South Yorkshire named “hot spot” for school exclusions

Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster are among the ten local authorities with the highest exclusion rates in the country, figures published by the Department for Education have shown.

The report has prompted education watchdog Ofsted to write to all secondary head teachers in the worst-performing areas to raise concerns about the high rates of fixed-term exclusions. Schools in these areas will also have their use of exclusions scrutinised as part of the Ofsted inspection regime.

The announcement sparked a debate about the causes of high exclusion rates, with education secretary Damian Hinds claiming that some head teachers are excluding pupils who may bring down their performance in the league tables. Teaching unions hit back saying that cuts to school budgets and support services, as well as the relentless focus on exam results, are to blame.

The government has now launched a review of exclusions, led by former children’s minister Edward Timpson. The review will examine how and why schools use exclusion, what drives the variation in exclusion rates, and why some groups of children are more likely to be excluded than others. For example, almost half of all exclusions – fixed-term and permanent – are of pupils with special educational needs.

In Sheffield, the council has set up two “inclusion panels” – one for the primary sector and one for the secondary sector – to try and bring down exclusion rates. Schools can refer pupils who are at risk of permanent exclusion to these panels, which are made up of head teacher representatives, local authority officers and other professionals. The panels will look at each case and develop an action plan, which always includes some outreach work from the most appropriate key service.

Have your say! As part of the review of exclusions, the government has launched a call for evidence, which will run until 6th May 2018. You can submit your views here.

Concerned about exclusions? Read our article about support available for children affected by exclusions.