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Schools pilot picking up tab for expelled pupils

Radical changes to the exclusion system which will leave schools responsible for the pupils they expel are to be trialled next term.

Heads taking part in the pilot will have to find, and pay for, alternative places for pupils who they permanently exclude, either in other schools or in pupil referral units (PRUs).

And the child's subsequent exam results will count towards their former school's performance league table.

Around 12 local authorities are taking part in the pilot, and a further eight are deciding whether to join the three-year trial.

Critics of the reforms say they would make it very difficult for schools to sever their links with the worst-behaved children. They have also said that the extra costs in paying for a PRU place or alternative provision could lead to heads having to cut staff in their own schools.

But the Department for Education says the changes will stop "abuse" of permanent exclusions and create a strong incentive for schools to avoid exclusion. Schools involved in the trial will be given control of their local authority alternative provision budget.

Malcolm Trobe, policy director at the Association of School and College Leaders, said the pilot could lead to conflict between local authorities, who would like to relinquish responsibility, and heads, who do not want to take it on.

"The school might have a particularly difficult year group from September, and this means getting involved in the pilot is a big financial risk for them. It could destabilise the school's budget."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said he was "sceptical" about the pilots.

"You can't hold schools accountable unless you have a good structure of alternative provision. That is not something you can set up just for a pilot, so I fear this exercise will be unrealistic," he said.

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