Exclusion rise linked to paperwork

7th November 1997 at 00:00
Educational psychologists urge ministers to cut the burden of bureaucracy, reports Nicolas Barnard

Educational psychologists are telling the Government: cut our bureaucracy and we'll help you cut exclusions.

Their service is central to the behaviour support plans ministers see as the key to reducing the record number of children excluded from school. Official figures show a 13 per cent jump last year to 12,500 pupils.

Local education authorities have been told to produce support plans - and targets for reducing exclusions - by April next year.

Guidance issued by the Department for Education and Employment last week said that the plans should detail the support schools will be offered in managing behaviour, as well as what each LEA will do for excluded pupils.

Members of the Association of Educational Psychologists complain that they have been frustrated in recent years by growing paperwork caused by a rising number of pupils receiving statements of special needs.

Each child must be assessed by an educational psychologist, and the association argues it leaves members little time for what should be their core work - helping schools devise preventive strategies for managing behaviour.

But the Government's Green Paper on special needs, published last month, proposes streamlining the statementing process and cutting the statements issued. Psychologists believe that dovetails with the Government's aims for exclusions.

AEP general secretary Brian Harrison-Jennings said: "Early intervention of a preventive nature, working in the classroom with teachers, in collaborative teams - those three things will be first class for us, for children and for schools.

"Reducing the amount of bureaucracy in the statementing process will free time. The trick then for local authorities and educational psychologists will be to ensure that time is not frittered away and is directed into those activities."

But LEAs are less convinced that Labour's policies will solve the problem.

David Whitbread, head of education at the Local Government Association, said league tables continued to give schools a "perverse incentive" to exclude, while parents exercising choice made sink schools inevitable.

Ministers say the numbers of exclusions are too high and that some schools are too ready to get rid of difficult children. The growth of permanent exclusions in primary schools and among black children are particular concerns.

Last week's figures, for 199596, showed an 18 per cent rise in primary schools to 1,400 pupils - 13 per cent of total exclusions. Seven per cent of primaries reported expelling at least one child. One three-year-old was excluded.

Black children again made up a disproportionate number of those expelled. The percentage of all black children expelled is 0.66, more than three times the percentage of white children (0.18), and six times that of pupils from the Indian subcontinent (0.11). Boys accounted for 83 per cent of all exclusions.

Special schools accounted for 4 per cent of exclusions, unchanged from the year before. The remaining 83 per cent of excluded pupils were from mainstream secondaries. Children aged 13 and above accounted for two-thirds of all exclusions.

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