Ministers' boasts on fall in exclusions is challenged

25th September 2009 at 01:00
Thousands of unofficial 'managed moves' between schools go unrecorded, expert claims

As many as 7,000 disruptive children are shifted to other schools each year rather than being permanently excluded - making Government boasts about a reduction in expulsions inaccurate, a high-profile local authority adviser has found.

This figure for the annual total number of "managed moves", and the unofficial nature of the policy - which depends on the goodwill of heads and is not recorded - could cause problems, according to delegates at a forthcoming conference.

One third of all schools now pass problem pupils over to neighbouring secondaries or primaries, estimates Adam Abdelnoor, who runs a charity promoting inclusion and a school for excluded children, as well as working with councils.

There were 8,130 permanent exclusions in the 200708 academic year, equivalent to 11 pupils in every 10,000 and a decrease of 6.4 per cent on the previous year.

Mr Abdelnoor believes that in the current economic climate headteachers must cut down on exclusions, which are much more expensive than keeping children in school and have long-term effects on society.

The campaigner will also tell those at the Strategic Alternatives to Exclusion conference that schools should be effectively fined if they expel students. He believes the attitude of some headteachers keen to get rid of troublemakers uses up expensive, scarce resources and causes problems for those schools less keen to exclude.

Instead, he thinks, schools should be given the money local authorities spend on tackling bad behaviour and then be forced to pay it back if they expel. Mr Abdelnoor claims the cost of pupil referral units averages #163;3m for every 12 secondaries, or #163;250,000 per school.

"Schools need to start thinking about the cost of their actions," he said. "In one local authority all the pupil referral places were taken up by one school.

"Heads have to stop passing the buck. Pupil referral units are an economically unsustainable model but because schools have no part in them they are not forced to think about resources."

Local authorities can have zero exclusions if they create a community of schools and other agencies who can work together to make sure every child has a place in education, Mr Abdelnoor believes.

He said that managed moves should play a part in this. However, they must be made official so parents and the child are always kept involved. Exclusion panels should be given more powers so they can make decisions about clusters of schools.

Despite their growing popularity, Department for Children, Schools and Families' officials haven't commissioned any research into their long-term effects and there are no plans to collect official figures on the numbers, or evaluate the success of the policy.

"I can't understand why the DCSF doesn't want to join up the dots, surely this would enable it to improve the quality of managed moves but instead it is turning a blind eye," Mr Abdelnoor said.

The conference will take place in London on November 12.

WHAT HEADS SAY

Quotes from Adam Abdelnoor's survey

- I don't think they are an honest approach. Schools use them to avoid pressure, financial or through the appeal procedure.

- There needs to be "equivalence" in the swap. This is rarely the case.

- Very often we find that the previous school has not followed all the avenues available prior to transfer.

- The level of support required for managed move students tends to be very high. This is met in the main by the school who agrees to allow the student to join.

- Pupils need to see the value to them of such change. Unless this is so, the chances of a stable outcome are remote.

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