Permanent exclusions up 5% before Covid school closures


But overall exclusions and suspensions fell in the year 2019-20 as schools closed to most students in March 2020

Exclusions and suspensions increased in the autumn term of the 2019-20 school year, new statistics reveal.

Permanent exclusions increased by 5 per cent in autumn 2019 compared with the same period the previous year, from 3,000 to 3,200, according to new data released today by the Department for Education.

They increased by 20 per cent in primary schools and by 3 per cent in secondary schools, while they remained stable in special schools.

As for suspensions, they increased by 14 per cent in the autumn of 2019, from 157,100 in 2018 to 178,400.

The largest percentage increase was again at primary level (21 per cent), followed by a 12 per cent increase in secondaries.

Suspensions decreased in special schools by 13 per cent.

After schools closed to most pupils in March 2020 as the Covid pandemic hit overall numbers for exclusions in the 2019-20 academic year fell to the lowest levels since 2013-14.

Overall, there were 5,100 permanent exclusions, 3,000 fewer in 2019-20 than in 2018-19. And suspensions fell from 438,000 to 310,000.

Persistent disruptive behaviour continues to be the reason for over a third of all permanent exclusions, in line with the previous year.

The proportion of permanent exclusions due to physical assault against an adult increased from 10 to 12 per cent.

Commenting on the figures, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union the NAHT, said: “One of the best ways to avoid exclusions is for the pupil to receive access to specialist, cross-sector support as early as possible.

“Where this works best, mainstream schools, in partnership with specialist settings such as alternative provision, are able to maintain education and support for our most vulnerable pupils.

“Sadly, we know that schools are finding it increasingly hard to access that support. We’ve seen cuts in local authority services such as behaviour support teams, combined with reductions in pastoral care.

“Speech and language therapists for pupils with additional needs are also disappearing. In addition, there are frequent delays in providing mental health support for pupils who need it.”

He added: “To ensure that the number of exclusions does not start to rise again next year, schools need the funded support of specialist services to meet every child’s needs.”

And Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), commented: “Schools only use exclusion of any type, and particularly permanent exclusion, as a last resort and in order to protect the learning and safety of other pupils and staff.

“Clearly, exclusion rates have been very significantly affected by the pandemic while schools were only partially open to relatively small groups of pupils and it is therefore difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions from these statistics.

“But, when education returns to normal, more must be done to better support schools in tackling the complex problems which can lead to exclusion before they escalate to that point and to ensure that there is high-quality educational provision and support available for any pupil who is excluded.”

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