curriculum and accountability framework introduced. Schools did report increasing concerns with parents’ ability to manage particularly since the introduction of universal credit.
How effective was home schooling?
For some families it was successful however for others this was not the case, as parents did not have the required skills. Data was not available to compare the performance of those who had been home educated. It was noted that Halton’s Education Welfare Department had a protocol on Elective Home Education and could make home visits to check the children but had limited powers to intervene.
RESOLVED: That the Board supports the drive to reducing exclusions and the promotion of a more inclusive practice.