Excluded from the big picture

3rd February 2006 at 00:00
eally, it's a shocking indictment. The number of youngsters permanently excluded from school has "soared" by almost 100, and they are accounted for by 10 out of the 32 education authorities. The total number of individual pupils excluded, temporarily and permanently, represents3 per cent of the school population.

It would be tempting fate to ask "crisis, what crisis?", bearing in mind how the phrase returned to haunt the former Prime Minister Lord Callaghan.

Nonetheless, while accepting that there are concentrated pockets of troubling and troubled pupils in schools, these figures do not conjure up a picture of Baghdad or Bedlam. It does no service to schools to suggest otherwise, whether the claims come from the media or the unions. What is much more relevant is how reliable the figures are: can we really believe that Dundee or Fife or South Lanarkshire permanently excluded no one? Another key question is who the excluded are and what happens to them, particularly germane in view of the relatively high number of cases in which pupils had no education provision made for them while they were excluded. We thought the ministerial mantra was "excluded from school but not from education".

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