Birmingham schools chiefs 'failed to present full picture' over exclusions
Birmingham education chiefs have been accused of “failing to present the full picture” after figures revealed a huge increase in the number of pupils suspended from city schools.
Last week the city council claimed that the number of pupils permanently excluded from school almost halved in the past three years – down from 327 in 2006-07 to 177 in 2008-09.
Coun Les Lawrence, Cabinet member for children, young people and families, boasted that the “dramatic” reduction was “testimony to the collaborative work being done in our schools.”
But statistics obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by The Birmingham Post today show the reality to be much more stark.
Birmingham pupils have been suspended from school an extra 2,000 times over a three-year period.
In 2005-06 temporary exclusions totalled 8,297 but in 2007-08 the number rose to 10,619 – an increase of a quarter.
Opposition deputy Labour group leader Coun Ian Ward said: “These statistics clearly show that there is a serious problem here that needs to be addressed.
“It is important that people are made aware of the full picture and releasing data on permanent expulsions without reference to temporary expulsions is only telling half the story.
“The fact that an extra 2,000 children were suspended from school in just three years demonstrates that the council must do more to help our teachers keep control in the classroom.
“Headteachers need more options and more resources.”
The latest figures showed classroom violence was again a key contributing factor for expelling pupils. Birmingham Local Education Authority figures showed that 22 children were expelled for attacking a teacher last year and four pupils were expelled for verbally abusing a teacher.
Lynn Collins, Midlands regional secretary for the National Union of Teachers, said: “Excluding children and young people should be the last resort, but without adequate mechanisms for dealing with unacceptable behaviours it is often the only avenue that head teachers and teachers have to protect themselves and other students from violent to disruptive behaviour.
“Schools are often stretched to the limit with staffing and are not in a position to provide the one-to-one care that may be needed for some pupils.
“Schools need to have access to proper strategic services, provided at local authority level, to ensure that children and young people are given the support they need.
“This is not something that can be done on the cheap; Government needs to provide local authorities with the finances to provide the services that could ensure many children, young people, parents and teachers do not have to experience the disruption and stress of exclusion,” she said.
Nationally, there were 8,130 permanent exclusions during 2007-08 – the last year for which figures are available – which works out at 0.11 per cent of the total school roll for England.
Coun Lawrence said the council was doing all it could to set out clear rules and boundaries when it came to behaviour.
“We have a zero tolerance towards aggressive behaviour among young people but we must recognise that it often comes from frustration.
“One of the things we need to focus on is anger management, so children know what behaviour is acceptable when they can’t do what they want to do.”