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Pupils are excluded for use of ‘weapons’

Islington Council leader is determined to help keep youngsters in school

17 July, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Cllr Richard Watts

ALMOST half of all permanent exclusions in secondary schools in the last year have been “weapons-related”, a new council report reveals.

It was also revealed that 30 per cent of all exclusions in secondary schools between April 2019 – March 2020 happened in one school.

This school has not been named, but the council said “focused work” was being undertaken with it.

Islington Council leader Labour councillor Richard Watts has now told the Tribune that he has asked officers to “move urgently to make policy”, as the council looks to reduce the numbers of pupils being sent home from school.

In total there were 18 permanent exclusions of which 40 per cent were because of “weapons-related” incidents.

In the previous 12 months between April 2018 and March 2019 there were 20 permanent exclusions from secondary schools.

These time frames were used to make the comparison valid because of the disruption coronavirus has had on the school year.

“Black Caribbean and white British children are over-represented among those excluded from Islington schools,” the report added.

Cllr Watts said: “I welcome this report. It is an incredibly important and timely piece of work. I have asked officers to move urgently to make policy in order to reduce exclusions and focus on the ethnic groups who are disproportionately affected.”

As the Tribune previously reported, the Islington branch of the National Education Union (NEU) has warned of a future rise in exclusions if pupils are rushed back to class and there are attempts to cram in stressful timetables to make up for lost time in the classroom.

A spokesman for the NEU said: “Transparency and accountability is important and if there is an issue with exclusions they need to be addressed properly and in the light of day.

“We think this is going to be a serious problem in the future, especially if schools reopen fully in September.”

High rates of exclusions have been a persistent issue in the borough.

Data released last year showed that Islington had the highest rate of fixed-term exclusions in London with 1,420 suspensions in the 2017/18 academic year, according to Department for Education (DfE) figures.

A Town Hall probe into exclusions was completed in April last year and a follow-up paper is to be discussed at Monday’s children’s services and education scrutiny committee.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “The government continues to back headteachers to use permanent exclusions as a last resort, but we are equally clear that our ambitions for children in Alternative Provision settings are as high as for any other children.

“We remain determined to improve outcomes for children who are permanently excluded.”

Ofsted, meanwhile, has praised Islington for using new “trauma informed” practices to try and understand the issues behind disruptive behaviour, a strategy which appeared to have positive effects in participating schools.


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