Have you heard the stories about headteachers callously excluding children to make their school’s results improve? In a few instances, it’s true. But for the most part, the exclusion figures are not because evil school leaders suddenly care more about exams. The real problem is squeezed budgets. Heads care about every child: what they can’t do is teach all of them. The Guardian reports
When people think of excluded children, they often imagine a gobby teenager sent home for wearing an inappropriate skirt or flashy trainers. In reality, schools deal with far worse. Teenagers are often angry and physical violence erupts. In my first year of teaching, I had my ribs broken in a fight and a pupil came at me with scissors threatening to stab me in the eye. Some are intent on physically harming themselves but take others down in the process, setting off fires or throwing around chemicals. Some steal from friends, or plot horrific assaults, or spread indecent images, or bring in weapons. It’s no surprise heads feel compelled to do something to keep the other thousand-or-so pupils safe.
Fast forward and schools are now cut to the bone. Secondary schools have replaced their welfare officer with a data manager, who also part-runs the photocopying department and the reception on a Friday. Sixth formers are increasingly used to help out. “Now they’ve cut the funding for A-levels back to 15 hours per week, we’re getting sixth formers to work as sports coaches and do tutoring in the leftover time,” one head recently told me.
In this environment, a violent pupil has far less hope of getting help. Criteria for accessing overstretched mental health services are much higher and last year welfare cuts meant that more than 128,000 children lived in temporary housing. So even if a school can afford home support, it’s harder to arrange. Special needs funding is limited as cash-strapped councils try to cover more and more pupils with lower and lower budgets.
Once out of school excluded pupils either move into alternative provision schools – where teachers are more likely to be temporary, according to a report by the thinktank IPPR– or they simply sit at home. Their chances of getting good exam results are practically nil. It’s no wonder the education secretary, Damian Hinds, has bleated that he wants fewer excluded pupils. Yet his only action is “commissioning a review” into the problem – ministerial speak for “kicking it into the long grass”.
Read the full article Blame cuts – not headteachers – for school exclusions
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