Council facing questions over 76 per cent rise in expulsions

Classroom file pic.

A local education authority which has seen a 76 per cent increase in expulsions is facing calls to explain the reasons behind the “shocking” rise.

An officer’s report to a meeting of North Yorkshire Council’s executive on Tuesday (May 28) has revealed the latest available figures – for the academic year ending last July – saw 95 children permanently excluded from mainstream schools, an increase from 54 from the previous year.

The report states the trend has continued into the current academic year and that there were also 1,607 more suspensions in the year to the end of March, an increase of 34 per cent.

The authority’s executive member for education, Councillor Annabel Wilkinson, has been approached for comment.

When asked what was behind the increase, council officers did not directly respond, instead stating “persistent and general disruptive behaviour is the primary reason for exclusions in North Yorkshire accounting for over half of all exclusions”.

However, teaching unions have stated schools have insufficient resources to support pupils and earlier this year it emerged schools across North Yorkshire had forecast they are likely to face a collective annual deficit of more than £11m in just over two years.

Officers said the financial challenges were partly due to the high costs of providing education across a vast rural area not being being properly recognised by the government.

According to the latest Department for Education data, England and Wales saw the largest number of suspensions on record for one term last spring.

The Association of School and College Leaders says mental health issues, unmet special educational needs, disengagement with the curriculum and family issues are behind the national trend.

An Ofsted study published last year found 42 per cent of teachers had noted a decrease in behaviour standards since the pandemic, partly due to a lack of “socialisation”.

Nevertheless, research by IBB Law published in March found exclusion rates for the five years to 2022 to be markedly higher in Yorkshire and the North-East than anywhere else in the country.

In 2019 the authority unveiled detailed plans to support a sea change in the way children at risk of exclusion were handled, described by the authority as a “preventative and inclusive culture”.

When asked if its strategies to reduce the number of children being excluded were working, a council spokesman said: “Data relating to exclusions in North Yorkshire is similar to or below national levels. Preventative work is underway and is resulting in a number of children successfully remaining in schools.”

Former teacher and North Yorkshire Council’s children and families scrutiny committee chair, Councillor Barbara Brodigan, said she wanted to know how deeply the council was investigating the reasons behind the “shocking” exclusions rise.

Coun Brodigan, who used to work with children at risk of exclusion and those who had been excluded, said changes the council introduced in 2019 “had not had any impact at all”.

She said: “Is it linked to Ofsted inspections? Schools have been known to suspend children prior to an inspection because they don’t want disruptive children in the school.

“When I used to ask permanently excluded young people why they didn’t engage at school it was often due to the curriculum offer and how it was delivered.

“Locality boards are working with head teachers to develop creative alternative solutions. Schools’ hands are tied with the curriculum, but not how it is delivered. These children need extra support.”

1 Comment

  1. It’s the teachers who need the extra support – to deal with unruly pupils whose parents have abdicated responsibility for their children’s behaviour. Not getting it was the reason I left secondary teaching in 1996 and it’s unlikely to be any better now.

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