Richard Adams
The rate of pupil exclusions from state schools in England rose sharply last year, according to official figures, with teaching unions laying some of the blame for the rise on austerity and funding cuts.
The number of children permanently excluded from state primary, secondary and special schools in England increased by about 1,000 between 2016 and 2017, according to the Department for Education (DfE) figures.
Secondary schools accounted for more than four out of every five permanent or temporary exclusions, according to the figures, with “permanent disruptive behaviour” accounting for the bulk of the increase in both types of exclusions.
The total of 7,700 equates to more than 40 permanent exclusions a day during the 2016-17 school year, compared with a little over 35 a day the previous year.
Fixed-term or temporary exclusions also increased, by about 40,000, to a total of 382,000 – meaning nearly one in 20 pupils were given a fixed-period exclusion.
Geoff Barton, a former secondary school head and the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said cuts in school support and council services meant schools were increasingly having to fall back on the use of exclusions.
“We are extremely concerned that this increase in exclusions is a result of the school funding crisis and cuts to local children’s services,” Barton said.
“Schools have had to cut back on the individual support they are able to give students, making it more difficult to provide early intervention and prevent behavioural problems from escalating,” Barton added.
Among those permanently excluded, there was also a sharp rise in those expelled because of physical assault against another pupil, which rose from 825 cases in 2015-16 to 1,025 in 2016-17.
The rise in permanent exclusions for the last three years follows a period of a generally downward trend from 2006-07 until 2012-13, and has been rising again since then, although rates are still lower now than in 2006-07.
Pupils with special educational needs accounted for just under half of all exclusions. Pupils with special needs were permanently excluded at a rate six times higher than pupils with no special needs.
Pupils with an education, health and care plan or a statement of special education needs had the highest fixed-period exclusion rate at 16% in 2016-17 – more than five times higher than pupils with no special needs, at 3%.

The writer is the Guardian’s education editor
Source: The Guardian