Violent behaviour main reason for most school exclusions in Suffolk

Female teacher reprimanding a male student

School exclusions are falling but the main problem is 'persistent disruptive behaviour'. Stock image - Credit: Getty Images/Monkey Business

Violent or aggressive behaviour is increasingly becoming the main reason for permanent exclusions in Suffolk schools according to education chiefs.

A ‘deep dive’ investigation of permanent exclusions was carried out in June 2020 after numbers doubled within a year, with “persistent disruptive behaviour” accounting for the most.

However, at Suffolk County Council’s education scrutiny committee on March 15, which was assessing progress on the action plan to reduce those exclusions, violent behaviour was cited as becoming increasingly more prevalent.

Conservative cabinet member for education, Rachel Hood said a review of the reasons for the increased number of permanent exclusions in the autumn term of 2020/21 showed the number of children permanently excluded for persistent disruptive behaviour has fallen by at least 30%.

She said: “However, there remain numbers of children permanently excluded for violent or aggressive behaviour. These numbers are variable but increasing.

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education, Rachel Hood

Rachel Hood, cabinet member for education - Credit: Suffolk County Council

“The schools were reporting a growth in anti-social behaviours, which had been accounting for a third of permanent exclusions but now accounts for half of permanent exclusions.

“Ultimately we need to work in partnership with our schools to ensure positive outcomes for all children and young people, and we will continue to build on positive work, for example by the Inclusion Quality Mark to develop an inclusive culture across Suffolk and continue to tackle these concerning problems.”

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After the findings of the report were assessed, the authority put in place a series of measures to help improve support for schools.

The authority said 24 schools were working towards the Inclusion Quality Mark standard, which it was hoped would drive them to share their practices and create a culture of inclusive practice.

Elsewhere, a whole school inclusion team was launched in September last year, which so far has worked with 60 schools.

Other measures include plans for a countywide protocol for using part-time timetables which it is hoped all schools will sign up to, and an early intervention team where schools with concerns over a pupil can book a meeting with specialists to work out options that may prevent them from needing to be excluded.

The council said 330 meetings had been carried out since September.

Maria Hough, from the whole school inclusion team, said: “We are moving to a model that is going to have more of that light-touch, early intervention, chat-it-through – we are planning on moving more into that space rather than a lengthy referral.

“We are trying to do that early light touch because that is what schools have said they need.”#

Adrian Orr

Adrian Orr, assistant director for skills and learning - Credit: Suffolk County Council

Adrian Orr, assistant director for education, skills and learning, added: “The decision to exclude a young person from school is not one school leaders take lightly.

“The journey to a point where a child is excluded from school, there are lots of points along the way where perhaps intervention might have been different.

“That is the work the inclusion team and colleagues in schools are attempting to address to offer those opportunities where a young person’s travel to a point where they might be excluded could be headed off.”

However, while progress has been welcomed, scrutiny committee members raised concerns that parents were not involved enough in the process.

Councillor Sam Murray said “the parent knows the child best and I don’t necessarily believe that is always taken on board,” while Cllr Sandy Martin added: “I am guessing a very large proportion of the problems that children have at school could be ameliorated by having a better relationship between the schools and parents or carers”.

The investigation found that half of all exclusions were SEND pupils, despite SEND accounting for just 18% of the school population, while a quarter of all excluded pupils were BAME compared to 16.6% of the school population from BAME backgrounds.