Surge in exclusions from Norfolk schools

Children were banned from the classrooms at Norfolk's schools almost 4,800 times last year, according to new figures which show a surge in exclusions.

Statistics, published by the Department for Education, reveal how exclusions for unruly behaviour increased by more than 300 in the past year.

And they showed particularly striking increases in exclusions after children attacked or abused teachers, or hit fellow pupils.

Across the county's primary, secondary and special schools, pupils were permanently excluded 100 times, with 4,670 suspensions for a fixed period.

In total, there were 340 more exclusions in 2009/10 compared to the previous year, when there were 4,430.

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The number one reason for exclusion was verbal abuse against staff, which went up from 1,009 in 2008/9 to 1,242 in 2009/10 - an increase of more than 230.

Exclusions for attacks on fellow pupils and staff also increased. There were 920 exclusions for assaults on pupils, compared to 860 the previous year and 185 exclusions for attacks on staff compared with 137 in 2008/9.

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The previous year, persistent disruptive behaviour was the most common reason for exclusion. Exclusions for that went up slightly, from 1,040 to 1,068.

There were also increases in exclusions for bullying (up from 39 to 57) and for racist abuse (up from 38 to 63).

But there was a fall in exclusions related to drugs and alcohol (down from 94 to 78) and for theft (down from 109 to 66).

In Norfolk's primary schools there were 535 fixed term exclusions, up from 405 in 2008/9, while secondary school suspensions went up from 3,805 to 4,108.

Of the fixed term exclusions, 2,490 pupils were repeat offenders and, on average, pupils in Norfolk missed just over five days of education.

Colin Collis, county secretary for teaching union the NASUWT, said the statistics showed the challenges teachers face on a daily basis.

He said: 'I'm not surprised by the increase in exclusions because our members have found the attitude of pupils, in terms of a lack of respect, has got worse, especially in the secondary schools, and that has made their job more challenging.

'In many schools, there are good lessons, with good pupils and good learning going on and there is certainly not anarchy in the classrooms.

'But there is increasingly challenging behaviour. There is more constant chattering, pupils not coming to school ready or prepared to learn and more abuse.'

Chris Snudden, manager of educational standards at Norfolk County Council, said; 'Physical or verbal assaults are completely unacceptable and it is absolutely right that our schools are getting tougher on this behaviour and excluding children where this is appropriate.'

She said schools used a range of strategies for managing behaviour, which can include removing children from their lessons in school, fixed periods of exclusion and, in the most serious of cases. permanent exclusion.

She said: 'We work with teachers to support behaviour strategies and children's social and emotional development so that they can understand the impact of their behaviour, why they are behaving in a certain way and how to manage this.

'We are also looking at how we can further develop the use of restorative justice in schools to support students' behaviour and help reduce levels of exclusion.'

But, while exclusions increased in Norfolk, there were dramatic drops in neighbouring counties. In Suffolk there were 740 fewer exclusions - falling from 5,570 to 4,830, while Cambridgeshire saw a drop of more than 500 - down from 3,080 to 2,530.

In Suffolk, the council increasingly challenges schools to ensure they have looked at alternatives to exclusion.

Graham Newman, portfolio holder for children and young people at Suffolk County Council, said: 'There is a particular focus on reducing and maintaining low levels of permanent exclusion because of the significant detrimental effect that permanent exclusion can have on children's life chances.'

Nationally, almost 900 children were suspended every school day for attacking or verbally abusing their teachers and classmates, with the rate dropping to 13 pupils every day for permanent exclusions.

The total number of suspensions in England was 331,380 and boys were around four times more likely to be expelled than girls, with boys accounting for 78pc of all permanent exclusions. The suspension rate was also almost three times higher for boys than for girls.

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