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School exclusions: It’s ‘one strike and you’re out’

Campaigner criticises academies’ behaviour policies, and warns that Islington Council has little power to intervene

12 October, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Richard Rieser: ‘Policies need to be organic’

YEARS of cuts to education and youth services have resulted in a significant increase in school exclusions, an education campaigner has warned.

A Town Hall taskforce is looking at the high exclusion rates in Islington. Last year saw 34 children permanently excluded from the borough’s primary and secondary schools – higher than the inner London average.

Richard Rieser, 70, a consultant who specialises in inclusive education, has warned that Islington Council has little control over preventing schools from excluding students, especially from academies.

He said: “Academies adopt behaviour polices across 50 to 60 schools, which doesn’t work. The policies need to be organic and dependent on the area. There’s also an increasing rigidity of behaviour policies with ‘one strike and you’re out’.”

Mr Rieser, who runs consultancy firm World of Inclusion, pointed to the strict policy at City of London Academy Highgate Hill, as revealed in the Tribune last month.

The Archway school has banned talking in corridors between lessons, with pupils told they face detention if they twice break the rule.

“This particularly affects children with special educational needs and disabilities who may have ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] or other behavioural problems. If you break the behaviour policy you get a bad mark against your name and get fast-tracked to a fixed-term exclusion,” he said.

Changes to the Ofsted framework, which measures safeguarding and results, have contributed to the high exclusion rates, with schools worried about where they are in league tables, he said.

The campaigner gave a talk on developing inclusive education policy at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool last month.

He blamed government cuts for the “perfect storm”, which has seen a significant rise in the number of exclusions throughout the country.

“Exclusion rates were going down but in the last two or three years it started kicking up quite significantly,” he said. “The budget has been cut back and there is less money for schools to employ teaching assistants and behaviour mentors to help children.

“Cutting such roles has an immediate knock-on effect. There is no one for children to talk to about their issues.”

He added: “Youth provision is cut to the bone and the council is working with a 70 per cent cut in all other services. Parents are having to work longer and harder, wage rates have fallen and the safety net for these children is far less.

“You can’t run schools in an inner-city area without a healthy infrastructure around the school.”

Mr Rieser, who lives in Canonbury and was a teacher for 35 years, called on schools to help children at risk of exclusion.

“What we need is a robust system in our schools where they can deal with kids. These children are on your roll and you have to deal with them within the school,” he said.

The Town Hall scrutiny committee of backbench councillors examining the reasons behind the high exclusion rate meets next on Thursday.


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