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Support staff 'slash exclusions';Briefing

PUPIL exclusions could be sharply reduced in number if more home-school support workers were employed, a new Home Office study suggests.

University of York researchers say a two-year pilot scheme in seven Yorkshire schools has led to a large drop in the number of permanent and fixed-term exclusions. Truancy has also been reduced.

The support staff - all trained social workers - were placed in the North Yorkshire and City of York schools by the Home Office programme development unit. Each of the five workers was given a caseload of 10 to 14 pupils, many of whom had behavioural problems.

Three-quarters of the pupils had been disruptive in class, three-fifths had truanted or had attendance problems, and just over half had offended. About a tenth were known to be involved in illegal drug use and a similar proportion had suffered physical or sexual abuse.

The support workers befriended the pupils, taught them about anger management and tried to improve their self-esteem and relationships with other pupils. They also advised them on personal, social and health problems, and helped to arrange out-of-school leisure activities.

By the end of the scheme's second year they had helped 157 pupils - about half of whom were in Years 9 and 10. A large number of children who were not on their books had also been helped.

"All the support workers seek to raise staff awareness of the very difficult and upsetting home circumstances which contribute to the behaviour of the children," say researchers Graham Vulliamy and Rosemary Webb. "This helps develop a school ethos which is more tolerant and supportive of such pupils. Our evaluation has revealed that in four of the five schools so far examined the involvement of the support worker is seen as greatly reducing the number of exclusions, particularly fixed-term ones."

Vulliamy and Webb say that the Yorkshire teachers acknowledged the support workers' ability to build good relationships with difficult pupils. They were also grateful to have some pressure taken off them.

Senior managers were also appreciative. "The amount of time saved for senior management staff by the support work was very evident in the second year of the project," the researchers report.

"As senior managers are paid about twice as much as a support worker, this suggests that the employment of the latter is likely to constitute a more cost-effective use of staffing."

Parents approved of the support workers too. "They feel that both they and their children benefit considerably from the support workers' willingness to listen and provide practical help," the researchers say.

"Meeting need and challenging crime in partnership with schools," by Graham Vulliamy and Rosemary Webb. Information and Publications Group, Room 201, Home Office, 50 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AT. Telephone 0171-273 2084

Government legislation allows two types of exclusion: permanent and temporary.

Temporary exclusion: Otherwise known as "suspension" or fixed-term exclusion. Pupils can be excluded for a maximum of 45 days in any one school year. The great majority of exclusions are temporary but no statistics are yet available (data collection only began in 1998-99). The 1993 Act stopped the indefinite exclusion of children.

Permanent exclusion: When a student is barred from a school and taken off its roll. The local education authority for the area where the child lives must provide alternative full-time education.

Only a headteacher has the power to exclude.

In 1996-97, 0.04 per cent of primary pupils were permanently excluded, 0.34 per cent of secondary pupils and 0.54 per cent of special school pupils.

Since 1991 the number of permanent exclusions has increased by more than 400 per cent.

Information taken from "Not fitting in: exclusions from school, a local study", by Robert Berkeley, Department of Educational Studies, University of Oxford, e-mail robert.berkeley@some.ox.ac.uk THE LAW ON EXCLUSIONS Government legislation allows two types of exclusion: permanent and temporary.

Temporary exclusion: Otherwise known as "suspension" or fixed-term exclusion. Pupils can be excluded for a maximum of 45 days in any one school year. The great majority of exclusions are temporary but no statistics are yet available (data collection only began in 1998-99). The 1993 Act stopped the indefinite exclusion of children.

Permanent exclusion: When a student is barred from a school and taken off its roll. The local education authority for the area where the child lives must provide alternative full-time education.

Only a headteacher has the power to exclude.

In 1996-97, 0.04 per cent of primary pupils were permanently excluded, 0.34 per cent of secondary pupils and 0.54 per cent of special school pupils.

Since 1991 the number of permanent exclusions has increased by more than 400 per cent.

Information taken from "Not fitting in: exclusions from school, a local study", by Robert Berkeley, Department of Educational Studies, University of Oxford, e-mail robert.berkeley@some.ox.ac.uk

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