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School exclusions: ‘Parents being pressurised to accept managed moves’

Think tank says headteachers are using practice to protect record

24 January, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz: ‘The number of pupils in alternative provision has more than halved since 2017 – we tightly monitor off-rolling without a destination, and work to help our schools develop best practice’

SCHOOLS are pressuring parents to accept “managed moves” as a way of not blotting their record with an exclusion, an education think tank has claimed, as Islington Council says it is cracking down on the controversial practice.

Use of “managed moves” powers by schools in Islington peaked in 2017 when it had one of the highest rates in the country, according to Department for Education data.

Research by Liberal Democrat Party-funded think tank the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that between 2012 and 2017 about 300 pupils were moved from a mainstream secondary school in an “unexplained exit”.

Managed moves are when a pupil is transfered from one school into either another mainstream school, an alternative provision or in some cases out of the education system altogether.

Whitney Crenna-Jennings, EPI senior researcher, told the Tribune: “There has been an increasing worry in the school sector around the rising rate of exclusions so some heads are turning to managed moves as a way of getting around this and not having an exclusion on their record.”

A managed move cannot be implemented unless parents give their consent.

But some headteachers are pressuring parents to accept the move, according to Ms Crenna-Jennings.

As the Tribune previously reported, Islington Council was slammed in 2018 for having one of the highest rates of exclusions in London, sparking a Town Hall investigation.

In 2017, across all secondary and primary schools, 104 pupils were moved out of mainstream schools and into alternative provisions like the New Rivers Colleges and pupil referral units (PRUs).

The number has fallen to 48 last year.

“Alternative educational provision may well be the right choice for a child and one which benefits them educationally,” Islington NEU secretary Tony Buttifint said.

“We firmly believe that it is imperative that any movement between educational establishments is carried out with the best interests of the pupils in mind rather than the best interests of the school and we would be very concerned if Islington schools were participating in any form of ‘offloading’.”

Islington’s education chief, Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, said: “The number of pupils in alternative provision has more than halved since 2017; we tightly monitor off-rolling without a destination, and work to help our schools develop best practice.”

Mother of 15-year-old with ADHD accuses college of ‘pushing out’ son

A SCHOOL has been accused of “pushing out” a student with learning difficulties by using the controversial managed moves system, writes Sam Ferguson.

The mother of a 15-year-old with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) who attends St Aloysius’ College in Archway told the Tribune her son is “hardly ever in school” due to the amount of times he gets excluded for what she says are minor infractions.

When he is in school, she says he is often put into isolation within an on-site learning support centre (LSC).

The pupil, whose identity the Tribune has agreed to protect, has also been moved temporarily to two other schools three times in the past two years, and his mother said he has had to seek counselling outside of school due to the stress this has caused him.

She said the school had spoken to her at least six times about moving her son to another school.

The mother told the Tribune that she felt intimidated by pressure to agree a move.

Last week, she says her son was put in isolation for wearing trainers.

“I don’t want a managed move because I know what can happen,” she said. “So many of the children who are moved end up in gangs and in prisons – it just doesn’t work. They have been trying to push my son out of that school because of his learning difficulties, but I’m fighting them all the way.”

She added: “My son was diagnosed with ADHD and Tourettes years before he started at that school, and before he started I told them all about it, and they said it would not be a problem. Now they want him gone. Something needs to be done – it’s just not right, and we’re not the only ones it’s happening to in that school.”

She said the past four years had caused her a lot of stress and upset.

“The school they have said they want to move him to is not close,” she explained.

“I’ve lost count of the amount of times he has been excluded for tiny things. Sometimes it’s for a week, sometimes for a day or two. It’s hard to keep track. He’s barely in school because he’s always being excluded. It’s very upsetting and stressful for me and my son. Something needs to be done.”

Executive headteacher Sue Heffernan said in a statement: “St Aloysius’ College is committed to creating a community in which all students and staff can aim for excellence in all areas – academic, social, physical, moral, cultural and spiritual. We are extremely proud of our staff and students, who this year celebrated together excellent GCSE and A-level exam results, placing the college in one of the top performing Catholic boys’ schools nationally for progress and well above national and local outcomes.”

She added: “This includes students who have identified special needs. A significant number of our sixth form students were offered places at prestigious universities, ensuring continued success for them.”

Last year, the Tribune reported on a student protest at the high number of exclusions at St Aloysius, and on one student’s fears for his A-level results after 20 teachers suddenly left the school.

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