High expulsion rates 'massage' academies' results

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The Independent Online

Ministers privately support the exclusion of large numbers of "challenging" pupils by Tony Blair's flagship academies, a senior government official has revealed.

The practice has helped academies to "massage" their exam results at the expense of neighbouring schools - which have to take in the excluded pupils, teachers' leaders claim.

The revelation will reignite simmering controversy over the Government's plan to set up 400 of the privately sponsored academies to replace struggling inner-city schools.

Sir Bruce Liddington, the new Schools Commissioner - who is responsible for ensuring fair school admissions policies - said he was "not comfortable" with the rate of exclusions by academies.

However, "It is not government policy that there shouldn't be exclusions," he said. Ministers have taken the view that it is " inevitable" that academies will have a high level of exclusion in the first few months, he told the annual conference of Confed - which represents local authority directors of children's services.

Outraged teachers' leaders and town hall executives claim his comments show that the academies' improvements in the exam league tables have been gained by "dumping" troublesome pupils on neighbouring schools.

Mr Blair set up his academies' programme specifically to rescue inner-city pupils in failing schools and provide them with a decent education.

The latest figures, however, show permanent exclusion rates at existing academies can be as much as four times as high as the average at neighbouring schools.

At the West London academy in Ealing, 22 pupils were excluded in 2004-05, nearly 2 per cent of the school's pupils, compared to just under 0.5 per cent in the rest of the authority.

"As far as excluding large numbers of challenging children, ministers accept that's going to happen," said Sir Bruce, who was a senior civil servant on the academies' project before taking up his present post.

Chris Waterman, the chief executive of Confed, said: "Most exclusions give academies an unfair advantage in gaining good progress in the league tables. Inevitably, this adversely affects other schools in the community."

Steve Sinnnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "It's outrageous. We always knew it was happening. The Government denied it. Now the gaffe has been blown. The sorry history of academies is that the Government's attempts to make them successful have managed to saddle local authorities with the responsibility of looking after a large number of excluded pupils.

"No one should be fooled by the over-inflated claims of success for the academies. They have been bought at the expense of undermining the efforts of other schools."

Sir Bruce also indicated that the next few years could see major growth in the number of multifaith schools - sponsored by different churches - which would then become academies.

The Church of England and the Roman Catholic church in Liverpool have already combined to open the St Francis of Assisi academy - the first institution in the country to specialise in "green" issues.

Representatives of other Christian faiths, Muslims and the Jewish community are also expected to back multi-faith institutions in the near future.

However, Paul Robinson from Wandsworth Council in south London, argued that the growth in faith schools restricted the choice for parents without a faith. In one area with eight secondary schools, only one was a non-faith school, he said.

How academies expel more pupils

West London, Ealing
Permanent exclusions: 22
percentage of pupils: 1.95
Percentage of pupils excluded in equivalent LEA schools: 0.49

Capital City, Brent
Permanent exclusions: 11
Percentage of pupils: 1.21
Percentage of pupils excluded in equivalent LEA schools: 0.49

Djanogly City, Nottingham
Permanent exclusions: 11
Percentage of pupils: 0.70
Percentage of pupils excluded in equivalent LEA schools: 0.42

Northampton, Northamptonshire
Permanent exclusions: 9
Percentage of pupils: 0.72
Percentage of pupils excluded in equivalent LEA schools: 0.25

King's, Middlesbrough
Permanent exclusions: 7
Percentage of pupils: 0.67
Percentage of pupils excluded in equivalent LEA schools: 0.18

Business Academy, Bexley
Permanent exclusions: 7
Percentage of pupils: 0.51
Percentage of pupils excluded in equivalent LEA schools: 0.26

Unity City, Middlesbrough
Permanent exclusions: 6
Percentage of pupils: 0.53
Percentage of pupils excluded in equivalent LEA schools: 0.18

Stockley, Hillingdon
Permanent exclusions: 4
Percentage of pupils: 0.68
Percentage of pupils excluded in equivalent LEA schools: 0.31

City, Bristol
Permanent exclusions: 4
Percentage of pupils: 0.37
Percentage of pupils excluded in equivalent LEA schools: 0.24

City of London, Southwark
Permanent exclusions: 3
Percentage of pupils: 0.83
Percentage of pupils excluded in equivalent LEA schools: 0.27

Exclusions from academies compared with those from other secondary schools in the area. Figures are for 2004-05

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