Get-tough policy appears to pay off as suspensions tumble. Michael Shaw reports
The first stage of a pound;470 million national crackdown on bad behaviour in schools appears to have resulted in a dramatic fall in suspensions.
Initial figures from 78 secondaries taking part in the Behaviour Improvement Programme show a drop in the number of pupils who received fixed-term exclusions from 3,193 last autumn to 1,822 in the summer term.
The pilot schools were among 708 which have received extra funding and support, including on-site police officers and advice from teams of behaviour experts.
The scheme's apparent success will come as a relief to the Department for Education and Skills. It is at the centre of a three-year drive by the Government to improve behaviour in schools and accounts for pound;342m of the campaign's total pound;470m price-tag.
Professor Carl Parsons, of Canterbury Christ Church College, Kent, said the reduction in suspensions demonstrated that the extra funding was already making some significant impact.
He said. "Some schools are getting about pound;100,000 extra a year just to tackle behaviour problems, so you find headteachers who say they don't need fixed-term exclusions at all."
The initiative was launched last year in the 34 authorities with the worst levels of crime and truancy and was extended to a further 27 this month.
Although suspensions have fallen, the effect of the scheme on expulsions is not yet clear.
The DfES says that participating secondary schools seem on target to cut their fixed-term exclusions by a third.
But Sue Hallam of London's Institute of Education, who is evaluating the scheme, said early data suggested that expulsions remained static.
The Government hopes the project's impact will stretch beyond the 61 councils directly involved and will influence behaviour strategies in other schools.
Sue Hallam said: "National data on fixed term exclusions has never been collected before so we cannot compare this drop with other years.
"It may be that the number usually changes between terms, perhaps because Year 11 are on study leave, but even that does not account for such a significant drop. We have been cautious in interpreting these statistics but they are still very promising."