Drop in number of school exclusions in Northumberland as figures fall after spike

The number of school exclusions in Northumberland has dropped from a spike last year as work continues to tackle the issue.

Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 14:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 10:44 am
County Hall, Morpeth

Last November, we reported that pupils were permanently kicked out of schools in the county at an average rate of one a day during the first half-term of that academic year.

Over the previous three years, permanent exclusions had increased by 203 per cent and fixed-term exclusions by 209 per cent, but the trend has reversed since then.

The issue was discussed again at September 10’s meeting of the county council’s cabinet where members agreed to proceed with a tender exercise to create a framework to support the provision of alternative education for permanently excluded children.

The local authority is responsible for providing full-time, suitable education for every permanently excluded pupil within six days of their exclusion.

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Students are placed either into the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) or with quality-assured alternative education providers.

Northumberland does not have a Key Stage 4 PRU or an alternative provision (AP) free school and therefore relies solely on alternative providers to educate pupils excluded in Year 10 and Year 11.

The current contract expires at the end of the calendar year, so approval was granted to carry out a tender exercise which will ensure that appropriate contractual arrangements are in place by January 1, 2020.

Cabinet sign-off was required as the cost over the life of the contract could exceed £2million, following the rapid increase in the number of exclusions.

Presenting the report to the family and children’s services committee last week, Lynn Bryden, a senior commissioning manager, explained that the framework does not commit the council to any spending, it will only pay for the services it uses, meaning there is no risk if the number of exclusions continues to fall.

Exclusions have been of concern to the committee for some time and a task and finish group has been looking at the issue, while the council has also spoken to headteachers in an effort to share good practice.

Since this has been taking place, the number of permanent exclusions in Northumberland has reduced by 28 per cent and the number of fixed-term exclusions by 26 per cent.

Cath McEvoy-Carr, the authority’s executive director of children’s services, told the cabinet that exclusions were not just an education issue and work is also being done with early help services for families.