Education Quandary: 'Why are we excluding so many under-fives from school? It is ridiculous. Are their carers and nursery workers no good?'

Hilary's advice

I just don't know. And neither does anyone else, exactly, although my hunch is that it is a mixture of really difficult cases and, in some instances, poor management. According to official figures, 4,000 children aged five and under were excluded from school last year. Most were five-year-olds, but the hundreds among the under-fours and the under-threes break down into those who attacked a pupil and those who attacked an adult.

Every parent can probably remember being "attacked" by an out-of-control three-year-old, and are probably wondering what a school is thinking of, deeming this sort of behaviour worthy of an exclusion.

But I spend a lot of time in children's centres and nursery classes and know that some of the behaviour that comes through their doors is more awful than most of us can imagine. These are usually children who come from highly disrupted backgrounds, and whose parents are barely functioning themselves. The whole family needs help. But sometimes a school or nursery feels it must exclude a child on the grounds of safety. And sometimes they decide that an exclusion might be the best thing to calm everyone down and jolt the parents into realising that their children's behaviour is unacceptable.

Readers' advice

I work in a nursery class where last year one of our four-year-olds was given a fixed-term exclusion. He was a violent and strong little boy, with a terrible temper. When he could not get his way, he used to kick out and we all had bruises. Children like this come into school bringing all their problems with them. It is not the school's fault.

Nikki Matalo, Leeds

Discipline has gone out of the window both at home and at school. Children know from the earliest age they can get away with anything, and they do.

Michael Marchant, East Sussex

More and more aggressive and uncontrolled children are coming into school, but many primary schools deal with them superbly through nurture groups and learning mentors. They have learned how to put in the care and the social skills that have been lacking at home. Maybe their pre-school colleagues need to learn more about these skills?

Marie Jennings-Smith, London SW1

Next Week's Quandary

What are access courses, and who are they for? Now my children are at school I have begun to think about getting a qualification. But I didn't do well at school and don't have any good exam results. I don't want to go back to school, but my friend says you can go straight to college.

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet.com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are available to read online at www.hilarywilce.com where they can be searched by topic.

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