Nine things we found out about Norfolk schools on Tuesday
- Credit: PA
Councillors on Norfolk County Council's children's services committee quizzed education chiefs on Tuesday about the high number of children being excluded from school and education standards.
Here are some of the things we found out:
1) Debate about school exclusions will not go away
As reported on Tuesday, around 100 youngsters in Norfolk are waiting to get a school place after being excluded. Some have been waiting for months, receiving no education apart from e-learning on a laptop. This is because so many pupils have been excluded that there is no room for them at the school they would normally go to - the Short Stay School for Norfolk (SSSfN).
Labour councillor Emma Corlett said it was 'outrageous' that so many children were waiting for a school place after being excluded. 'These young people are absolutely being failed,' she said.
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Norfolk County Council's assistant director for education, Chris Snudden, said more provision would be provided for SSSfN. The meeting heard one reason for the lack of places was children with complex needs were staying at the SSSfN longer rather than moving on. More school places for children with SEND and complex needs is also underway in Norfolk.
3) Money should follow
Conservative councillor Barry Stone said schools should deal with a difficult child themselves rather than excluding them and if they were excluded then the funding for that pupil should be taken from the school.
Ms Snudden said the system was not working effectively as it could be but as of last half term the number of excluded pupils was coming down.
As reported on Tuesday, the council is also considering a penalty charge on schools who exclude pupils.
4) No trends
Labour councillor Mike Sands asked if there were any trends in school exclusions, with more children with special educational needs expelled.
Ms Snudden said a year ago there were more SEND children being excluded but it was less the case now.
The meeting was told youngsters were often excluded for one off 'thoughtless' behaviour.
5) Academies are not excluding more pupils
Ms Sudden was also asked if academies, who are independent of council control, were excluding more pupils in a bid to get better exam results.
She said the council's data did not back up that theory, but there were 'hotspots' of exclusions in Norwich and Great Yarmouth at secondary schools generally.
6) Budget cuts debate
Ms Snudden was asked about tight school budgets which meant teaching assistants were being lost. 'It is a huge challenge for school leaders,' she said. But added: 'There is a lot of money still in school budgets.'
Councillor Stone said teachers needed to 'stop whinging' and do the job they were paid to do. Speaking about a lack of teaching assistants, he said it was 'no good blaming politicians and government'.
7) Good news on reading and writing
Councillors were given reams of data about school performance. It showed at Key Stage 2 (primary school), pupils were either close to or meeting the national average for reading and writing but were behind in maths.
8) Gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds getting worse
Worryingly for social equality, disadvantaged pupils appear to be performing worse, according to a progress measure and GCSE maths and English results.
The percentage of disadvantaged pupils getting grade C or above at GCSE in English or maths has slipped to 36pc, against 43pc nationally.
9) We know very little about government scheme to tackle social mobility
Norwich was named last year as one of six areas in the country to be part of a scheme called 'opportunity areas'.
The city will get £6m over three years to increase social mobility. Plans are yet to be developed, but councillors were told a board was now in place for the project.
•Read more from our Fighting for Their Futures campaign here