Page last updated at 14:03 GMT, Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Changes ahead for excluded pupils

By Angela Harrison
BBC News, at the NASUWT conference in Birmingham

scuffle in PRu
Mr Balls said he wanted to improve the quality of referral units

The government intends to improve the handling of children excluded from school in England, Schools Secretary Ed Balls has said.

All schools - as 97% already do - will have to work in partnership with others and to take in expelled students.

A white paper will set out alternatives to the pupil referral units to which the most disruptive students are sent, including work-related study.

Mr Balls said more needed to be done to tackle bad behaviour in schools.

He had asked Sir Alan Steer - who produced a report on misbehaviour for the government in autumn 2005 - to review progress since then.

Sir Alan's findings - just released - have been used to frame the government's latest plans.


Sir Alan, who is the head teacher of Seven Kings High School in Redbridge, Essex, said it was essential all schools were involved in behaviour partnerships and the government should legislate for this.

"A school that permanently excludes a child should expect to receive a permanently excluded child on the principle of 'one out, one in'," his report said.

But a minority of schools were operating "unfair practices" in admissions and exclusions.

The government says 97% of schools are in such partnerships - including all but six of the new academies.

But Sir Alan's report cast doubt on how well some of these were operating.

"Informal soundings make me sceptical that all these schools are actually engaged in meaningful partnership working," it says.

"Outside the early pathfinder partnerships, credible evidence is lacking on the impact partnerships are making where they do exist."

'Hard work'

Mr Balls said: "We know that standards of behaviour continue to be a matter for concern for parents and teachers, as well as well as children and young people themselves.

cyber bullying of teachers as well as pupils
behaviour partnerships
alternative provision
parent support advisers

"Sir Alan's assessment is that we have made considerable progress in implementing his recommendations. I am pleased with this, and am clear we are prepared to go further so behaviour is good in all schools."

He paid tribute to the "hard work of school staff in maintaining good discipline".

"But it is a tough job dealing with general low level disruption in the classroom and with the challenges presented by a minority of badly behaved pupils."

Speaking at the NASUWT union's annual conference, in Birmingham, he outlined the government's plans to improve co-operation between schools on behaviour.

All schools should form partnerships with others and one of their key objectives, he said, would be to identify children at risk of exclusion or truancy and to intervene to help them get back on track.

Academies would also have to do this. At the moment, 97% of schools are involved in such a partnership.

When children are excluded, they can be taken in by other schools or can be sent to pupil referral units (PRUs).

It is estimated 24,000 secondary school age children were in PRUs in England in 2007.

Mr Balls told teachers he was determined to improve the quality of PRUs - and to offer alternatives, including vocational centres.

For the first time, detailed data would be published on the performance of students in PRUs.

The general secretary of the NASUWT, Chris Keates, welcomed the announcements.

"It's a really good step forward and it's what we have been campaigning for: quality off-site provision so that children with behaviour problems can get the support and help they need while children in mainstream schools can get on with learning," she said.

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