IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Probe as figures reveal hundreds of Islington pupils are being excluded from school

Fears youngsters forced to leave are turning to crime as provisional figures show 1,455 temporary exclusions were recorded at secondary schools during this academic year

20 July, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Councillor Joe Caluori: ‘This has gone on across London for decades. I wish we had gotten to it earlier’

THE Town Hall has launched an in-depth in­vestigation into why Isling­ton schools have excluded hundreds of pupils each year, amid fears that it can lead to students becoming involved in crime.

Islington schools have higher rates of exclusion than the Inner London average, according to review objectives put before the council’s children’s services scrutiny committee on Monday.

This academic year, provisional figures show that 1,455 temporary exclusions – called “fixed-period exclusions” – were recorded at secondary schools. That is up on 878 last year. Eighteen pupils were permanently excluded this year.

The last two years have seen about 300 fixed-period exclusions at primary schools. Seven pupils were permanently excluded.

Councillor Joe Caluori, executive member for children and young people, has admitted that he wished the council had looked at the problem in more detail before it came to light in the last few years. He said there was a link between youngsters being excluded, disrupting their education and then becoming involved in serious offending.

He told the Tribune: “Until we started focusing on youth violence strategy and the data picture around some of the most serious offenders, we just didn’t know, we didn’t have that knowledge. This has gone on across London for decades. I wish we had gotten to it earlier.”

Youngsters, their families, headteachers and an educational psychologist are expected to give evidence to the children’s scrutiny committee.

The panel will probe trends in exclusions, such as the disproportionate representation of some minority ethnic groups.

According to the figures, more black minority ethnic children are being excluded than white children. There were also more pupils being excluded in year 10 than in any other year. The figures come with a “health warning” as other local authorities have different reporting practices.

The main reason for exclusion nationwide and in Islington is disruptive behaviour. Some students were banished for assaulting pupils and threatening behaviour.

Cllr Caluori said it was a “failure” for a pupil to be permanently excluded. He hopes scrutiny will shine a light on how different schools treat permanent exclusion in the borough, some using the option more often than others.

“We know that the number of permanent exclusions differs from school to school, both in primary school and secondary school,” he said. “It’s clear there isn’t a consistent approach to it across schools.”

The council has put a focus on early intervention with young people who are at risk of being involved in violence, such as knife or gang crime.

Cllr Caluori said he hopes the committee will probe the “long train” of disciplinary incidents leading to children being excluded, to see what else could be done to help them, instead of kicking them out of school.

These children go on to be taught in other schools, potentially outside the borough, pupil referral units or are home-schooled. Fixed period exclusions can be for up to a maximum of 45 days in one school year.

Cllr Caluori said: “It would be far better if we can get on that really early and find out what’s going on and regard permanent exclusion not just as a problem to work through, but as a real trauma we have to avoid at all costs.”

Since the same committee looked into children being sent to alternative provision – those who cannot go to mainstream schools because of behavioural issues, an illness or other reasons – rates of transfer have been halved, according to Cllr Caluori.

“There were some schools using alternative provision that was not very good at all,” he said. “There were examples of alternative provision where it’s basically like an online correspondence course where you had to log in a couple of times a day. We have a quality assurance role for the use of alternative provision now.”

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