The comprehensive where I am a governor is well run, and though it doesn't get high-fliers it would, if left to itself, have few problems. We are proud of the way we encourage and stimulate deprived children, and any behaviour problems would be dealt with sensibly if we did not have to take so many children excluded from more favoured schools. We serve a run-down estate. The population is declining as original families grow beyond child-bearing age, so numbers tend to decline naturally. It is not an easy school to manage, with so many problems, but we have a wonderful head and staff who provide a stable environment and the highest standards. All the other schools in the LEA are far more ready to exclude difficult pupils to maintain their reputations, and being in more prosperous areas are all full. We get the casualties of the system, often with very severe behaviour problems. I don't think any other local schools get even a few of the permanently excluded pupils and it does not seem fair that they all come to us. Can anything be done to spread the load? Some of the students sent to us do very well, but it is such hard work for the staff.
I sympathise very much. Schools which have space are in the nature of things vulnerable, and you are also affected by the fact that if a child has only been permanently excluded once, parental choice still operates, so even if there were other schools with space, that wouldn't protect you from students whose parents chose you. On second and subsequent exclusions the students have to go where directed, but if yours is the only school able to take them that doesn't help very much. The only helpful thing is that in second or subsequent exclusions there is provision for the receiving school to appeal if it has more than its share of excluded students and is in, or just emerging from, special measures, has had a severe letter following inspection, or very poor GCSE results.
Your loyalty to your area and your school is impressive and you should take comfort from the fact that your school provides such a supportive atmosphere for students who might otherwise not have had a second chance.
This at least is a valuable rescue operation which should make you very proud. The same students moving to another school "obsessed with status" might end up being excluded several times.
Send questions for Joan Sallis to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 3202, or see www.tes.co.ukgovernorsask_the_expert where answers will appear