Heads want expulsion decision to be final

Despite stricter guidance on exclusions, appeal panels can still undermine us, say school leaders. Biddy Passmore reports

HEADs have demanded that ministers go further to help them stem the rising tide of pupil misconduct.

Although guidance on exclusions has been revised, it will still allow untrained appeal panels to "second-guess" headteachers and let violent and disruptive pupils back into the classroom, says the National Association of Head Teachers.

The guidance says pupils should be expelled for drug dealing (see story, above) but David Hart, the association's general secretary, said many heads felt that the use of drugs on school premises should sometimes trigger expulsion.

His comments came as permanent exclusions rose for the first time since 1997 and a girl of 11 accused of punching a teacher in the face was expelled from her Newcastle primary.

The parents of Jade Blackburn, who admits striking deputy head Clare Marriott when she intervened in a playground dispute at Wharrier Street primary, plan to appeal against the exclusion. They say the blow was accidental.

Thirteen more pupils were expelled for three days this week for refusing to obey teachers, for fighting and for walking out of class.

Meanwhile, a dossier of 71 cases involving violent and disruptive pupils over the past 18 months was released this week by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. It shows exclusions of violent pupils are often overturned by appeal panels. In one case, a panel reinstated two pupils who had been excluded after they led a 10-boy attack on a pupil who suffered severe injuries needing hospital treatment.

The latest official figures released yesterday show a rise from 8,300 permanent exclusions in 2000 to 9,200 in 2001. Primary exclusions are up by nearly 20 per cent.

The increase had been expected after ministers said they were not setting fresh targets to cut exclusions. Local authorities had met a target to reduce permanent exclusions by a third two years early - but heads complained it was at the price of unmanageable schools.

Draft guidance on exclusions, issued for consultation in January, says that pupils should be expelled after a single episode of serious violence or threats of it, supplying an illegal drug or carrying an offensive weapon. In these cases, appeal panels would not be expected to reinstate them.

A MORI poll for the Youth Justice Board this week revealed that nearly two-thirds of pupils excluded from school had committed a crime in the past year (compared with a quarter of those in school) - and two-thirds had also been victims of crime.

The most common offence among excluded pupils was handling stolen goods.

Vulnerable pupils at risk, 30 www.youth-justice-board.gov.ukpolicyreference.html

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