Page last updated at 06:00 GMT, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 07:00 UK

School exclusions remain problem

Children fighting
Unofficial exclusions can have a dramatic effect on children's lives

The number of children being sent home from school in Wales unofficially is still not falling, a year after officials said it needed to stop.

A total of 48 unofficial exclusions were reported last year, with 24 already in the first half of 2008.

Charity SNAP Cymru expressed concern that the figures have not improved a year after a children's commissioner report into the practice.

The commissioner's office said it was working on bringing the figures down.

Officially, schools should keep pupils out of class only if they have given them a fixed or permanent exclusion. But some parents are asked to keep their children at home "unofficially", which is known as an unofficial exclusion.

However, when a child is unofficially excluded from school they often do not receive the education and the formal support which is their right and which could help solve their problems.

Unofficial school exclusions continue, a year after a report condemned them

SNAP Cymru frequently has cases of unofficial exclusion referred to it.

The number of cases the organisation receives offers an accurate indicator of how prevalent the practice of unofficial exclusion is across the country.

This is because the real number of these kinds of exclusions is not known, as local authorities often do not know when schools exclude a pupil unofficially.

SNAP's latest figures show there has been no appreciable change in unofficial exclusion numbers across Wales.

Chief executive director Denise Inger said it could cause major problems for the children involved both at school and in their later life.

"Our case studies show unofficial exclusions will often lead to fixed-term exclusions and perhaps ultimately permanent exclusions at a later time," she said.

Deputy children's commissioner Maria Battle
Maria Battle said her office was working on solving the problem

"For a child to be excluded from school, unofficially or otherwise, gives the wrong message to that child, it says we have given up on you.

"It lowers the self-esteem and does not help the child in any part of their development."

Education inspector Estyn, which highlighted the issue last year, echoed the concerns.

Inspector Meilyr Rowlands said: "It's like bullying really, we know it happens but because it's something that happens informally we don't actually have figures on it.

Literacy link

"We hope it's not very common and hope it's decreasing because we clearly think it's unlawful and therefore not helpful to the young people involved or for their families.

"Clearly there should not be any unlawful exclusions at all but we would also like to see a reduction in the number of permanent and temporary exclusions."

Both organisations said much could be done to combat the practice.

Estyn said it had identified a "very clear link" between between literacy and bad behaviour, which often leads to unofficial exclusions.

It said if literacy skills could be improved by making courses, curriculums and teaching methods more interesting, maybe bad behaviour and exclusions, both official and unofficial, could be reduced.

SNAP strongly recommended that inter-agency meetings be automatically introduced if any child is excluded from school for more than 10 days.

Deputy children's commissioner Maria Battle said it was "very disappointing that on the ground and in the reality of children's lives the problem is still the same as it was".

"There seems to be in Wales some of the best policies in the world but there's this huge implementation gap and we're going to concentrating on closing that gap.

"We need to make recommendations a reality in children's lives and in their families lives."

The Welsh Assembly Government said the information from SNAP was useful, but could not be considered as a definitive view about unofficial exclusions in Wales.

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