To consider a report from the Executive Director – People (Deputy Chief Executive).
Members received a presentation about Exclusions from School in Cumbria, as requested by members at an earlier meeting of the Board.
Members were guided through the presentation which gave the following information:
· Context for exclusions
· Key changes
· National Data (for 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17)
· Exclusions in Cumbria
· The response to exclusions
· The impact on the need for Alternative Provision
Members had also received the statutory DfE guidance regarding Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England for those with legal responsibilities in relation to exclusion.
Members were advised that local authorities had less power than in previous years for challenging exclusions. Important changes were that the voice of the child was now less well heard and School Appeals Panels could no longer reinstate a child in school, instead they could only make recommendations to reinstate them.
Members were advised of the national data for public exclusions and the placing of Cumbria in relation to its statistical neighbours and England. For 2016-17, Cumbria’s exclusion rate increased greater than the rest of the North West of England and was higher than its statistical neighbours. Members were advised of the rate of exclusions across all key stages, with the differences in changes for each stage identified. Comparisons with the national picture were reported. It was noted that over the course of three years, the number of exclusions had doubled, which was mirrored nationally. Geographical differences in the period 2015-18 in the county were identified.
Actions undertaken to address the number of exclusions were reported. This including training for Governors, benchmarking and the Fair Access Protocol. To conclude, the impact on the need for Alternative Provision (AP) was outlined. Members were apprised of the reasons why AP was clearly needed.
Given the importance of the issue of school exclusions, the Chair requested that a Deep Dive investigation be undertaken by the Board. A member requested that the names of the schools from which children and young people had been excluded be circulated. However, it was noted that discussion of this matter in the public meeting was not appropriate but members were reassured that the schools in question were fully supported by the County Council.
It was queried whether officers were in contact with other local authorities with similar trends to ascertain best practice and lessons learned. Members were advised by the Assistant Director - Education and Skills that other local authorities’ trends would need to be ascertained. In terms of the response to exclusions and training for Governors, it was questioned what work the council was undertaking to address the shortage of School Governors in the county. The Assistant Director - Education and Skills reported on the Governor Support Team’s challenging workload and the actions being undertaken to appoint more Governors. Members requested the Governor training programme.
It was queried whether the number of exclusions differed between Local Authority, Faith and Academy schools and if a gap in school leadership impacted on the number of exclusions. Members were informed that the County Council’s influence on schools was important but this was not possible at Academy schools. Also that where work with schools had taken place, the number of exclusions had reduced (particularly in north Cumbria).
The statistics were queried for permanent exclusions; they were higher in the west but did the population figure skew the data. It was also queried whether the school population had remained static in the past three years and could this have had an impact on the statistics. Members were advised of how the figures were compiled; if the total population was static in the west and there was an increase in the number of exclusions then the percentage figure would increase. It was also queried that in the National Data 2016-17, Cumbria’s Exclusion figure for FEX was 11.78% but did this mean that 1 in 9 children were excluded or was it the same child. The Assistant Director - Education and Skills would ascertain the information and advise members accordingly.
It was raised by one member that it would be unlikely for a Governing Body to overrule a Head Teacher’s decision to exclude a child and an exclusion may occur in order for there to be a positive impact on exam results or to improve the learning environment. The Assistant Director - Education and Skills stressed the importance of effective support for School Governors and that almost half exclusions were a result of persistent disruptive behaviour which was a significant problem.
The Executive Director – People (Deputy Chief Executive) stressed the commitment in Cumbria for inclusive education. The strategy was to think collectively and identify the reasons why children were excluded and what could be done to keep them in school. The Assistant Director Children & Young People commented on the work undertaken to keep children in school.
Members were informed about pathways to the future; children could be taken out of school and given a different kind of education, such as home schooling which would help the child and reduce the number of exclusions as the child would be taught at the level they wanted.
It was questioned if the accommodation of young people from out of county and educated in Cumbria was exacerbating the problem of rising school exclusions. The Executive Director - People (Deputy Chief Executive) outlined the inclusion policy for all children and young people. He advised that good schools were needed, provision should meet need and that there was recourse with the local authority where the child came from if the child was excluded. The Assistant Director Children and Young People stated that in terms of private residential care, this was being reviewed as it was expensive.
It was queried what happened when there was a disruptive child at an Academy as the County Council had no jurisdiction in the matter. How many children were excluded from Academies, what type of education they then received and the number of children then opting for home schooling would be circulated to members. The Executive Director - People (Deputy Chief Executive) advised on the limited powers of intervention but that there were avenues that could be pursued in these cases.
1 A Deep Dive on School Exclusions be programmed into the work of the Board.
2 The School Governor training programme be circulated to members.
3 In the National Data 2016-17 the Cumbria Exclusion figure for FEX was 11.78%. Was this 1 in 9 children excluded or was it the same child. This information be circulated to members
4 How many children were excluded from Academies, what type of education they then received and how many children were then home schooled would be circulated to members.