Failing academy may resort to expulsions

22nd January 2010 at 00:00
Permanent exclusions form part of recovery plan's new behaviour code

The country's biggest sponsor of academies is preparing to begin excluding pupils permanently as part of its plan to improve standards at a failing school.

United Learning Trust (ULT) has laid out its plans for a radical transformation of standards at Sheffield Park Academy, one of only two academies currently in special measures.

The Christian charity, which runs 17 academies, has paved the way for permanent exclusions in the short term as it attempts to impose a new behaviour code at the school.

It has also warned that it is considering issuing fixed-notice penalties to parents whose children persistently miss school in a bid to turn around its absentee figures.

The measures are included in an action plan that ULT had to submit last week to Schools Secretary Ed Balls.

Sheffield Park was put in special measures in September last year. A monitoring visit from Ofsted in December found that the progress being made was "inadequate".

The persistent problems at the school, which became an academy in September 2006 (see box), were described by Mr Balls as "unacceptable".

In light of the difficulties, ULT pulled out of two further planned academies in Oxford and Northampton to focus on improving standards in its existing schools.

Its flagship school, Manchester Academy, has been praised by Ofsted as "outstanding", but another ULT academy, Sheffield Springs, has been described as "inadequate" by inspectors and has been issued with a "notice to improve".

The Sheffield Park action plan says that all teachers will have their lessons observed in a bid to improve standards.

There will also be an overhaul of the senior leadership team, with extra support brought in.

Academies in general have come under fire for excluding more pupils than other schools. But ULT said the measure may be necessary to establish better behaviour.

"The impact of setting a new behaviour system and the better deployment of support staff will reduce behaviour incidents and impact on fixed-term exclusions," the action plan states.

"However, the greater clarity in establishing accepted standards of behaviour and the consequences thereof may result in a short-term increase in permanent exclusions. We aim to keep these to a minimum."

ULT said it had not permanently excluded any pupils from Sheffield Park since it opened. The number of days lost to temporary exclusions fell from 1,140 in 200607 to 92 in 200809.

John Bangs, head of education at the NUT, said: "Schools should have the freedom to ensure good behaviour however they see fit within their legal requirements.

"What is wrong is that other schools get criticised for increasing their exclusions while academies are encouraged to do it: it's totally inequitable."

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "We want to see rapid progress at Sheffield Park and the ultimate test of the action plan's impact will be judged by Ofsted."

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