Education & Family

Fewer school children expelled from England's schools

classroom scene
Image caption Children with special educational needs are more likely to be excluded

There has been another fall in the number of pupils excluded from schools in England - but ministers say with the figures still in their thousands, behaviour is not good enough.

Expulsions fell by about 12% in 2009-10, compared with the previous year, while suspensions were down about 9%.

But a total of about 900 children were suspended every day for violence or verbal abuse.

Three quarters of those expelled had special educational needs.

And more than three-quarters were boys.

Boys were about four times as likely to be suspended as girls and pupils on free school meals were also more likely to be excluded.

In total, 5,740 pupils were expelled (permanently excluded) from primary, secondary and special schools in 2009-10, down from 6,550.

That total has been falling steadily since 1997 - when more than twice as many were expelled.

The number of suspensions also fell in 2009-10, when there were 331,380 "temporary exclusions".

That was a drop of nearly 32,000, a recent trend which has seen totals fall back to levels of nearly 10 years ago.

'Significant problem'

The most common reason for children to be excluded was "persistent disruptive behaviour".

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said discipline was a "significant problem" and the government was giving more powers "to put head teachers and teachers back in control of the classroom".

"With thousands of pupils being excluded for persistent disruption and violent or abusive behaviour we remain concerned that weak discipline remains a significant problem in too many of our schools and classrooms," he said.

"Tackling poor behaviour and raising academic standards are key priorities for the coalition government. We will back head teachers in excluding persistently disruptive pupils, which is why we are removing barriers which limit their authority."

Head teachers accused Mr Gibb of "finding a cloud around the silver lining".

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said there was no evidence of weak discipline in the statistics.

"Fewer and fewer schools now need to resort to the ultimate sanction of permanent exclusion, a fact that should be celebrated, " he said.

"Clearly the existing powers on behaviour have been good enough for major progress to be made.

"That said, there remain well-placed concerns about the apparent disparity in exclusion rates across school types and different demographic groups. Too many schools are still forced to exclude because they do not have the skills or resources to deal with children who suffer from mental illness, abuse or tragically turbulent lifestyles."

Special Educational Needs

Alison Ryan, from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said: "It is testimony to the hard work by school leaders, teachers and support staff that the number of pupil exclusions fell in 2009-10.

"However, schools could not have achieved this reduction without the help of early intervention services, extended services and access to training and expertise on behaviour and Special Educational Needs.

"ATL is deeply concerned that the cuts to local authority funding will have an impact on the number of services they can provide, and without them schools will face increasing behavioural problems and increasing numbers of exclusions."

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