The rate of exclusion in Kirklees’ Schools is double the national average, a council report has shown.
The “devastating impact” that permanent exclusion can have on a person’s future life chances was discussed on March 20th at the meeting of Kirklees Council’s Children’s Scrutiny Panel. Permanent exclusion is linked to poorer life chances and is shown to exacerbate mental health issues.
Each year, 8,000 children are permanently excluded from schools across the UK with many of these children ending up in ‘alternative provision’ (AP). AP settings are schools that cater for children unable to attend mainstream schools.
According to the report, just one in 20 children who finish their education in AP pass their English and Maths GCSEs and half of those educated in such settings are not in education, employment, or training six months after leaving. Four in 10 prisoners report having been permanently excluded from school.
All of these factors are said to put vulnerable children at greater risk of criminal exploitation.
In Kirklees, exclusion rates have increased in recent years. Data show in 2021/22 68 exclusions took place across all school phases equating to 0.10% of all pupils attending school within the district. This compares to a national average of 0.05% in 2020/21.
58 of these cases occurred in years 7 to 11 and 57 of those excluded were male students. In these instances, the most common reasons for exclusion are physical assault against a pupil (21), physical assault against an adult (15), and persistent disruptive behaviour (13).
The report to the panel shows that as well as being male and at a secondary school, those most often excluded include students with Special Educational Needs, children who are eligible for free school meals and those living in the Dewsbury West ward. This is due to a school with a particularly high number of exclusions and suspensions.
However, the proportion of exclusions in Kirklees’ primary schools is below the national average and no exclusions have taken place in the district’s Special Schools for at least 16 years.
Like exclusions, Kirklees’ annual rate of suspensions is above the national average with a rate of 8.67% in 2021/22 for the cohort of 69,769 students, compared to 4.25% nationally for 2020/21. This resulted in the affected Kirklees pupils losing 11,027 days that year.
Kelsey Clark-Davies, Head of Educational Safeguarding and Inclusion told the meeting of the council’s “ambition and commitment” to reduce exclusion rates and improve provision in schools by providing “the right support in the right place at the right time.” She outlined the council’s aim to see no exclusions by 2030 and their efforts to address the problem through a “trauma-informed approach” and increasing understanding of SEND.
Cllr Paul White (Independent, Holme Valley North) said the ambition was “fantastic” but felt that the target to reach zero exclusions was unrealistic. Jo-Anne Sanders, Service Director for Learning and Early Support explained that the target was “not without challenge” but that it was important to have in place due to the wider, “devastating impact” a permanent exclusion can have on a person’s life chances.