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Focus on high cost of exclusions

Primary children excluded from school lose three-quarters of a year's schooling on average, says a report published this week. Alternative home tuition commonly takes three months to arrange, with children receiving on average three hours teaching a week, compared with the standard 25-hour school week.

The research, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, shows that the costs to education, social services, the NHS and, sometimes, the police, of dealing with excluded primary pupils are substantially more than if the resources had been directed to maintaining and supporting that child in school. For one boy, excluded from school for less than a year, they amounted to more than Pounds 4,500, while the average cost of a primary school place in 1991-92 was Pounds 1,400.

Dr Carl Parsons, reader in education at Canterbury Christ Church College, the author of the report, said: "Exclusion is expensive. While schools may experience benefits when they no longer have to cope with a violent or otherwise disruptive child, the burden and costs faced, as a consequence, by other agencies are great.

"The end result of all this additional spending is, however, a worse educational service for the children concerned and adverse consequences that may persist into adult life".

The study is based on more than 80 in-depth interviews with parents and agencies concerned with 11 excluded children. The report argues that both families and schools need more support. The majority of excluded children come from families facing a range of problems.

The authors say schools should be given more resources to manage the behaviour of disruptive pupils, so they can stay in school.

In 1991-92 there were about 570 permanent exclusions from primary schools. The study suggests that numbers will continue to rise.

The report says schools tend to rely on disciplinary measures to cope with disruptive behaviour, rather than examining the individual problems of the children concerned and offering appropriate support. "Procedures for assessing children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties are slow and relatively ineffective."

Primary children showing disruptive and uncontrollable behaviour rarely get a statement of special educational need. "Their need is seen as behavioural, social or emotional, not educational."

The amount of time spent out of school by the children in the sample varied from 17 days to 360 days. Delay in providing tuition ranged from three weeks to 34 weeks. The average was 14 weeks.

The experience of excluded primary schoolchildren and their families, Social Policy Research findings No 63 is available free from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The Homestead, 40 Water End, York YO3 6LP.The full report is published by the Family Policy Studies Centre, 231 Baker Street, London NW1 6XE, price Pounds 9.50 + pp.

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