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Islington high exclusion rate criticised

Six primary school pupils were also permanently excluded last year

20 August, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Islington education chief Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz: “Exclusion is a fairness issue” 

A MOTHER whose son was excluded for 50 days in the past year has called on the government to intervene to halt exclusions in the borough, as figures shamed Islington as having the highest fixed-term exclusions the rate in London.

Kara Harding, 45, whose teenage son is regularly sent home from St Aloysius’ RC College in Highgate, said the figure showed a “flaw” in the way schools manage pupils in Islington.

The Department for Education’s figures showed there were 1,420 fixed-period exclusions in the borough’s secondary schools in 2017/18 – this was the highest rate of exclusion in greater and inner London.

A Town Hall probe into the continuing high exclusion rate was completed in April this year but Ms Harding warned that her son was still facing threats of exclusion from his school.

The figures also revealed that a five-year-old child was permanently excluded from a primary school during that same period.

Ms Harding, whose son has a learning disability, warned that “children are at risk of getting into crime when they’re excluded”.

She said: “Youths getting involved in crime is getting worse. If you’re constantly getting excluded there’s nothing for the kids to do at home and they get bored. They go outside and meet bad people. You start to lose self-worth, too, if you’re not at school.”

Protest at St Aloysius school in April where students complained of the high exclusion rate

Her son was not offered work to complete during his exclusions and is now “far behind and struggling” compared to his fellow students.

Ms Harding, who is a single parent, has to take time off from her role as a crime response officer to attend a meeting with the school every time her son is sent home.

“It’s disgusting what they’re doing to him,” she said. “I collapsed at work recently. The doctor said it was because of stress and that’s because of what is happening to my son.

“He’s hardly in school and now suffers panic attacks from stress himself. I have no idea what will happen to him.

“I just don’t know what to do any more and I feel the school doesn’t want to deal with him because of his special needs.”
There were 26 permanent exclusions from the borough’s primary and secondary schools in 2017/2018.

Around 70 per cent of the excluded students were from a “minority ethnic” background while over half were on free school meals.

The data, published by the Department for Education last month, revealed that Islington had the highest number of primary school pupils excluded for a second year in a row within inner London.

There were six primary school pupils permanently excluded, with two from Drayton Park Primary School, two from New North Academy and one each from Rotherfield Primary and Ambler Primary schools.

The Town Hall completed an investigation on the back of the high exclusion rates in April this year which concluded that “exclusion can be challenged by focusing on inclusion”.
They are currently making an action plan.

Cllr Kaya Comer- Schwartz, the council’s lead member for children, young people and families, said exclusions “should only ever be used as a last resort” and said they are calling on the government to enact “national policy changes” that would support children to remain in mainstream education.

She added: “Exclusion has serious negative consequences for young people and is rarely effective in managing behaviour.

“I am grateful to the council’s scrutiny committee for their work looking into how schools were using exclusions.
“We know that exclusion is a fairness issue. Schools should be a place where all children are supported to fulfil their potential.”

A City of London Corporation spokeswoman said “exclusions are falling and exam results are improving”, adding: “A new behaviour policy has made it clear that bullying, violence and criminal behaviour have no place in the academy.

“Permanent exclusion is always a last resort, and we will continue to do everything possible to ensure all our pupils are fully integrated with the school’s community.”

Ms Harding’s name was changed at her request.

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