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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 23:36 GMT 00:36 UK
'Devastating' effect of expulsion
expulsions graphic
Exclusions damage child, family and society, say campaigners
Expulsion from school can have a devastating effect on children and their families, researchers say.

A study for the Children's Society and the Advisory Centre for Education says permanent exclusions put unbearable strain on families.

Researchers Carol Hayden and Simon Dunne at the University of Portsmouth looked at the cases of 80 children who had been expelled.

They said most parents thought they had not been given a fair hearing and felt confused by the system, which they saw as arbitrary.


He got labelled as a naughty kid and they never tried to find out why he was playing up

Jacqueline, mother of excluded boy
Daniel is a 14-year-old boy from south-east London who was expelled from school in February for bad behaviour.

His mother, Jacqueline, believes things would never have gone so far if the school had recognised his problems and tried to help him.

"I lost count of the times he was suspended," she told BBC News Online.

"It began at the age of 11 or 12, with him being cheeky to teachers or bullying.

"He got labelled as a naughty kid and they never tried to find out why he was playing up.

"He's just been diagnosed as having ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and will now go to a school for children with learning problems."

Jacqueline said she felt she had been fighting the education system: "I had said he needed a smaller unit or school, that he couldn't cope there, but it is only now that anything has been done."
Exclusions
1990-1: 2,910
1992-3: 8,636
1996-7: 12,700
1998-9: 10,400

The Children's Society would like to see more co-operation between teachers, pupils and parents to try to avoid exclusions.

Chris Osborne, of the Children's Society said: "We know that if we exclude children where we could be helping them, we are undermining their future.

"It's particularly alarming that some children in extremely difficult circumstances are being penalised rather than being helped.

"Teachers have a tough job and they need more support to help children stay in school.

"We need to work together with teachers, pupils and parents to make sure children have their needs met."

Projects in schools

The organisation runs a number of projects in schools to promote inclusion and to prevent the problems which lead to pupils being expelled.

One of the projects - called Genesis - was running at Daniel's school for several years.

Daniel's mother said the unit had helped her son: "He used to go to talk to someone there every week, but he could also drop in any time if any problems blew up."


Exclusion is an admission of failure. It is extremely costly to the child, the family and society at large

Susan Rees, ACE
The research highlighted the sharp rise in the number of exclusions during the 90s.

Permanent exclusions rose from nearly 3,000 in 1990-91 to 10,400 in 1998-99.

The government has pledged to cut the number of exclusions by a third by 2002.

But teaching unions are fighting attempts to make it harder for schools to expel children, saying exclusions are often the only way of ensuring the safety of other children.

One of the other complaints made by parents of excluded children is the lack of information available to them.

Daniel's mother, Jacqueline, said: "It was a nightmare trying to get information about what would happen to him next."

One group which aims to provide information to parents in Jacqueline's position is the ACE (Advisory Centre for Education).

Helpline

It runs an information line, so parents can send off for details about government guidelines on exclusions and about what options are open to them.

The group also staffs a free help-line on weekday afternoons, where parents are given support and legal advice.

Susan Rees is a barrister employed to co-ordinate the advice line.

She accepted that there were occasions when expulsion was necessary, but said more effort should be put into finding the causes behind a child's bad behaviour.

"Exclusion is an admission of failure. It is extremely costly to the child, the family and society at large," she said.

"The emphasis should be on having a good strategy in school to help teachers manage children's behaviour."

ACE exclusions helpline: 020 7 704 9822

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19 Jan 00 | Education
Climbdown over school exclusions
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