There are two main types of fixed-period exclusion: those relating to a single incident and others where poor behaviour has grown over a period. The latter type is probably the most common.
"Persistent disruptive behaviour" accounts for 23 per cent of all fixed-period exclusions - the same percentage as the other significant category, "verbal abusethreatening behaviour" against an adult. It is a matter for conjecture whether the latter is the result of one-off incidents or are a case of the straw that broke the camel's back.
Single-incident exclusions usually include assaults, mostly against pupils, damage, theft and alcohol or drug-related incidents. Together these account for around a third of incidents if threatening and abusive behaviour is excluded, or more than half if that category is added into the total. Some threatening and abusive behaviour is most likely to be related to a single incident, but much may be perpetrated by pupils with a history of anti-social behaviour.
Interestingly, bullying and racial abuse account for negligible percentages of fixed-period exclusions, at 1 per cent each. Either concern about behaviour of this type is misplaced or schools are doing a disservice by categorising these incidents as something else.
Most fixed-period exclusions were handed out to secondary pupils: 308,000 out of the total of more than 363,000, with only 40,000 going to primary pupils.
A growing lobby wants to see the age of criminal responsibility raised from its present level of 10 years, and in that case it is arguable that exclusions should not be seen as a sentence at all, but either a cooling-off period or a time for reflection. Even so, nearly 15,000 pupils under the age of 10 received at least one fixed-period exclusion during 200809. It may be too late for schools to change the behaviour habits of the 10 per cent of 14-year-old boys who received such an exclusion, but for younger pupils time is surely still on the side of the school.
John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education
Fixed-period exclusions in maintained secondaries by reason for sanction (%)*
* In this table total does not equal 100 due to rounding
Source: Department for Education
Verbal abusethreatening behaviour against an adult - 23Verbal abusethreatening behaviour against a pupil - 4
Drugalcohol related - 3
Physical assault against a pupil - 18
Persistent disruptive behaviour - 23
Other - 28.