Rotherham's school exclusion rates among country’s highest

ROTHERHAM has one of the highest secondary school exclusion rates in the country, Ofsted has revealed.

Rotherham Borough Council has now pledged to invest more in services to tackle the “very complex issue” after the borough was ranked as the area with the seventh highest rate in the country for fixed-term exclusions. 

During the year, 1,216 students (6.7 per cent) were excluded at least once, and the total number of exclusions imposed was 3,687.

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This amounted to 2,019 exclusions per 10,000 pupils — more than twice the national average.

A fixed-period exclusion means a pupil is barred from attending school for a set period of time, which can be anything from part of a school day up to a maximum of 45 days within a single academic year. 

Cathy Kirby (pictured, Ofsted’s regional director for the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber, has written to the region’s head teachers with her concerns after the UK top ten for 2015/16 featured eight councils from the region — including Sheffield, Barnsley and Doncaster.

Ms Kirby said: “But it is difficult to understand why fixed-period exclusion should be so much more necessary in these eight local authorities compared with others. 

Schools should only ever use exclusions as a last resort.”

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Gordon Watson, Rotherham Borough Council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said the authority was “taking positive action and had agreed to “more investment in services to help tackle what is a very complex issue”.

He added: “It is often the case that children with social, emotional and mental health issues also exhibit poor behaviour patterns. 

“But we must be forward-thinking and look at what the causes are of these issues and how we can help treat these children within therapeutic settings so they can integrate back into mainstream education.”

To find out why exclusions in these eight areas are so high, Ms Kirby is calling on her inspectors to look carefully at each school’s use of exclusion when making judgements about its leadership and management and pupils’ behaviour.

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In her annual report, Her Majesty’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman stated that she supported a school’s right to exclude pupils, but it must only be used when necessary —for example when a pupil’s behaviour is violent or threatening towards teachers or affects other pupils’ learning. 

Ms Spielman said it was never acceptable to exclude pupils specifically to boost school performance. 

To tackle the issue, Ofsted inspectors will be expected to look more closely for signs of “off-rolling” and will explore related reports about troublesome children being sent home on inspection days.