The number of children permanently expelled from Lancashire’s secondary schools is on track to rise for the fifth consecutive year.
Figures for the autumn term of the current academic year reveal 109 pupils were barred from the classroom, compared to 103 during the same period last year.
A total of 314 pupils were excluded across the whole of 2017/18 – an increase of more than a hundred since 2014/15 and more than twice the national average.
The most common reasons for exclusion were persistent disruptive behaviour and physical abuse of pupils and staff.
“I don’t think any headteacher uses exclusions willy-nilly – it’s done with a heavy heart,” Steve Belbin, Lancashire County Council’s interim director of education, told a meeting of the authority’s education scrutiny committee.
Members heard that when fixed-term, temporary exclusions were factored into the figures, there were more than 3,800 periods of exclusion in Lancashire last year – not including any made by schools in the standalone council areas of Blackpool and Blackburn.
“Part of the purpose of a fixed-term exclusion is to prevent a permanent one – it should have an impact,” Mr Belbin said.
“A school will sit down with the child and their parents or carers – exclusions are not forgotten about, [but] every child deserves a second chance.”
Analysis of the data reveals that spikes in exclusions at individual schools coincide with the appointment of a new headteacher or conversion to become an academy – a school outside the control of the local authority.
“Sometimes an academy chain takes on a school which has previously been below [standard] and they [introduce] their own curriculum. That may appeal to pupils and engage them – or it might not,” Mr Belbin explained.
“A new leadership might have different expectations in terms of behaviour and attendance – they might bring in a new policy which is perhaps harsher.”
Going the “extra mile for certain pupils in certain schools” can sometimes be replaced with the adoption of a “more consistent” approach to discipline, members were told.
The authority is looking to bolster interim support for schools before they arrive at the point of permanent exclusion, as well as continued use of so-called “managed moves”.
“They are a mechanism to move a child to a new school when they may be heading down the road to a permanent exclusion, [having] got into a pattern of behaviour,” Debbie Ormerod, the council’s admissions manager, said.
“It is an arrangement between the two schools, with the agreement of the parents and the pupil – a genuine fresh start in a new setting can make a difference.”
When pupils are permanently excluded, they are often sent to one of Lancashire’s pupil referral units – many of which are full, the committee was told.
Back in 1996, the number of permanent exclusions from secondary school in the county stood at just 30 – meaning there has been a near tenfold increase over the past two decades. However, at least some of that jump can be attributed to more accurate recording of data, the local democracy reporting service understands.
Permanent exclusions from the county’s primary schools have remained relatively static over the past five years – with 55 pupils forced out during 2017/18. Members heard that a permanent exclusion from primary school increased the likelihood of further exclusions when the child moves into secondary education.
But one committee member laid the blame for poor behaviour at the door of parents rather than pupils.
“It’s the parents who need educating – a lid should be put on [bad behaviour] at home,” County Coun David Stansfield said.
“But a lot of them just don’t get to grips with it and we end up with the problems later.”