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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 May, 2004, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Alternatives to expulsion
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News Online education staff

Classroom
Children have a right not to have their lessons disrupted
How does the education system manage the 9,000 or so pupils in England expelled each year?

Most permanently excluded pupils are moved to other mainstream - rather than special needs - schools.

A balance is needed between the rights of ordinary children to study properly and of even the worst pupils to receive an education.

Around the country, head teachers and local authorities are trying different ways of smoothing the process - ideally keeping unruly pupils within mainstream education, while minimising disruption.

I am by no means woolly or fluffy
WPC Wendy Collimer

Some schools have set up a system of "internal exclusion". This removes unruly pupils from lessons to a separate room to "cool off", allowing the rest to study in peace.

Some local authorities have a programme of "rapid reintegration", transferring permanently excluded children directly to another school immediately. All funding is transferred too.

That way, it is argued, the new school can decide the best way to deal with problems.

It also avoids the children being stuck in the pupil referral unit - where they are analysed by experts - until another head teacher is willing to accept them.

At Parkfield School in Wolverhampton, a more informal approach is taken.

A policewoman, Wendy Collimer, holds weekly one-to-one sessions with children.

Hard choices

She talks to those on the verge of exclusion, tries to find out what led to their bad behaviour in the first place and how the school could best deal with it, should it recur.

WPC Collimer is also at pains to stress she is anything but "woolly and fluffy" with her charges.

She said: "The way I look at it, the more that I come in, the more effective I will be.

"I tell the kids they have choices throughout life. I then ask them what they see their future being like and what they want.

"I don't lecture them, as there's nothing worse. They have to think for themselves.

"Sometimes they are good for a while and slip back. I might ask 'what the hell am I doing here?', but it's often a case of two steps forward and one back. At least it means some progress."

If pupils actually commit a criminal offence, WPC Collimer will arrest them. If it happens outside school, she will ask parents to bring them in.

WPC Collimer said: "It's vital to include the families. The parents must tell their children what to do. Sometimes the child will look at me and say they were never told before how to behave.

Points mean pupils

"We need to get more involved as communities in stopping the bad behaviour.

"Often children feel school is a bubble where they can do whatever they like and get away with it. Having a policewoman on site helps dispel that myth."

The theme of "sharing the load" is followed elsewhere.

In Surrey, the county's 53 secondary school head teachers have signed up to a "points" system for dealing with excluded pupils.

Each was originally awarded 1,000 "points". They lose some of these if they have a high number of pupils with special needs or eating free school meals.

They are then placed in a league table, those with the most points being at the top.

Now schools know where they stand
David Watkinson, advisory teacher

Schools have points added for excluding children and taken away for accepting them.

Those at the top of the league are first to take in excluded pupils, irrespective of how over-subscribed they are.

In this way, the worst-behaved are not simply dumped on the under-subscribed schools, which may have the most problems to deal with in the first place.

David Watkinson, one of Surrey County Council's reintegration advisory teachers, said: "The system here is working very well. It's down to the selflessness of the heads involved and a great tribute to them.

"The system used to be much more ad hoc, but now schools know where they stand."




SEE ALSO:
Fewer children banned from school
27 May 04 |  Education
Pupil aggro blamed on Thatcherism
12 Apr 04 |  Education
Helping the most troubled pupils
11 Feb 04 |  Education


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