Travellers' children top list of exclusions

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The Independent Online

Traveller's children and those from black Caribbean homes are far more likely to be excluded from school, figures revealed yesterday.

The figures showed youngsters from Gypsy or Romany backgrounds were four times more likely to be excluded - while black Caribbean exclusion rates were three times the national average.

An ethnic breakdown of the school exclusion rates revealed a wide gap between different groups - with Asian youngsters being the least likely to be excluded.

The figures showed the overall number of exclusions had dropped by six per cent in comparison with 2006/7 to 8,130.

Nationally, that means 12 youngsters in every 10,000 being excluded from school. - exactly the ratio for the exclusion of white UK youngsters.

A similar picture emerged amongst fixed term exclusions - or suspensions - with a drop of 10.8 per cent to 324,180.

Boys, however, were 3.5 times more likely to be excluded than girls - accounting for 78 per cent of all exclusions.

The decline in exclusion rates, however, was not mirrored amongst the under fives.

Figures showed 4,190 youngsters aged five and under were excluded either permanently or for a fixed term - a slight increase on last year.

Headteachers complain that a growing number of young children are arriving at school not ready to socialise with other youngsters.

They blame parents for leaving them in front of TV screens for too long and not bothering to communicate with them.

David Laws, Liberal Democrats’ schools spokesman, said: "It is shocking that children as young as four are having to be excluded from school."

The breakdown, from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, shows that youngsters in the Government’s flagship academies are twice as likely to be permanently excluded.

Principals of the new academies, however, defend the figures by saying that many have taken over from failing inner city schools - and feel they have to crack down on discipline in their first term to make a point to the pupils.

The breakdown also list the reasons for exclusions - showing the largest number are for persistent disruptive behaviour (30.9 per cent). Next comes assaulting a pupil (15.7 per cent) followed by threatening behaviour towards an adult (11.9 per cent).

They also show that - in 89,200 cases of assault against an adult or a pupil - children have been suspended from school.

Nick Gibb, for the Conservatives, said this meant that 500 children a day were returning to school after having committed an assault.

"There is a serious problem with discipline and poor behaviour in English schools," he added. However, Children’s Minister Dawn Primarolo said the figures showed "behaviour in our schools is getting better".

"It is time to put to bed the myth that behaviour is deteriorating with teachers powerless to act," she added.