High number of expelled children in Norfolk finally starts to fall, council says

Children at work in the classroom. Picture: John Hocknell

Children at work in the classroom. Picture: John Hocknell - Credit: Eastern Daily Press, Archant

The steep number of permanent exclusions in Norfolk is expected to finally dip, figures suggest.

The amount of pupils being expelled from school across the county jumped from 170 in 2013/14 to 195 in 2014/15 and 290 in 2015/16 - some of the highest around the country.

For this academic year, the number was expected to top 300 - but an agenda published ahead of Norfolk County Council's children's services committee on Monday predicts that the actual figure will hover at 290.

It shows that while numbers of expelled pupils jumped from 114 in autumn 2015/16 to 132 this autumn, it fell in spring, from 90 last year to 63 this year.

The alarming figures sparked efforts by the council and schools to bring down the number - including a council proposal to introduce increased charges for schools that exclude children.

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A council spokesperson said: 'Rates of exclusion in the county are falling but they remain too high and this is having an impact on the capacity of Norfolk's alternative provision, as well as the wider schools' budget.

'Working with schools we have already taken action to increase places in alternative provision and support children to move between schools, to give them a fresh start.'

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MORE: Number of expelled pupils waiting for an education in Norfolk soars to almost 120

The high figure has seen demand for places at alternative providers severely outweigh supply - leading to, as of May, 118 children waiting at home until a spot becomes available.

The number of pupils waiting for a place at the Short Stay School for Norfolk - which is contracted by the council to educate expelled pupils - jumped from just 13 at the start of the 2016 school year to the 118 now.

But the council says it has commissioned extra places at the SSSfN and elsewhere and that by the start of the new school year, just 20 pupils will be waiting.

A Norwich headteacher, speaking anonymously, has doubted the figures and said they are 'overly optimistic'.

'It is good to see the number of excluions down term on term,' they said. 'Perhaps schools are taking note and reconsidering their options.

'But the number is still too high - and until those children are sat in seats at school, I'm unconvinced.'

• Do you have an education story? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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