IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Council urges schools not to kick difficult pupils out

Evidence was heard as part of the Town Hall's probe into the borough's high exclusion rates

21 September, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

Islington Town Hall: schools are encouraged to refer pupils at risk of exclusion to support services

 

Education chiefs are calling on schools to help children at risk of exclusion, instead of kicking them out.

A Town Hall scrutiny committee investigating Islington’s exclusion rates, which are higher than the inner London average, was told schools could turn to support services before telling pupils they cannot return.

Gill Sassienie, the council’s principal educational psychologist, told an evidence-gathering meeting last Thursday: “Schools tend to move pupils to other placements, but we want schools to refer to us first.

“I don’t want to criticise schools. They have difficult challenges and are under pressure from parents and teachers, and some schools say: ‘We just can’t teach this person.’ But an educational psychologist can come in and say there is more we can do.”

She added: “Our service was only involved in five of 32 permanent exclusions last year. It is frustrating because sometimes they should have had an assessment.

“With the ones we have been involved in we have managed to prevent exclusions.

“My hope is that if young people are being referred to us, we might be able to help prevent more exclusions. It’s about early intervention.”

The council has made a decision not to publicly name schools that are “high excluders” during their investigation.

Islington’s director of learning and schools Mark Taylor said: “We do know what schools these are. We want to work with these schools and ask what is the issue in your school and what support do you need to stop this happening. It just can’t carry on.”

In the last academic year, provisional figures show that 1,455 temporary exclusions – called “fixed-period exclusions” – and 18 permanent exclusions were recorded at secondary schools in the borough.

Mr Taylor said: “I am always wary of building a big strategy around something where in fact it is about one or two schools. What you’re talking about here is a very small number of schools in a context of a local authority where broadly speaking schools don’t exclude.”

Pupils and their families as well as headteachers are expected to give evidence to the commit- tee, which will probe trends in exclusions, such as the disproportionate representation of some minority ethnic groups.

The main reason for exclusions is disruptive behaviour.

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