Number of B&NES secondary pupils being expelled is on the rise
The number of pupils being expelled from secondary schools in Bath and north east Somerset has increased five-fold over recent years.
Back in 2009/10 only four students were permanently excluded across the local authority area, but this went up to 20 in 2012/13 and the statistics suggest it is on the rise.
However, the number of temporary exclusions has significantly dropped, leading officers from Bath and North East Somerset Council to suggest schools are using “illegal exclusions” to get problem students off school grounds without officially recording it.
The report was published in response to questions from councillors about whether secondary schools converting to academies had led to an increase in exclusions.
One possible explanation for the rise in permanent exclusions is that previously schools have been fined £6,000 for each expelled pupil, to cover the cost of finding them another place.
But B&NES had no legal powers to impose this and back in 2010 one unnamed academy refused to pay, leading to a domino effect across all schools.
The report said: “This was a financial penalty to deter schools and to encourage them to manage pupil behaviour differently....
“It could therefore be concluded that a lack of financial consequences when permanently excluding a child led to a rise in permanent exclusions, rather than the conversion to academy status.”
The issue of “illegal exclusions” is a national problem and the drop in recorded fixed-term exclusions in B&NES suggests it is a local problem as well.
Council officers said this was backed up by anecdotal evidence from schools and parents.
The report said: “In B&NES the data indicates that secondary schools may be underreporting fixed term exclusions.
“Informal or unofficial exclusions, such as sending pupils home to “cool off” are unlawful, regardless of whether they occur with the agreement of parents or carers.
“Any exclusion of a pupil, even for short periods of time, must be formally recorded.”
Speaking at an early years, children and youth policy, development and scrutiny panel meeting this week, B&NES Council’s strategic director of children’s services Ashley Ayre explained how the permanent exclusion system worked, with all primary and secondary schools, whether they were academies or not, being involved with panels to place excluded students in new schools.
He said it generally worked well, although he admitted that the cooperation of Bath secondary schools was not good.
“On the whole the primary panels work well and two out of the three secondary panels work well,” he said.
“I don’t think we can say the same for the Bath panel and it does take some time to place some children.”