What’s the matter with schools on the south coast? An analysis of the recently published data on exclusions in the 2014-15 school year reveals that five of the eleven south coast authorities were in the worst 20 local authority areas for fixed term exclusion in the primary sector. Three of the smaller authorities, Poole, Bournemouth and Southampton had among the worst rate of fixed-term exclusions in the primary sector of all 151 authorities. Only Dorset and the Isle of Wight bettered the national average among south coast authorities.
At the secondary level, the Isle of Wight has one of the highest rates for fixed-term exclusions, but other authorities seem to fare better with their older children. Of course, the data cannot explain the reasons behind why schools in the south have performed so badly last year. Is it an effect of the recruitment challenge in primary schools; is it a result of the increase in pupil numbers affecting the size of schools or is it a lack of behaviour management skills among new teachers entering the profession. Is the last, why aren’t other areas affected? Could it be the first signs of budgetary pressures affecting some schools?
More worrying was the fact that 2014-15 saw an increase in exclusion rates. As the Statistical Bulletin noted: ‘The greatest increase in the number of permanent exclusions was in secondary schools, where there were 4,790 permanent exclusions in 2014/15 compared to 4,000 in 2013/14. This corresponded to an increase in the rate of permanent exclusions from 0.13 per cent in 2013/14 to 0.15 per cent (15 pupils per 10,000) in 2014/15.’ https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england-2014-to-2015
Any increase in exclusions is disappointing, an increase in permanent exclusions in the secondary sector potentially means 790 more young people face severe disruption to their lives while another school is found for them. However, the longer-term trend, for rate of permanent exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools at 0.07 is still on a downward trend since 2006/07 when the rate was 0.12 per cent. Nevertheless, 31 children are permanently excluded every day.
As the Bulletin also noted, Persistent disruptive behaviour remained the most common reason for permanent exclusions in state funded primary, secondary and special schools – accounting for 1,900 (32.8 per cent) of all permanent exclusions in 2014/15. This is equivalent to two permanent exclusions per 10,000 pupils. It is also the most common reason for fixed period exclusions. The 79,590 fixed period exclusions for persistent disruptive behaviour in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools made up 26.3 per cent of all fixed period exclusions, up from 25.3 per cent in 2013/14. This is equivalent to around one fixed period exclusion per 100 pupils. Physical assault against an adult is the most common reason for fixed period exclusion from special schools – accounting for around a third of permanent exclusions and a quarter of fixed period exclusions in 2014/15. The figures for assault sin special schools suggest that more and better staff training may be needed since the very fact these pupils are no in a mainstream school hints at the potentially challenging nature of their behaviour. It would also be helpful to know whether the person assaulted was a teacher or other adult in the school or even someone responsible for helping the child travel to and from school.
As ever, boys are more likely to be excluded than girls and certain ethnic groups have higher than average exclusion rates, as do pupils receiving free school meals.