Suffolk Labour group angry at primary school exclusions across county
- Credit: Archant
Suffolk primary schools have excluded a higher proportion of pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) or receiving Free School Meals (FSM) than anywhere else in the country, according to new figures from the county's Labour group.
The fixed-term exclusion rate for primary pupils with SEN in Suffolk was 28.3 per cent in 2016/17. Among the 696 children with SEN in primary schools, there were 197 fixed term exclusions.
The figures for fixed term exclusions among children eligible for FSM is also the highest in the country at just over 10pc – among the 7,455 children eligible for FSM, there were 748 exclusions.
This does not mean that proportion of children were excluded – several of the children were given more than one fixed term exclusion during the year.
Among all 57,784 primary school children in Suffolk there were 1,741 fixed term exclusions – a rate of just over 3pc.
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The number of fixed term exclusions in all categories of primary pupils has more than trebled since 2011/12 when there were only 498 across the county.
Labour's education spokesman Jack Abbott was angry about the gulf that had opened up between those needing special help at school and other pupils at the primary stage.
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He said: ''I am angry and ashamed. Education should be not be exclusive, a luxury given only to those children who have been fortunate enough to have received an easier start in life.
'Every child is supposed to matter but right now, this council is failing a whole generation of children here in Suffolk.
'We should encourage, support and champion the schools who aspire to be inclusive and give them the tools to succeed. Equally, we should challenge schools who abdicate their responsibilities by using exclusions as an easy way out rather than a punishment of last resort.
'Education in Suffolk is in crisis and we are desperate for some passion, fresh thinking and leadership. If the Tories at Suffolk County Council are unable to provide that then they need to stand aside for people who will.'
Gordon Jones, cabinet member for education, said: 'It is worth noting that these figures are for 2016/17 and in the last year there has been a significant decrease in the number of children being permanently excluded.
'There have been 78 permanent exclusions in 2017/18 – down from 128. There has also been a significant increase in the number of managed moves. This shows that recent changes to the way services are delivered are working.
'School leaders including governors make decisions about exclusions in Local Authority maintained schools. Suffolk County Council can offer advice to the schools if they approach us and help with alternative approaches to prevent getting to the decision to exclude. Exclusion should be the last resort for school leaders.
'Within the Health, Wellbeing and Children's Services directorate the Inclusion Service delivers support to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). This includes those vulnerable children and young people at risk of exclusion from school. The team are developing more early intervention support options and working with schools, providers and family representatives to build SEND sufficiency within the county.
'The SEND Family Services team is a dedicated team within this service to support children and young people with Education, Health and Care plans as well as those who are at risk of exclusion from school. The team challenge schools around exclusion and are frequently able to mediate alternatives.
'They are also responsible for ensuring provision is in place for excluded pupils from the 6th day after exclusion. The team are not able to become involved in the process of permanent exclusions from academies, unless specifically requested, and this is a challenge for a county with a high number of academies.'