The creation of this group of headteachers and multi-agency staff to develop a Northumberland Strategic Inclusion Plan for 2020 to 2024 was the key recommendation from a series of 17 drawn up by a group of councillors and officers who examined the issue.
And at Tuesday, December 10’s meeting of the authority’s cabinet, these recommendations were backed by leading councillors.
As previously reported, the final report by a task and finish group which looked into the alarming spike in exclusions includes views from schools and headteachers as well as other local authorities that have been successful in either reducing or maintaining low levels of exclusions.
It covers a range of issues and factors including special educational needs, early help and intervention, and the alternative provision currently available in Northumberland.
Since this work started, the number of permanent and fixed-terms exclusions has come down from a high point last summer.
However, the report notes that they are still ‘unacceptably high and, as in 2018-19, are likely to place the local authority in the lowest quartile nationally’.
Presenting the report to cabinet, Coun Mark Swinburn, the vice-chairman of the family and children’s services committee, who led the task and finish group, said: “There has already been improvement through the work of officers and the focus we have had, but it’s not enough. It needs to apply across the whole of Northumberland.”
The report and recommendations were welcomed by the cabinet members, with Coun Cath Homer saying: “Anything that promotes more of a strategic and partnership approach is a really positive thing.”
Among the other recommendations are a review of the Northumberland Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) as well a consultation on aligning it more closely to a special school in order to share expertise, training and resources, plus a review of the current fair access protocol for school admissions.