Dundee council bids to cut rate of pupil exclusions

2nd August 2013 at 01:00
Local authority will kick off new school year with support schemes to boost its track record

Dundee City Council excludes more students from its schools than any other local authority in Scotland - almost three times more children in a year than the Scottish average, according to the latest government figures.

But when schools return this month after the summer break, the city is intent on improving its track record. It plans to create specialist inclusion units in four schools to support students who have been excluded or who are at risk of exclusion.

The council has also created a new family development worker role designed to aid early intervention and prevent young people from reaching a stage where their behaviour is so disruptive that schools feel they need to exclude.

A total of 17 family development workers, costing the council pound;500,000 per year, start work this month supporting families, particularly those with children in the early years of their education.

They will help nurseries and primaries to cope with the "steady increase" in the number of children "with educational and social needs", says a council report, as well as supporting families hit by the UK government's welfare reforms.

Family development workers will run parenting programmes and support families with problems such as anger or social skills. They will also direct parents to other services that can help with issues such as debt or counselling needs.

The plans to establish "inclusion plus" units were first revealed in TESS earlier this year. But the scheme now has the go-ahead from councillors and will be rolled out in four schools this month - Baldragon Academy, Braeview Academy, Craigie High and St Paul's Academy.

Details of how each service will work are to be finalised at school level in the early months of the new school year, with projects up and running by October.

Each service will be run by a consortium of three organisations: Apex Scotland, a charity that aims to cut rates of offending; SkillForce, a charity that draws on the skills of ex-forces personnel to inspire young people to succeed; and Includem, a charity that specialises in building trusting relationships with troubled students, providing a 247 support service.

Apex will work across S1-S4 and will run two programmes, one for students who have been excluded as an alternative to sending them home, and another for students in danger of being excluded; SkillForce will work with students in S3 and S4 who are having difficulties but have yet to reach crisis point.

Includem will provide a service outside school hours for students and families who need it. This will include an emergency contact number that can be called at any time.

The three bodies hope to reach 800 students per year across the four schools, helping them to address the impact of their poor behaviour.

Apex Scotland already runs inclusion units at three Fife schools for the cost of a full-time teacher - about pound;35,000 a year. The scheme began in Dunfermline High in 2007, where exclusions halved in the first year, and spread to Lochgelly and Kirkland secondaries last year.

The Dundee scheme, being funded for the first two years by a trust, will cost about twice as much but will be a wrap-around service that aims to improve school and family life, said Alan Staff, chief executive of Apex Scotland.

emma.seith@tess.co.uk

Out in the cold

In 2010-11, Dundee City Council excluded 107 students per 1,000, while East Renfrewshire excluded just 7 per 1,000. After Dundee, the authority with the next highest exclusion rate is Aberdeen City, which excluded 62 students per 1,000; the Scottish average was 37 per 1,000.

Recent research carried out in Scotland showed that if a child was excluded by the age of 12, he or she was four times more likely to be in prison by the age of 22.

Photo credit: Alamy

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