Starting afresh gives boost to pupils at risk of exclusion

2nd June 2006 at 01:00
Giving pupils who are at risk of permanent exclusion the chance of a fresh start at a new school can revive their interest in education, according to research.

Moving school can boost their self-esteem, allow them to escape bad reputations and build better relationships with their teachers and their peers while avoiding the stigma of exclusion, it said.

The research examined the Coalfields Alternatives to Exclusion (Cate) strategy, a scheme run by seven secondary schools in Nottinghamshire.

Disaffected pupils are offered the chance to move to another school involved in the scheme, rather than face permanent exclusion. They are also given a range of in and out-of-school support programmes.

Pat Thomson, of Nottingham university, who led the research, said: "The good thing about Cate is that the schools are saying they're going to take a collective responsibility for the children in their area.

"For a significant number of pupils, just getting a fresh start is enough.

They get away from the mates that they got in trouble with, and their old reputation, and become a new person."

Researchers interviewed 14 pupils from Years 7 to 11. Many of the teenagers had a history of behavioural problems.

Most pupils welcomed the initiative. One pupil said transferring to a new school gave him a clean slate. "I had a bad reputation for fighting," he said. "I'm glad to be away from that."

The research criticised the policy of exclusion. "It seems likely that for some pupils, fixed-term exclusion, as a behaviour management strategy, serves only to increase the likelihood that they will experience subsequent fixed-term or permanent exclusions and feel further alienated from their schools," it said.

But the study emphasised the importance of a quick transition. One pupil had to wait five months for a place at a new school.

Exclusion rates have increased steadily since the 1990s. Boys from poorer backgrounds, Afro-Caribbean boys, children with special needs, Traveller children and pupils in care are all likely to be affected disproportionately.

"Does every child know they matter? Pupils' views of one alternative to exclusion" is published in the June edition of the International Journal for Pastoral Care and Personal-Social Education

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