Number of expelled pupils waiting for an education in Norfolk soars to almost 120
- Credit: PA
A record number of almost 120 pupils are waiting for an education at home thanks to Norfolk's high number of permanent exclusions.
Last November, we revealed that 41 children were going without education as they waited for a school place after being expelled - a figure which rose to 96 by March and has now jumped to 118, Norfolk County Council has confirmed.
The high number of permanent exclusions across the county means there is greater demand for places with alternate providers, such as the Short Stay School for Norfolk (SSSfN).
And if mainstream schools refuse to take children back when they are ready to be integrated, it can mean pupils end up staying with alternate providers longer than planned - resulting in a waiting list for more recently expelled pupils.
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The issue of permanent exclusions in Norfolk is one the council has been trying to tackle - the number rose from 170 in 2013/14 to 195 in 2014/15 and 296 in 2015/16, with 137 excluded in the last autumn term.
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In neighbouring counties, figures are much lower - in 2014/15, just 65 pupils were expelled in Suffolk and Suffolk County Council yesterday confirmed it does not have any pupils waiting for an education.
With the waiting list now at a record level, it seems the demand for support is grinding the system to a halt.
A Norfolk County Council spokesperson said: 'We know the current situation isn't good enough for those children who are excluded from school – we want to see all of them in full-time education. We are funding extra places at the Short Stay School for Norfolk (SSSfN) and in other provision and, since Easter have managed to move 59 children into full-time places.'
They said exclusion levels had dropped over the last term but were 'still too high'.
'Schools are beginning to work more closely together to prevent exclusions and are taking up the offer of the support available to them via the SSSfN,' they said.
One parent, whose son was excluded from a Norwich school three months ago, said 'the most vulnerable of our children are getting the least help'.
Her son, who has autism, is now waiting at their Costessey home for a place at an alternative provider, with just e-learning programmes and a tutor once a week in the meantime. She has had to quit her job.
MORE: Steep rise in permanent exclusions a 'significant barrier' to Short Stay School for Norfolk, inspectors say'We do what we can to help him, but of course we worry about that impact this is having on him,' she said. 'It's no replacement for an education and I worry every day about the effect of this long-term.'
Tim Sweeting, chief executive of YMCA Norfolk, said: 'Getting a good education is essential to the future of young people, and going without it limits their aspirations and ability to fulfil their potential.
'It is a very difficult problem to solve and it is certainly influenced by school funding - we need to make sure there is adequate levels of alternate provision and schools need to have the resources and flexibility to use different approaches to help young people who are struggling in mainstream schooling.'
The council is considering charging schools for expelling pupils in the hopes of bringing down numbers.
But at the council's Schools Forum meeting earlier this month, City Academy Norwich principal Mary Sparrow warned that schools often spend thousands of pounds to stop an exclusion, and may be deterred from doing so if there was an additional fee.
Schools are, rightly, concerned about the impact of absence.
We see it in the term time holiday disputes in the media and the firm stance schools take - missing school, even one day, is bad for education.
Indeed, research says children who miss just seven days of school each year will have their prospects of gaining five good GCSEs cut noticeably.
It makes the fate of the 118 children waiting at home even more distressing - if one week is enough to significantly affect performance, what does one, two, six months do?
It is certainly a question which their parents and, in most cases, their teachers, must dwell on.
There must be few headteachers who take the decision to expel a pupil lightly.
But we are still in a position where dozens are thrust out of the education system each year and left with nowhere to go.
Their prospects, mental health and wellbeing are dwindling. Action must be taken.
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