NAHT has acknowledged the need for the Children’s Commissioner’s honest appraisal of the impact of exclusions but says schools need support to help challenging pupils early on.
In her report, They Never Give Up On You (executive summary available here), Children’s Commissioner Maggie Atkinson praised the hard work of most schools in managing troubled students but criticised instances where some pupils were excluded in all but name as schools sought to deal with the matter without following legal procedures.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, agreed that exclusions should be reserved as the ultimate sanction but said the option was needed to deal with those pupils whose behaviour was damaging their classmates’ educational prospects as well as their own.
Mr Hobby said: “Illegal exclusions are very rare, but they are also wrong. The relentless pressure of a target-driven culture, which cares more about results than about how those results are achieved, has led a very small number of schools to use covert methods of selection and exclusion as a means of improving their position in the league tables by altering their intake. We need adequate safeguards to stop this happening and ensure schools are judged on a level playing field. Success should come from better teaching and better care, not different pupils.
“For an overwhelming number of school leaders, inclusion is a central part of their professional identity and they tend to regard exclusions as some kind of failure. Nonetheless, they have a duty towards every child; violence and persistent disruption can harm the learning of every student.
“Exclusion must not be thought of as getting a child ‘out of the way’ but of finding a better place to serve that child. Active collaboration between schools and access to a wide range of high quality alternative provision is essential. In line with Charlie Taylor’s earlier findings, schools should also pay active attention to a child’s progress in alternative provision. In many cases, this sort of collaboration will in fact make exclusion unnecessary.”
Mr Hobby added: “Some children are more likely to be excluded than others and we must tackle this as a profession where it is a cause of unfairness. In some cases, children are excluded because schools lack the appropriate resources and skills to diagnose and deal with their special needs at an early stage or because suitable alternative provision is not available. These sorts of exclusions should be avoidable in a system which made available the proper amount of resources to support the most vulnerable.”
Page Published: 19/03/2012