Investigation launched into Great Yarmouth Charter Academy’s exclusion policy

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy.
Picture; David Hannant

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Picture; David Hannant - Credit: Archant

An investigation will be launched into the exclusion policy at Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, after concerns were raised it could conflict with national guidance.

Barry Smith, principal of Great Yarmouth Charter Academy.

Barry Smith, principal of Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. - Credit: Archant

The Inspiration Trust's academy has made headlines this week because of its strict behaviour rules.

But it was the school's exclusion policy that Labour county councillor Emma Corlett questioned at a meeting of Norfolk County Council's children's services committee today.

Ms Corlett said the policy, published on its website over the weekend, seemed to be 'in conflict' with Department for Education guidance.

But the Inspiration Trust says it is in the process of updating its policy to reflect newly issued guidance.

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She said: 'The Inspiration Trust Charter School policy states 'If the principal wishes to extend a fixed period exclusion or convert a fixed period exclusion into a permanent exclusion the principal will again write to the parents / carers explaining the reasons and other points above. Where an exclusion is extended there will be a new right for parents to state their case to the Discipline Committee'.'

But Ms Corlett said: 'The Department for Education guidance states 'The law does not allow for extending a fixed-period exclusion, or for 'converting' a fixed period exclusion in to a permanent exclusion' other than in exceptional circumstances where further evidence has come to light.

'It appears that this policy is not consistent with Department for Education guidance on implementation of the law.'

Ms Corlett said there were already 'shockingly high levels of schools exclusions in Norfolk last academic year.'

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There were 270 exclusions as of the end of the academic year.

Ms Corlett asked if the council could investigate the Great Yarmouth Charter Academy policy as matter of urgency, to tell councillors its findings and to raise any relevant findings directly with the Regional Schools Commissioner and Department for Education to ensure that all schools in Norfolk were operating within the law in respect of exclusions.

Officers agreed they would investigate, but said there had been some national changes over exclusion policy which would need to be looked at.

Chris Snudden, assistant director in children's services, said: 'We will go ahead and investigate. We would want to look into that matter and report back. If there are national changes which support that direction of travel we will report that back.'

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Inspiration Trust spokesman James Goffin said: 'The Department for Education issued new guidance starting from September 2017, which includes new wording on 'converting' exclusions not present in the previous guidance. Our policy complied with the previous guidance and is currently being updated to reflect the changes. This will be ratified at the next Inspiration Trust board meeting at the end of this month, which is the first meeting since the guidance came into force.'

Ms Corlett said: 'Elected members need to reassure ourselves that the rights of Norfolk children and young people are upheld, that exclusion is only used as an absolute last resort and that the life-chances of Norfolk children and young people do not continue to be damaged by the poor inclusive practice that currently blights Norfolk.'

Great Yarmouth High School became the Great Yarmouth Charter Academy at the start of August, having been taken over by the Inspiration Trust.

New principal Barry Smith was announced after the high school received the lowest GCSE results in the county in the summer, with just one in three pupils achieving a pass in English and maths.

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