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Commission's out-of-date data

YOUR coverage of the Audit Commission report fails to mention that the figures relate to March 2000. Most education authorities have since moved much further towards the target of full-time education for excluded pupils by September 2002 because of extra resources.

The guidance on the full timetable was only issued in July 1999, and given that up until 1997 excluded pupils typically received only two to three hours' education, it is not surprising that the figures indicated that some authorities still had a way to go.

Your leading article is right, prevention is better than cure. In 200102, pound;174 million will be available to tackle truancy and exclusion, 10 times the level in 199697. By 2002 there will be 1,000 learning support units on school sites. These enable disruptive pupils to be removed from classrooms for short periods and have proved effective in offering alternatives to exclusions which re down from 12,700 to 10,400.

Nationally, authorities' planned spending on off-site pupil-referral units has increased by 13 per cent this year compared to last; the number of pupil places at such units is up by 1,000 since 1997; and the number of teachers up by 250. Authorities are offering more education to excluded pupils this year than last and all have submitted plans to move to the full timetable from September 2002.

But it is not enough to simply provide education, it must also be of high quality. Authorities are working with the voluntary sector, FE colleges and businesses to ensure that excluded pupils receive tailor-made provision which meets their needs.

We will continue to work with education authorities to ensure that all pupils, particularly the most vulnerable, receive the education to which they are entitled.

Jacqui Smith

Under-Secretary of State


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