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Setting the trend on exclusions

As one further education principal from south of the border is fond of saying, "it's easy to aim for the target and miss the point". The aphorism was certainly true for the increasingly untenable pressure on schools to cut exclusions by a third, although the Executive was always adamant that the figure was an English construct; Scotland simply had a general aim. But schools got the message - excluding too many pupils was politically frowned on.

Even the Scottish Tories, the most vocal critics of the policy next to headteachers, must feel in congratulatory mood this week as the Executive issued its official guidance to bury the target once and for all. As Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, has acknowledged, what should matter is the trend. There was always going to be a tension between the principle of inclusion, which met little opposition, and its application in practice.

And a policy on inclusion that threatened to derail cherished efforts to raise standards and improve conditions in the classroom was unsustainable.

So what now? Just as there was little disagreement over the principle of inclusion, so there will be few arguing against ensuring that even excluded youngsters are not denied an education. But, as the primary heads' and Edinburgh conferences heard last week (pages four and six), schools still have to be convinced that the support they need from outside is going to be forthcoming.

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