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Early action halves primary problem

A rise in the number of children permanently excluded from primary schools in Bristol, which reflected a national trend, seems to have been reversed by a campaign of pre-emptive action.

Bristol City Council set up a scheme at the end of 1995 after getting a government grant to deal with behavioural problems.

The number of permanent exclusions in the city has fallen from 41 in 1994-5 to only 23 in 1996-7. According to the Children's Society, exclusions from primary schools nationally rose by 30 per cent last year.

Jean Gross, Bristol's principal educational psychologist, said that headteachers used to call in the local authority and social services after a series of incidents involving children with behavioural problems. Now they are trying to deal with such children at a much earlier stage.

The Pounds 67,000 Government grant and further contributions from the council are paying for a team of support teachers to deal with behavioural problems in primary schools.

The teachers can offer extra attention and take children out of a class if they start to cause problems. Other measures include setting up lunch-time clubs to offer structured activities for pupils who might be disruptive.

Children who are causing problems in a school are referred to a team of support teachers, social workers and educational psychologists. The interdisciplinary approach aims to look at all the factors that could affect a child and work out a co-ordinated response.

Mrs Gross said: "We have targeted emotional and behavioural difficulties and we think the scheme has been successful."

The team's funding is due to run out in 1999 and the council will then have to decide whether it can afford to continue.

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