Norfolk expels more children under 11 from school than almost anywhere else in the country
- Credit: Steve Adams
Children as young as four are being affected for life by being expelled, it was claimed today, as new figures exposed Norfolk as the joint worst area in England for primary school exclusions.
Des Reynolds, chief executive of the Engage Trust, which runs the Short Stay School for Norfolk (SSSfN), said the 'rejection' of permanent exclusion for younger pupils was, while at school, 'the most dramatic thing a child can go through'.
He spoke out as Department for Education figures revealed the number of primary age pupils expelled from schools in Norfolk rose from 39 in 2014/15 to 60 in 2015/16.
Norfolk County Council, which has a duty to educate excluded children, has long been trying to tackle the issue - and said work with schools had seen numbers fall in 2016/17.
It has proposed increasing the funding that schools lose when a pupil is expelled - but, for the time being, dozens of children remain on the waiting list for the SSSfN, which takes children who have been excluded.
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MORE: 'Children should not be treated as numbers' - charging schools for excluding not the way to tackle soaring ratesWhile 60 primary school exclusions is the third highest in the country, Norfolk's primary permanent exclusion rate - the number of expulsions as a percentage of the number of pupils - is 0.09, which, joint with Salford, is the worst in the country.
It is three times the 0.03 in Suffolk, which had 17 primary expulsions last year, and nine times the 0.01 in Cambridgeshire, which had just three. The national rate was 0.02.
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Overall exclusions - at state-funded primaries, secondaries and special schools - jumped from 150 to 247.
Mr Reynolds said: 'Outside of home life, school is a massive part of childhood. What happens with exclusions is when a school says 'you can't come here anymore', it's a rejection.
'It will affect them for the rest of their life - how they see education, relationships, friendship groups. In terms of education, it's the most dramatic thing a child can go through.'
MORE: Number of expelled pupils waiting for an education soars to almost 120He said it could only be solved by a major shift in the focus put on schools, away from results and towards inclusiveness.
A county council spokesman said: 'These figures are now a year old, and although the rate of permanently excluded pupils currently remains too high, we know our overall numbers have started to come down since then.'
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: 'We want every child to have access to a good school place where they can learn without disruption and feel safe at school.
'The rules are clear that exclusion powers should only be used in particular circumstances and decisions to exclude should be lawful, reasonable and fair. Permanent exclusion should only be used as a last resort, in response to a serious breach, or persistent breaches, of the school's behaviour policy.'
Why is it happening?
Of the 247 total exclusions, 89 were for persistent disruptive behaviour, the most common reason.
Other reasons include physical assault against a pupil, 28, or adult, 33, verbal abuse or threatening behaviour against an adult, 27, or drug and alcohol related reasons, 26.
Mr Reynolds said primary pupils who were excluded tended to have lower self-control than their peers, and were more likely to lash out.
Mr Reynolds said: 'In younger primary pupils particularly, there is an undeniable increase in the complexity of issues. There is a complex mixture of social and economic factors, affecting deprivation and attitude
and so on.
'It's a complex mixture to unpick and schools have been placed under pressure to have a more academic and assessment led focus. It means unpicking these issues children have is no longer something schools are being asked - or have the time - to do. It's not a focus.'
Issue to attract national attention
The issue of permanent exclusions at primary schools is to hit television screens all over the country next week, when a new documentary is aired.
Channel 4 will show Excluded at Seven on Tuesday, July 25, an hour-long documentary based at the SSSfN's Rosebery School in King's Lynn.
It follows the journey of a handful of excluded young people as they wait for a new place at a mainstream school - including primary school pupil Jared, who was first excluded from school when he was just four.
MORE: Nearly 4,000 Norfolk pupils excluded from schools in one yearHe was excluded another 10 times before he was finally moved to the Rosebery.
Sharon Donaldson, primary leader at Rosebery, said the majority of pupils had either been violent at their previous school or damaged property.
The documentary reveals how for every child at the Rosebery, another two are waiting at home to join.
Mrs Donaldson said: 'We know what [permanent exclusions] do to the children, their self-esteem and their opportunities for a career.'
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