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Heads warn of risky journey to 'sin bin'

UNITS for disruptive primary pupils could prove unworkable because young children will be forced to travel to other schools.

Education Secretary David Blunkett announced last week that 60 primary learning support units would be set up as part of a plan to establish more than 1,000 by 2002.

The units will be for children at risk of exclusion and to allow unruly pupils time to "cool-off".

The primary units, which open in September, will be based in inner London, Manchester and Salford, Liverpool and Knowsley, Birmingham, Bradford and Leeds and Sheffield and Rotherham.

Because each unit will serve two or three primaries, children as young as five may face journeys to other schools.

Chris Davis, spokesman for the National Primary Heads Association, said while efforts to relieve pressure on teachers were welcome, the association had reservations about pupils travelling and being out of their own school environment.

"If children are being moved around during the school day it could prove exceedingly difficult. Schools can't afford to spare members of staff to take pupils off-site.

"There is also the question of whether eparating these children out from their classes and putting them all together is a good idea.

"There is the argument that it could create so called 'academies of crime', that being transported to these places could be a treat or represent a badge of honour for some pupils."

A Department for Education and Employment spokesman said schools that were near to each other would share a unit, based in existing rooms.

"It will not be a case of children travelling across the borough and we are talking about older children, probably nine to 11-year- olds."

In 199798, 13 per cent of the 12,700 permanently excluded pupils were at primary school. At least one permanent exclusion was reported in 6 per cent of all primaries.

Recent research by the charity Include found that more than half of excluded primary pupils were out of school for more than a term. While excluded, many received the bare minimum of 10 hours a week with their local authority pupil support services.

From 2002, all councils will have to provide a full-time education for pupils within 15 days of exclusion.

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