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Insulted by report on excluded pupils

IN the article on an Audit Commission report you quote figures showing that only 9 per cent of excluded children attended alternative education for more than 20 hours a week in 199900 (TES, January 19).

Just over 5 per cent attended between 10 and 20 hours and the rest - 67 per cent - received less than 10. The report says figures were not supplied or were dubious in nearly a third of councils.

The commission's verdict is very different from the National Foundation for Educational Research report Working out well: effective provision for excluded pupils, published last year.

The foundation received information from 67 education authorities and visited 30. It carried out seven case studies. Interviews were undertaken to collect the opinions and experiences of excluded pupils, parents, teachers, education professionals and representatives from other agencies. Overall, the findings are encouraging and reflct the considerable efforts being made to tackle the serious consequences of vulnerable young people falling out of the school system.

Why does the commission report such an unsatisfactory record? It infers local authorities should provide more than 25 hours of alternative education. Why, when the guidance states the hours per week should be "in the range of 21-25"?

The performance indicator totally disregards parental choice. Some parents make their own arrangements, others delay acceptance of alternative provision for considerable lengths of time while they exhaust appeals or otherwise explore their own options.

If the Audit Commission tried to come up with a performance measure to insult and misrepresent the Department for Educa-tion and Employment, authorities and hundreds of professionals it could not have done a better job.

Oliver Flavin

72 Oakley Road

Islington, London N1

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