The number of permanent exclusions in Redcar and Cleveland, in the North-East of England, rose from seven in 2015-16 to 22 in 2016-17 – an increase of 214 per cent. This is the second-highest increase in the country, behind Slough.
Simon Kennedy, North-East regional organiser for the NASUWT teaching union, attributes this partly to new academies – belonging to the Outwood Grange chain – in the area.
“This particular chain of academies tend to have a spike in exclusions in the first months, while the children learn to understand what the rules are,” he says.
“But we’re also seeing a rise in bad behaviour, hence there are more exclusions – more difficulties with the parents of children, as well. A school might think, if I’ve got a difficult problem, I can get rid of it by permanently excluding a child. Obviously, that passes the challenge on to another school.”
Outwood Grange Academy Trust runs one academy in Redcar and Cleveland, and supported another last year, prior to taking it over formally on 1 October this year.
These two schools had one permanent exclusion between them in 2015-16, and nine in 2016-17. The nine pupils were excluded for a number of serious assaults, including one in which a pupil set fire to someone’s hair, according to the trust.
A spokesperson for Outwood Grange says that it sponsors schools after they have been placed in special measures. “In our experience, these schools also have ineffective behaviour-management systems and policies resulting in a climate of chaos,” she says.
“On the introduction of new systems, some students take longer to manage the change in expectations, drawing a line where none has existed before. But over time, and as students move through the academy, the practice becomes the norm and exclusions fall.”
Sue Jeffrey, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, says: “We are always disappointed when a young person is excluded. Until two years ago, our schools, working in close partnership with each other and the local authority, achieved a zero permanent exclusion rate, and that had been the case for several years.
“The borough’s 10 schools and academies have a strong partnership with each other and the local authority, and we will continue to work together to try to avoid excluding any young person from school.”