Exclusion data is tip of an iceberg;Letter

2nd July 1999 at 01:00
The cautious optimism underpinning your leader "Glimmer of hope" (TES, June 18) does not reflect the real experiences of children and young people at the margins of our education service.

While I welcome any significant reduction in permanent exclusions nationally, as with any data collection exercise the questions being asked influence the results.

My experience within the education service leads me to ask whether the reported 3 per cent reduction in permanent exclusions simply masks either data on exclusions which is not collected or the adoption of some 'invisible' strategies fuelled by the triple pressures of competition, "naming and shaming" and adversarial inspections:

* the data does not make transparent the numbers of young people additional to the year's total, who were permanently excluded in previous years and who remain unplaced or not accessing educational opportunities;

* no coherent or reliable national data currently exists about whether the reduction in permanent exclusion is mirrored by increases in the frequency of duration of fixed term exclusions, * data is unavailable, and perhaps unobtainable nationally, about the number of young people who become subject to an range of strategies which might be most kindly described as "unofficial" exclusion: removal of persistent truants' names from the admissions register of their school;

* pupils being sent home to "cool off for a few days" by middle managers in schools - and the young person quickly being forgotten among competing pressures and priorities within the school;

* parents being encouraged to seek either a transfer of school for their child, or being coerced into educating their child at home - on an understanding that if they do not, their child will be permanently excluded;

* those children who are perceived as unlikely to make a positive impact on a school's performance being refused places at the school - even where spaces exist in the child's year group.

On the basis of extensive anecdotal information about such alternative strategies, I would suggest that the reported data on permanent exclusion actually represents the tip of a far larger iceberg. While practice remains fixated on the quantitative measurement of how children affect the image of the school, those children whose behaviour is perceived as being likely to have a negative impact will continue to be "consigned to society's scrapheap". This will happen either legally through permanent exclusion, or unethically and illegally - but unchallenged by Government - through one or more of the strategies described above.

David Hoyle

Lower Hay Green

Waters Road, Marsden


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