Expulsion curb `harms schools'

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The Independent Online
MANY UNRULY pupils remain in class because schools are under pressure to meet government targets on exclusions, heads and teachers' leaders said yesterday.

Ministers have set targets to reduce by a third the number of excluded children by the next general election. But the Secondary Heads Association and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) said the policy was against the interests of disruptive children and the rest of their class.

They said some heads were forced to take back pupils though their schools could not cope. John Dunford, general secretary of the heads' association, said: "Individual local authority officers are putting an enormous pressure on schools. Part of the problem is that the authority does not have adequate alternative provision." He said any head considering the exclusion of a pupil was defending the interests of teachers and the rest of the class.

Exclusions rose sharply in 10 years to 13,000, though latest figures show a slight drop.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of NASUWT, said the decision to set targets "was wholly misplaced" and detrimental to other government targets to improve test and exam results. Each case should be decided on its merits.

In some education action zones, under-performing schools set up as testbeds for educational experiments had set targets to reduce exclusions to zero. "That is absurd," he added. "It is pre-judging every case that comes before a school's governors."

The two associations want a government fund for a network of high-quality specialist units for the most disruptive pupils. The Government is investing pounds 500m in units for disruptive pupils. By 2002, ministers hope every other secondary school will have one. Mentors will also be appointed to help reconcile disaffected pupils to school.

But Mr de Gruchy said: "Some pupils are such social misfits they really need one-to-one teaching all the time, and that is very difficult to arrange inside a school."