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The authority should be ashamed

Dave Edwards deputy head of Croxteth School, Seconded to work with excluded pupils.

When I got here there were 200 children who had been permanently excluded - no one knew the exact figure. It took me a while to find out even who they were and where they were.

I wanted to concentrate on those who were in key stage 3 - there were about 120 of them - because the older children were about to leave school anyway. We got that figure down to about 12 by the end of the summer term, 2000. The figures reflected the national trend, which was a ratio of three boys to one girl. Some had been out of school for a long time - years in some cases. To be honest, the authority should be ashamed of the situation that I found. It's certainly not something we should return to.

One of the major problems when youngsters like this go back to school is that it puts enormous pressure on schools. It's very hard for them to take troublesome youngsters when they are already having to deal with their own difficult pupils and the pressures from the education department and Ofsted, quite rightly, to improve standards.

I developed something called negotiated transfer. I went to schools with the understanding that it would be a suported transfer, that the LEA would help maintain and support children reintegrating.

The managed move, as it was called, included a system whereby the child was not initially accepted on to the school roll. Their attendance was recorded for health and safety purposes and to review their attendance but the child had to earn a full place in school.

The approach meant schools could open their doors to children they would not have been prepared to work with otherwise. And it gave children an opportunity they otherwise wouldn't have had.

It meant if things went wrong, the child wasn't excluded again. They didn't suffer the two permanent exclusion penalty of two strikes and you're out.

Crucially, it said to them: "If you don't change and don't do what you agreed to do at our initial interview, then you won't get a place in this school. If you want it you've got to earn it."

Most children who are out of school want to go back. Permanent exclusion is an extremely dangerous and life-damaging experience. No school that I know of wants to exclude a child permanently.

I said we reduced the figure to 12. They were the hard core who didn't want to go back to school. They lost, I'm afraid.

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