Calls for moratorium on pupil exclusions as the numbers rise

Figures set to rise

Thursday, 3rd February — By Harry Taylor

vawg full council nov 21 2021-11-23 at 02.36.55

Councillor Maryam Eslamdoust

SCHOOL exclusions are projected to rise further after an increase during the pandemic, leading to a call for a moratorium.

A total of 6.1 per cent of secondary school pupils had a fixed-term exclusion at some point during the academic year ending last July.

Council projections for the current cycle show that 6.6 per cent could be suspended by the end of this school year if the trend continues.

Both figures are lower than totals up to 2018-2019, where school exclusions came under sharp focus during a period of gang violence involving teenagers who had been excluded from schools.

Nearly 1 in 10 children in schools were sent home every year.

A special panel was launched in 2018 to examine the issue.

Experts had warned that there could be a link between the level of exclusions and a rise in violent youth crime after a year where nearly 700 pupils were excluded.

Since then the council and schools have been trying new tactics to cut down on exclusions.

A new unit, the Camden Reintegration Base (Crib) was established on the Haverstock School site tasked with helping pupils at risk of exclusion from the classroom.

A report presented to the council’s cross-party education committee said that the rise could be due to the impact of Covid and pupils having to readjust back to school life amid turbulence in schools that in the past two years have seen two periods where pupils were learning from home.

Councillor Maryam Eslamdoust, the chair of the committee, argued in the meeting that they should be halted during the pandemic out of concern for children’s wellbeing.

“I have a concern that young people are being excluded during the pandemic and they are likely to be facing extremely difficult circumstances. Bad behaviour doesn’t come from nowhere.”

She added that because of its impact on children’s life choices, the pandemic should be considered an exceptional circumstance to pause them.

“There are clear reasons why we shouldn’t be encouraging expulsions,” she said.

Martin Pratt, Camden’s senior education official said that decisions are down to schools and that the council cannot intervene. “They are not excluded from education, they are excluded from a particular institution.

He added: “It’s our responsibility to work with the child and other schools and other experts in the education psychology service, and parents to make sure we are redoubling our efforts to support the child into the most appropriate place rather than being abandoned by the system.”

As of the start of December, 172 fixed-term exclusions have been handed out by schools in the borough and 141 pupils have had at least one fixed-term suspension.

In both primary and secondary schools, a disproportionate amount of white British disadvantaged pupils were excluded.

The topic will be covered again in another meeting before April, when committees will be wound up ahead of May’s elections.

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