Action call over 'poor family' school exclusions

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School exclusions call
School exclusion rates for children from poorer families in Northumberland are over four times higher than for their peers from better-off households, new figures reveal.

Charities say children are getting into trouble because their families cannot afford uniforms and equipment, or are struggling to provide food or heating at home.

Figures from the Department for Education show schools in the area excluded students who were eligible for free school meals 834 times during the 2019/20 academic year.

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That equates to 11.5 exclusions for every 100 children entitled to the meals – over four times higher than the 2.4% for children not eligible for free school meals.

Just for Kids Law – which help to families contest exclusions – said exclusions worsen the situation for disadvantaged children, putting them further behind on their education and potentially leading them into crime.

Louise King, director of policy and campaigns, said: "Too often we see children who have been excluded because of circumstances beyond their control –whose families struggle to pay for uniforms and equipment and are struggling for essentials like food and heating.

“The Government needs to provide better financial support to families, put in place behavioural support in schools and give children an opportunity to challenge "unfair decisions" on exclusions.

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"The Government needs to urgently reform the deeply flawed school exclusions system," she added.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Our guidance for schools is clear that staff should consider any underlying causes of poor behaviour before taking the decision to permanently exclude, and these decisions must be lawful, reasonable and fair."