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Discipline problem growing

Fewer children are being expelled from Welsh schools, but the number of temporary exclusions is up 12 per cent, according to government statistics published this week.

In 2003-4, there were 420 permanent exclusions, down 19 on the previous year. Fixed-term exclusions rose to more than 16,500, compared to 12,700 two years previously.

Teacher unions meeting over Easter are expected to raise pupil behaviour as a continuing concern (see page 4). But the proportion of pupils excluded for assault and violence towards staff or classmates is unchanged at around 26 per cent. Fixed-term exclusions for defying the rules are up 2 percentage points to around a fifth, but are down for verbal abuse and threatening or dangerous behaviour.

Permanent exclusions are highest in rural Gwynedd (3.7 per 1,000 pupils), although Swansea, Newport and Cardiff together account for more than a third of the 12,138 fixed-term exclusions of five days or less. Wrexham schools have the highest rates for temporary exclusions (125 per 1,000 pupils lasting five days or less) yet permanent expulsions are below the Welsh average of 1.6.

Geraint Davies, secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers Cymru, said: "Discipline in schools in Wales is not improving and the increase in temporary exclusions suggests it's getting worse. In the past, behaviour problems were associated with towns and cities. Now rural areas have the same problems. Unacceptable behaviour has spread like wildfire."

Nearly two-fifths of expulsions and a third of fixed-term exclusions involved children with special needs. Most exclusions involve boys and the worst-affected age group is 14 to 15 years.

More than a third of excluded pupils were given home tuition, while nearly a fifth transferred to another school. Nearly one in 10 received no alternative education.

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