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Monday, 14 February, 2000, 16:28 GMT
Dealing with excluded pupils

pupils fighting Schools can be unhappy about accepting pupils who have been excluded for violent behaviour

Doncaster education authority has the joint highest level of permanent exclusions in England, according the most recent figures.

In 1997-8, it expelled 0.37% of its school population, a figure only equalled by Kensington and Chelsea.

So what happens to the pupils once they've been kicked out?

The latest research, carried out for INCLUDE, suggests that many expelled pupils face a long wait to return to full-time mainstream education.

Head teachers' agreement

While Doncaster admits this is true for some pupils, it is quick to point out that mainstream education is unsuitable for a proportion of expelled children.

And it says that a large percentage - 60% - of its permanently excluded pupils are back in mainstream school within 20 working days.

The key to this success, it says, is a special agreement existing between the school head teachers and the LEA, which means that excluded pupils are "shared out" equally between schools to give them a second chance.

Under the agreement, the number of pupils excluded by each school, and the number of excluded pupils accepted by each school are logged by year group, so schools can "take it in turns" to accept expelled students.

The LEA's head of individual learners and communities, Steve Chew, says there are very few situations in which schools can legally refuse to take pupils.

When schools do refuse, the LEA negotiates with the school, and if the school still refuses, the LEA can direct it to accept the pupil in question.

However, Mr Chew says that in his 18 months working for Doncaster, this has never happened.

Pupil referral units

"The heads feel the agreement at least gives youngsters a second chance, and it is a fair way of doing it," he said.

"Of course, accepting excluded pupils can gobble up huge amount of school's staff time."

But what of the pupils who don't go back to school under this system?

Mr Chew says that while some do not make a speedy return to full-time mainstream education - indeed some never go back - hardly any are "lost" in the system.

Some pupils attend pupil referral units, which either work to get students re-integrated into mainstream schools, or, particularly in the case of older pupils, provide an alternative.

Other students may go on to further education or work experience placements.

"We're not a detective agency, and pupils can be difficult to track," Mr Chew said. "There is also a difference between allocating a pupil a place, and a pupil accessing that place.

"There is never 100% of any year group of children in school, but those that aren't make up a very tiny percentage.

"In Doncaster, whilst we don't have a good record for exclusions, we don't have a high level of unofficial exclusions as many authorities do, where pupils are asked to leave before they are excluded.

"What you see is what you get. We still have a very high level of exclusions, but we're working hard to reduce it, as are our schools."

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See also:
14 Feb 00 |  Education
Expelled pupils losing out
16 Jun 99 |  Education
Drop in school exclusions
16 Jun 99 |  Education
Some areas exclude more than others

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